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Mains Answer Writing

21-March-2024

Q1) The growing regulatory burden associated with Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 poses challenges to the growth and development of the digital ecosystem. Critically examine. (250 Words/15 Marks)

ANSWER

Digital ecosystem refers to a network of digital technologies, platforms, and services coming together to boost the outcome for consumers (Digital Nagriks). The challenges posed by the IT Rules, 2021 to the growth and development of digital ecosystem can be seen from:

  1. The IT Rules, 2021 are criticised to be antithetical to the basic tenets of democracy.

E.g., it is alleged by some that fact check body of the government may lead to disproportionate sanctions on media houses, political opponents etc.

  1. As per some experts, IT Rules, 2021 do not create a level playing field between various media houses.

E.g., IT Rules, 2021 are not applicable to electronic and print media, thereby it goes against small media companies that rely almost solely digital publications.

  1. It is argued that mere false information is not a valid ground for restricting/abrogating the constitutionally guaranteed rights of speech and expression; further, the prudence of allowing an executive body to remove content without appropriate checks and balances is also questioned.
  2. The IT Rules, 2021 and subsequent amendments to the same may also create ripples in federal relations between the Union and state governments.

E.g., some legal experts have asserted that the Union can only regulate certain parts of online gaming which fall in Union list (schedule 7).

  1. Over-regulation, as per critics, may hamper smooth growth of digital economy.

E.g., gaming companies; new social media platforms such as Koo App.

  1. According to critics, the dual regulation of IT Rules, 2021 may also add to the regulatory overbearance.

E.g., both MeiTY and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) are involved in governance of the rules.

Though criticised for creating a framework of over-regulation, their relevance can be seen from:

  1. As the digital presence of citizens (digital Nagriks) is increasing (over 700 million active users) there is a need to regulate the internet (social media intermediaries) in order to protect the interests/rights of the users.

E.g., timely grievance redressal; protection of privacy etc.

  1. The Internet can become the source of communal tensions, public disorder etc., derailing communal harmony and general administration.

E.g., A per an MIT study, falsified content spreads 6 times faster than factual content.

  1. Increasing social crimes/illicit activities on internet like child pornography, identity-theft, deep-fakes, online bullying, phishing etc., are on a rise.
  2. Un-accountable, indifferent and opaque actions of the significant social media intermediaries amount to suppression of freedom of speech and expressions.

E.g., incidents of de-platforming/suspension of accounts without due-process.

  1. Misinformation or disinformation campaigns, manipulation of user data etc., are a drag on democratic processes and individual liberty.

E.g., Cambridge Analytica incident.

  1. The imperative for safe, trusted, responsive, and accountable digital platforms.

E.g., social media intermediaries aiding the government in criminal investigations of grave nature.

Even though digital ecosystem is vital in the era of knowledge enabling regulation is a must to check its misuse.

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