Regulating Online Media- UPSC GS3

  • The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) has constituted 10-member committee to regulate online portals, including news websites, entertainment sites and media aggregators.
  • SC direction to government to get tough with social media platforms like FB, Youtube etc.
  • The committee will look to bring online information dissemination under regulation.
  • It will propose policy for foreign direct investment (FDI) in this media.
  • It will to look at international best practices on such existing regulatory mechanism.
  • It will cover print and electronic media as well as entertainment sites.
Current Regulatory Mechanism:
  • At present both print and electronic media are regulated but online media (print and electronic media as well as entertainment sites) does not come under any regulatory mechanism.
  • The content telecast on television channels are regulated in terms of programme and advertisement codes under Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994.
  • Similarly, autonomous body Press Council of India (PCI) regulates the print media.
  • The social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter which are widely used for online information dissemination comes under purview of Department of Telecom, Ministry of Communications and IT and don’t fall in domain of I&B ministry, which looks at news, entertainment, infotainment, films and music.
  • Brainstorming over regulation of online news content had started because Government has felt that large numbers of people were depending on online media for news and that there should be some mechanism to check spread of misinformation (fake news) on the internet.
SC View:
  • Internet giants are not taking adequate steps to curb circulation of online videos of sexual violence against women and children.
  • Currently content removal requests are processed in about 36 hours. It should be brought down to less than 10 hours.
Whatsapp issue:
  • The Indian government and WhatsApp is at loggerheads over tracing the origin of fake messages.
  • The messaging platform has said it will not comply with the government’s demand as the move will undermine the privacy of WhatsApp users.
  • Arguments given by Whatsapp
    • People rely on WhatsApp for all kinds of sensitive conversations, including with their doctors, banks and families.
    • Building traceability would undermine end-to-end encryption and the private nature of WhatsApp, creating potential for serious misuse. WhatsApp will not weaken the privacy protections.
  • What the Government expects?
    • Given the increased instances of crime due to fake news circulated on various platforms, including WhatsApp, the government expects the company to continue to explore technical innovations whereby, in case of large-scale circulation of provocative and nefarious messages leading to violence and crime, the origin can be ascertained.
  • WhatsApp needs to set up an Indian corporate entity subject to Indian laws in a defined time frame.
  • WhatsApp has appointed a grievance officer for India and has detailed out the process for users to flag concerns and complaints, including those around fake news.

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