Video streaming services such as Netflix and Hotstar have decided to adopt self-regulatory methods to avoid potential government censorship, Reuters reported on Thursday.
India’s Central Board of Film Certification does not have the power to censor or certify content on the internet. By law, certification is only required to screen and telecast films and trailers in theatres and on television. However, there have been increasing calls to censor online content.
With this in mind, video streaming platforms Netflix, Hotstar, Voot, Times Internet, Eros, AltBalaji, Zee, Arre and Sony have signed a code to self-regulate their content, according to The Ken, which has reviewed a working copy of the code. These companies have been working under the Internet and Mobile Associations of India for some months.
The companies have agreed to place filters to help users choose content that is appropriate for themselves and their families. “The primary objective of self-regulation is to keep the government away and do something about the ongoing complaints before the state does,” an unidentified person who knew of the code told The Ken. The aim of this self-regulation is to protect freedom of speech and expression as well as the consumer’s choice and agency.
The platforms will prohibit content that shows a child “engaged in real or simulated sexual activities”, material that disrespects the Indian flag, encourages terrorism or “deliberately and maliciously intends to outrage religious sentiments”, according to Reuters, which has also seen a copy of the draft code. The companies will also appoint a person or a team to address complaints from users.
Internet and Mobile Association of India President Subho Ray said the final version of the unofficial code will be made public on Thursday.
Online streaming platform Amazon Prime Video, however, is not a signatory of this code, though it reportedly helped develop it. “While we are assessing the situation, we believe that the current laws are adequate to fulfill this mission,” an Amazon India spokesperson told The Ken.
The companies’ decision to self regulate come amid several complaints against the platforms. A plea filed by non-governmental organisation Justice for Rights Foundation in the Delhi High Court claimed that online media streaming platforms show “sexually explicit and vulgar” content that is “unregulated and uncertified” for public viewing.
The NGO alleged that shows like Sacred Games, Game of Thrones and Spartacus contain “vulgar, profane, sexually explicit, pornographic, morally unethical and virulent” content which objectifies women. The NGO also claimed that most of this content was in violation of the Indian Penal Code and the Information Technology Act, 2000. The court is expected to hear this petition next in February.