'SC orders, user complaints behind social media norms'

SC orders, MPs concerns, user complaints trigger for social media guidelines, says govt

Serious concerns and consequences were raised in Parliament, through judicial orders and civil society deliberations, said Ravi Shankar Prasad

Union Minister of Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad along with Union Minister for Environment Prakash Javadekar. Credit: PTI Photo

A slew of complaints about OTT content hurting religious sentiments and “double standards” by social media platforms may have proved to be the trigger for bringing social media, online streaming platforms and digital news portals into the regulatory net.

Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad spoke about “serious concerns and consequences” raised at different forums, including in Parliament, judicial orders and civil society deliberations on misuse of social media.

Also Read | Centre lays down rules for social media, OTT, digital news portals

Recent OTT shows such as Tandav, Paatal Lok, Sacred Games, Mirzapur and others have come under scrutiny for hurting religious sentiments and being offensive to specific communities. However, the specific High Courts where these petitions have been filed have rejected or refused to entertain the petitions because they do not fall under their purview.

In the recent Budget Session of Parliament, several members of parliament had asked Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar on whether the government was “aware of the facts that content/web series” aired on OTT platforms were “full of sex, violence, abuse, vulgarity” and disrespect religious sentiments.

The recent violence at Red Fort on Republic Day, when farmers had taken out a tractor rally in the national capital, too proved to be a trigger for speeding up the regulatory net for social media.

“All social media is welcome, but most respectfully I would state that there should be no double standards. When there is an attack on the Capitol Hill of the US Congress, social media supports police action. But when there is an aggressive attack on Red Fort, a symbol of India's freedom where the Prime Minister unfurls the national flag. This is plain unacceptable,” Prasad said.

Javadekar recalled that during the first half of the Budget Session members had put 50 questions in both the Houses of Parliament on regulating OTT content. Members had also voiced concern over fake news.

Also Read | OTT, social media guidelines released: Key takeaways

Recently, FIRs were registered in several states against the makers and actors of Saif Ali Khan-starrer Tandav following complaints that there was inappropriate depiction of UP Police personnel as well as a character playing the role of prime minister in the show. Earlier, a kissing scene in a temple premise in 'A Suitable Boy' also triggered a controversy.

Prasad also cited a Supreme Court order suggesting that the government may frame necessary guidelines to eliminate child pornography, rape and gangrape imageries, videos and sites in content hosting platforms and other applications.

Another apex Court order had directed the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to appraise the timeline with respect to completing the process of notifying the new rules.

The ad-hoc committee of the Rajya Sabha had also expressed alarm on the issue of pornography on social media and its effect on children and society as a whole and recommended for enabling identification of the first originator of such contents.

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