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Parliamentary panel questions legality of new digital media rules

Several queries on framing the guidelines were raised.

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KOLKATA: The parliamentary standing committee on information and technology grilled officials from the ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB) and the ministry of electronics and information technology (MEITY) on the new rules for monitoring over-the-top (OTT) platforms, digital media and social media intermediaries.

The parliamentary panel headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor questioned the legality of the new regulatory framework, according to media reports.

Several questions on framing the guidelines were raised – whether industry stakeholders were consulted before framing the guidelines, if opinions were taken from intellectual people, civic society, and the judiciary. Another key point flagged was whether the rules are in conformity with the existing framework. 

In their deposition, ministry officials have assured the panel that due process was followed before the new rules were introduced. They justified the need for such rules in changing times and also explained the rationale behind them.

Earlier in a meeting, the panel told MIB officials that it hoped the ministry would implement the rules with due regard to the importance of promoting creativity and protecting freedom of expression while maintaining a robust oversight mechanism.

On 25 February, the Centre notified an expansive framework to govern online content, titled Information Technology (Guidelines for intermediaries and digital media ethics code) Rules 2021. It gave online content providers between 30 to 90 days to comply with the same. Under the new guidelines, a three-tier oversight mechanism for online content has been put in place.

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