ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Politics of Regulating Digital Media

While ensuring the accountability of big tech, the IT rules must not stifle free speech.

 

The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 issued by the union government in exercise of its powers under the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000 have come under severe criticism. The rules themselves, affecting as they do India’s hundreds of millions of internet users, have been issued with no public consultation. There are justified fears around whether these rules will be used by the government to crack down on dissenting speech. The clauses relating to the requirement to share encrypted information have alarmed internet users concerned about their online privacy.

Apart from internet users, the rules have also caused consternation among online news media entities and online curated content-producing companies, which have, for the first time, been brought within the ambit of the intermediary rules. Although the government claims that it is only giving statutory backing to a self-regulatory model, the very legality of the rules applying to news media and content creators is suspect. They are not intermediaries in any sense and are legally liable for the content on their websites. While the need for content regulation is debatable, the legal form it has taken has given rise to suspicions that this move was aimed at stifling the reportage of news and anti-establishment views.

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Updated On : 20th Mar, 2021

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