Indian government assumes the right to block digital news content along with a new set of regulations

Indian government assumes the right to block digital news content along with a new set of regulations
Minister of Electronics and Information Technology, Ravi Shankar PrasadBCCL
  • Digital news media has been brought under the purview of Section 69(A) of the IT Act.
  • This applies to foreign media covering stories from India, and even entertainment aggregators with a tab labelled ‘Latest News’.
  • The Minister for Information and Broadcasting admitted that these new rules were framed without consulting the industry because “the number of digital news outlets is not known”.
  • Check out the latest news and updates only on Business Insider.
The Indian government has put a leash on digital news outlets in India as well as those outfits that have a “systematic business activity of making its content available in India, which is targeted at Indian users.”

Digital news media has been brought under the purview of Section 69(A) of the IT Act, which allows the government to issue direction “for blocking for access by the public any information” if it believes that the content is a threat to “sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order” or “for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognisable offence”.

This applies to foreign media covering stories from India. “It can’t be that you sit in America and don’t address local grievances,” Minister for IT, Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

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No consultation yet

The Minister for Information and Broadcasting admitted that these new rules were framed without consulting the industry because “the number of digital news outlets is not known”.

So, first up, digital news outfits have to tell the government that they exist and they would be considered significant if:

  1. the outfit has over half a million direct subscribers, or,
  2. the number of followers for the outfit across social media platforms exceed 5 million
Once the significant news publishers have been identified, they will have to abide by a bunch of news norms, in line with the,
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  • Norms of Journalistic Conduct of the Press Council of India under the Press Council Act, 1978
  • Programme Code under section 5 of the Cable Television Networks regulation) Act, 1995
  • Content which is prohibited under any law for the time being in force shall not be published or transmitted
“The code for digital online media applies to foreign entities as well so long as these provide content in India as part of a systematic activity. The definition can comfortably catch most foreign news organisations with an India or even South Asia tab,” said Avimukt Dar, partner at law firm IndusLaw.

These rules would apply even for an entertainment aggregator that has a dedicated tab labelled ‘Latest News’, on which it aggregates news and current affairs content. “The rules made under this Part shall apply to the portal in relation to the content on the ‘Latest News’ tab only,” the rules specified.

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