The New Digital Media Regulation and the New Media War

The Government of India is trying to fight the Information war with the Twitter which had started the Greta-Disha Attack on the Integrity and sovereignty of India. It was unfortunate that the ASJ hearing the bail pleas of Disha Ravi did not consider the organized campaign culminating in the attack on Red Fort as not a “Conspiracy” even at the prima facie level and let the accused free. This may result in the continuation of the assault with greater vigour in the coming days.  The situation is similar to what the Indian army might have faced in 1962 in the Chinese front with Jawaharlal Nehru holding the Indian army back and subsequently in the J&K front before the current regime showed the courage to fight the enemy with tact and force.

In a bid to defend the Information border of India, the Ministry of IT and I&B jointly have launched an operation to bring some regulations on the digital media which can rightly be called similar to the surgical strike of the Indian army on terrorist hide outs. Just as the surgical strike of the army was a controlled attack on specific elements and did not escalate into a war, this Information counter war fare is also a selective counter attack which was necessary and has to be controlled with checks and balances so that it does not get misused.

In the current context in India we are not surprised that every  major decision of the Government will be questioned in the Supreme Court and we have reached a situation where we will not be surprised if some body files a PIL on why Mr Modi took Covaxin dose and publicized it.

The so called “Media” has become so irresponsible and biased that they are inviting this type of regulation. The way Twitter management refused to honour the directions of the Government of India was an alarming sign which could not be ignored by any self respecting nation.

If the Government does not take action now, just as the opposition cried that the Government had ceded land to China along the LAC and the media was harping on such unimaginative narrative, the Government would have been termed weak.

Now that the notification has been finally issued a new war of words have started with one  part of the media raising their campaign that the notification is anti democratic etc. Contrary to what some journalists are complaining this notification for “Intermediary Regulation” which includes the tracing of the origin of a message was proposed in December 2018 itself and put in back burner because the Government did not have the courage to take on the criticisms. The Media regulation part may be new but it is just a replication of the print and TV regulation into the digital media regulation. Hence there should be no reason to say that this notification was done secretly. The Twitter incident could have strengthened the resolve which was absent in the past.

We need to react positively

While Naavi.org has reacted to the notification with a service “Digital Media Compliance Guidance Center” to help small and medium digital media publications, the larger organizations may oppose even the “Self Regulation” and continue to fight for what they call Press Freedom which has today become “Freedom to sell news for money”.

Let us not forget that Greta Thunberg and Rihanna were allegedly paid large sums of money to post a few lines on Twitter and such supporters may have larger funds to support the friendly journalists who can sell their souls. The OTT platforms have been using soft and hard pornography without any control besides using content in motivated serials and films to meet nefarious designs which are anti national.

The media as we see today is no longer the “Free and Fearless Ramnath Goenka Indian Express of the Emergency times”.  It is a commercial organization which makes money by advertisements and soft porn besides paid articles and even editorials. This tendency is seen more in Digital Media though it started from the Print and TV media. The Print and TV media already have regulations and what has now happenned now is that a similar regulatory system has been proposed even for the Digital Media where it is more required.  However some part of the media which is used to commercialization of news are perturbed that now they will be accountable for what they publish in the digital media.

The Hindu has come up with its long editorial and the senior journalist Mr Shekar Gupta in his You  Tube channel made an extensive reference to it in one of his recent publications. Others have come up with their own criticisms, some of which are indexed here.

These channels did not raise their voice when Naavi.org pointed out how You Tube was blocking Praveen Mohan because they thought he was posting content about “Temples” or the “String” channel which posted a critical video on George Soros and exposed the conspiracy of the Twitter-Disha-Greta-Rihanna gang.

Hindu has long converted itself into an Anti-Hindu Propaganda vehicle and it cannot be expected to react to the Praveen Mohan or String channels. But Shekar Gupta is more balanced in his channel and I would like to see if he can react even now on the YouTube hypocrisy in blocking Praveen Mohan and String.

Let me take a few of the points raised in some of these critical articles and give my perspective.

Neither the Hindu nor Mr Shekar Gupta can oppose the introduction of “Code of Ethics” or “Self Regulation”. Hindu concedes “While there is not much that is wrong with the Code of Ethics per se, ” but introduces the “Yes, But Game” by stating “what is problematic is that it will take little to bring this regulatory mechanism to vicious life.”

This speculation is fine and all of us have to move to ensure that this is not misused by any Government more so if a Government of the type we have in Maharashtra is in power. But Hindu has to be non partisan to be able to make comments of this nature since it has lost trust as an independent journal.

The rules want a “Grievance Redressal Mechanism” to be put in place which is similar to the current practice of some media having “Ombudsman”. There is a Press Council already and Cable TV regulations which have been accepted by the industry. Then it is difficult to understand  this ” Kolaveri”  when it comes to Internet media.

Hindu says that the new rules have increased compliance burden for social media platforms. So What?.. After GDPR came in was there no increased compliance burden on the industry because of “Privacy”? Now after the PDPA India will there not be an increased compliance burden on the data processing industry?… Should they complain that it is not the responsibility of the commercial IT industry to protect the human right of “Privacy”?. Why should there be a special privilege to the Media?…after they have become paid stooges of international Information terrorists?

Mr Shekar Gupta was largely balanced in his views but still had a complaint about the Level III regulatory mechanism involving the Oversight system at the ministry level.

But this Level III mechanism comes only after the failure of the Level I which is entirely under the control of the publisher and Level II which is a self regulating body set up by the industry itself. Under Level III, there would be an Authorized officer and a Committee to “Recommend to the I&B Secretary”. Finally if it is considered necessary and expedient, an action can be initiated which of course would be subject to judicial oversight as well.

Today there are many advocates who are willing to take up PIL for trivial issues and there would be no dearth of legal support to the journalists who may be unfairly charged by the Government.

It must be also remembered that the powers which result in removal of content is basically vested with the Judiciary and where it is used by the Authorized officer or the Government, it is only in cases where exceptions are available under article 19(2) and some Child abuse and Obscenity issues.

Hence the objections of the media are knee jerk reactions and should not disturb the Government. The Supreme Court will eventually adjudicate on this issue and at that time, it should not be swayed by the “Media Pressure” and act independently in the interest of the Indian public.

This debate will continue. But we are looking forward to the notification of the Authorized official and the procedure for setting up of the Self Regulatory body-Level II. Naavi.org would invite the responsible digital media to support the move of this regulation since it will help serious professional journalists to stay in the field and weed out fly by night operators.

Naavi is organizing awareness programs to enable small and individual journalists to organize themselves and remain compliant. One such webinars will be held on 3rd March 2021 as part of the Jnaana Vardhini Program of FDPPI.  Any group of Journalists interested in availing this opportunity may contact Naavi.

Naavi

 

The Hindu: A wolf in watchdog’s clothing” Hindu

New Government rules for OTT Content….Shekar Gupta 

Scroll.in: Why India’s new rules for social media, news sites are anti-democratic, unconstitutional

 

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About Vijayashankar Na

Naavi is a veteran Cyber Law specialist in India and is presently working from Bangalore as an Information Assurance Consultant. Pioneered concepts such as ITA 2008 compliance, Naavi is also the founder of Cyber Law College, a virtual Cyber Law Education institution. He now has been focusing on the projects such as Secure Digital India and Cyber Insurance
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