The government has stated that digital media content is “public communication” that can be quickly shared with multiple people, is more permanent in nature compared to television news, with an ability to disseminate disinformation that can pose a threat to people. democratic rights, defending in court new rules that have broadened its ability to regulate the field.
The government has taken a stand in an affidavit filed in the Delhi High Court on Monday, opposing a number of pleadings by a number of digital media platforms challenging the 2021 information technology rules. The petitioners have called the new rules unconstitutional and declared that they amounted to an excess on the part of the executive.
In an affidavit filed before a bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh, the government said that while communications such as emails are private communications, the posting of content on social media, portals of Digital and OTT (over-the-top, like streaming services) information is essentially “public communication”.
And because of the “transcontinental nature of digital news,” particular media can be used as a tool for information campaigns by state and non-state actors to influence opinion, he said.
“Therefore, it is submitted that an argument which claims that the scope of the Computer Law includes content published by ordinary users, but does not include content published by news publishers well organized commercially or OTT platforms may not be legally defensible, ”read document.
He said digital media were “format agnostic” and their reach was broader than traditional media because they are accessible “to both literate and illiterate”.
Citizens, the government added, cannot be treated as passive consumers without participating in the accountability process.
The petitions claim that computer rules impose on the government “vague conditions such as good taste, decency and the prohibition of half-truths” in the regulation of the news media.
The petitions argue that the rules will lead to overregulation due to the onerous obligation to respond to complaints, which will also require a diversion of resources. The need for the publisher to defend itself on multiple levels would also lead to self-censorship and a chilling effect on free speech, the petitioners said.