The Centre on Thursday claimed that since the introduction of the new information technology rules in February, it had not received any serious complaints about the content on streaming platforms and digital news outlets requiring its intervention, the Hindustan Times reported.
The government had in February introduced a set of sweeping regulations framed to regulate social media companies, streaming and digital news content, virtually bringing them, for the first time, under the ambit of its supervision. The rules have been heavily criticised. Several media outlets have challenged the rules, arguing that they will allow the government to directly control their content.
Under the Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, the government had proposed a three-tier mechanism for the platforms to address content-related matters. The first layer would be officials appointed by these companies. The second- would be a self-regulatory body to address complaints. The third tier would be a government-appointed panel.
On Thursday, Information and Broadcasting Secretary Amit Khare told the Hindustan Times: “In the last five months, there has not been a single occasion when the oversight mechanism of the government was used to resolve any complaints. This was the purpose of creating a self regulating mechanism; it was always an enabling provision.”
The official said that the lack of complaints did not eliminate the need for the government to possess emergency powers to order the removal of certain online content. “The provision may be required at a later stage but only to enable the government to act in case of emergency,” he was quoted as saying by the Hindustan Times.
Khare added: “There was a misapprehension that the government will use the oversight mechanism for day-to-day business. But that is not the case.”
The last complaint that the government received was about the Amazon Prime web series Tandav in February. The show purportedly provided a commentary on India’s political scene under the Narendra Modi government and touched upon matters ranging from the farmer agitations to student protests to police killings.
The makers of the show were accused of hurting religious sentiments. Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka were among the states where first information reports were filed against them. The government had also sought a response from the makers of the show, the Hindustan Times reported.
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On March 2, Amazon Prime Videos said they had removed or edited scenes against which objections were raised. The show’s makers also apologised for the content several times.
Three days later, the Supreme Court had granted interim protection from arrest to Amazon Prime Video’s India Content Head Aparna Purohit in connection with the FIR filed against her.
Purohit moved the Supreme Court after the Allahabad High Court rejected her bail plea on February 25, saying that the use of the word “tandav” could offend majority of the people in the country as it was associated to Hindu deity Shiva.
Purohit was booked under multiple charges, including Sections 153-A (Promoting enmity between different groups), 295 (Defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion), 505(1)(b) (Public mischief), 505(2) (Statements promoting hatred between classes) of the Indian Penal Code, and those under the Information Technology Act.
Apart from her, the FIR filed in Lucknow also named director of Tandav, Ali Abbas Zafar, producer Himanshu Mehra and writer Gaurav Solanki.