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News Roundup: Supreme Court Says India’s Digital Media Guidelines ‘Lack Teeth’, & More

News Roundup: Supreme Court Says India’s Digital Media Guidelines ‘Lack Teeth’, & More

The Supreme Court, on Friday, granted interim protection from arrest to Amazon Prime Video’s India head Aparna Purohit, in relation to an FIR lodged against her by Uttar Pradesh Police for promoting religious enmity

Commenting on the new guidelines, Justice Bhushan said that the rules “lack teeth” as there is no provision for prosecution or fine

Facebook is planning to mount a legal challenge to the new guidelines, with its core argument being that the implementation of the new rules would jeopardise its users’ fundamental right to privacy

While most have been alarmed about the government expanding the scope of its powers to censor online content with the new guidelines for digital media intermediaries, a Supreme Court judge said this week that the guidelines don’t do enough to keep a check on ‘pornographic’ content. 

The Supreme Court, on Friday, granted interim protection from arrest to Amazon Prime Video’s India head Aparna Purohit, in relation to an FIR lodged against her by Uttar Pradesh Police for promoting religious enmity through the recent web series ‘Tandav’. 

During the hearing, the apex court observed the need for regulation of OTT content. “A balance has to be struck as some OTT platforms are also showing pornographic materials on their platforms,” the bench, comprising Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice R Subhash Reddy, said.

Commenting on the new guidelines, Justice Bhushan said that the rules “lack teeth” as there is no provision for prosecution or fine. Without legislation, there cannot be an effective control, Justice Bhushan remarked.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing on behalf of the Union of India, said the rules attempt to strike a balance between “no-censorship and internal self-regulation”. He also agreed to submit a better draft of the rules for the court’s consideration. 

Meanwhile, a source told Inc42 that Facebook is planning to mount a legal challenge to the new guidelines, with its core argument being that the implementation of the new rules would jeopardise its users’ fundamental right to privacy. 

According to sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the social media giant is going to challenge the section of the recently released guidelines that requires social media platforms to identify — upon receiving orders from a court or the government — the ‘first originator’ of information, which the government feels could jeopardise the sovereignty and integrity of India, or includes sexually explicit or child sexual abuse material. This section, according to the source, will require the company to remove the end-to-end (E2E) encryption for chats. 

Other News

  • Online streaming giant Netflix, on Wednesday, said it will release 41 Indian films, shows and documentaries in 2021. This will include new titles and new seasons of existing titles. 
  • Flipkart, Mastercard, PayU and National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) will together buy a 30% stake in Ferbine, the Tata subsidiary that will build the NUE as per the proposal. 
  • Big tech companies Google, Facebook and Amazon could start claiming hundreds of crores in refunds from the Indian government, as a Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday clarified that payments made by local users for the purchase of software from non-resident sellers or distributors cannot be taxed as royalty.
  • The launch of Tata Digital’s much-hyped super app has been delayed due to pending regulatory approval from the Competition Commission of India (CCI) for Tata’s acquisition of online grocery unicorn BigBasket. Besides the antitrust watchdog, the Tata Group has also applied to the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) for approval of the transaction.
  • Gurugram-based hospitality firm OYO has offloaded 150 employees to research and consultancy firm KPMG as it looks to shed workforce outside its core focus areas. 

Stay tuned for next week’s News Roundup.