A YouTube channel publishing news or current affairs content will have to furnish its details to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB), the Google-owned video-sharing platform has said in its updated Terms and Conditions that will go into effect from January 2022.
In an email to Google users, YouTube said that under Rule 5 of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code Rules, 2021) Rules, 2021 “if you are a publisher of news or current affairs content, you are required to furnish the details of your accounts on YouTube to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India”.
Rule 5 of the IT Rules 2021, states that an intermediary which publishes news and current affairs content on a website, mobile-based application, or both “shall furnish the details of their users accounts on the services of such intermediary to the Ministry […]” The section also says that publishers who have provided such information will be given a “mark of verification as being publishers”.
The IT Rules 2021, imposes additional requirements of compliance for significant social media intermediaries such as Google in this case, and also for publishing platforms across the spectrum such as a digital news channel or an OTT platform. Recently, we have seen how non-compliance with the IT Rules has resulted in a months-long legal tussle for Twitter. The Rules, in fact, are being legally contested in various High Courts of the country with many claiming that they are unconstitutional and that they infringe on fundamental rights.
Instances of YouTube content being considered “illegal”
In the Uploading Content section of the Terms and Conditions, Google has stipulated instances when content would be considered “illegal under Indian law and the consequences when our systems identify such content”.
For example, YouTube said —
- The content one submits must not include third-party intellectual property (such as copyrighted material) unless one has permission from that party.
- A person or publisher is legally responsible for the content one submits to YouTube.
- YouTube will use automated systems to analyse the video to help detect infringement and abuse, including spam and malware.
Meanwhile, the inclusion of the requirement of adhering to section 5 of the IT Rules 2021, has garnered its fair share of criticism —
I suppose Google dropping do no evil helps them out in situations like this. I hope when Mark Zuckerberg is finally held accountable for encouraging fascism in India, Google's weak willed policies are also put in the limelight. https://t.co/3EP7bVsCNC
— Sujay (@WeirdlyHungry) November 28, 2021
Buried halfway in the YouTube Terms of Service update email is this tidbit: "if you are a publisher of news or current affairs content, you are required to furnish the details of your accounts on YouTube to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. pic.twitter.com/OSF8WQ7ZtZ
— Karan Saini (@squeal) November 28, 2021
IT Rules FAQ on news publishers still leaves questions unanswered
Recently, the Indian government published the frequently asked questions (FAQ) on the IT Rules, 2021 which was intended to provide clarity on the provisions of the rules. However, it left several questions unanswered. For instance, this is what the FAQ had to say in context to news and current affairs publishers —
Proof for news and current affairs publishers: The IT Rules direct intermediaries to publish a clear and concise statement informing publishers of news and current affairs content that they have to furnish details of their user accounts on intermediary platforms to the Ministry in order to obtain a verification mark visible to all users.
- What needs to be addressed: The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has not explained whether a contractual representation that a publisher has furnished details is enough or is actual proof needed for the intermediary to provide a verification mark.
Indian govt approves self-regulatory bodies for news and current affairs publishers
The Indian Digital Publishers Content Grievance Council (IDPCGC) was approved in October 2021, as a level II self-regulatory body for publishers of news and current affairs content under the Information Technology (IT) Rules, 2021, as per a notification on MIB’s website.
There are only three SRBs that are listed on MIB’s website apart from IDPCGC:
- Web Journalists’ Standards Authority
- News Broadcasters Federation- Professional News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBF-PNBSA)
- Digital Publisher Content Grievances Council
The IT Rules, 2021 have laid down a Grievance Redressal Mechanism consisting of a three-tier structure for publishers of news and curated content.
- Level I- Self-regulation by the publishers;
- Level II- Self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the publishers;
- Level III- Oversight mechanism by the Central Government
- Government lets another news publishers’ body regulate itself without revealing the criteria
- Streaming services step up compliance with IT Rules, appoint grievance officers and more
- IT Rules FAQs: What is pending to be explained by the I&B Ministry?
- How the IT Rules FAQs add to the arbitrariness and confusion around the rules
- What does the Indian government’s FAQs on IT Rules 2021 fail to answer?
- IT Rules face yet another hurdle after Madras High Court temporarily stays parts of the law
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