New intermediary rules for digital media extremely dangerous for free speech: Congress

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi argues that the rules should have gone through parliamentary scrutiny

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Mar 1, 2021 5:42 PM

The Congress has termed the Centre's new guidelines for social media, over the top (OTT), and digital news platforms as extremely dangerous for free speech and creativity as vast powers have been given to bureaucrats which could be misused. The opposition party also alleged that the guidelines are 'non-statutory' and have been formulated without the Parliament's assent.

While saying that social media platforms cannot be left unregulated, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said that the government should not attempt to control it through non-statutory rules and executive orders. He also said that guidelines will impact free speech and creativity unless extreme restraint is exercised in implementing them.

Singhvi also said that the government has not passed any law in this regard, and even the Data Protection Act has not been cleared in three-four years. He also argued that the rules should have gone through parliamentary scrutiny.

"Nobody is suggesting that there should be 'Jungle Raj' or unregulated, unknown territory forever in any area. But, equally, there should be no attempt in the guise of non-statutory, delegated legislation rules, and executive orders, in getting control of such a vast field," Sanghvi told reporters.

"So, I would say that it is extremely dangerous for free speech, for creativity, unless extreme restraint is exercised, and unfortunately, I do not find any restraint in this 'Sarkar' in any sector. Humongous, vast powers have been granted without a statute, without parliamentary assent, without parliamentary scrutiny, Singhvi alleged, noting the operation of rules depends on the wisdom and restraint of bureaucrats exercising them. Such restraint in 20 other sectors is conspicuous by its absence as far as this government is concerned," the Congress leader said.

The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 was announced on 25th February and notified a day after. The rules envisage a three-tier redressal mechanism for consumer complaints. The rules also provide for two categories of intermediaries - social media intermediary and significant social media intermediary.


Further, the OTT platforms have to do self-classification of content based on age-groups while digital news platforms have to follow the journalistic conduct of the Press Council of India (PCI) and the Programme Code under the Cable Television Network Act.

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