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Ministry of Information & Broadcasting takes strict action to uphold decency standards

Government Blocks 18 OTT Platforms for Obscene Content

Ministry of Information & Broadcasting takes strict action to uphold decency standards

New Delhi: To curb dissemination of obscene and vulgar content, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (I&B) has coordinated efforts with various intermediaries to block 18 Over-the-Top (OTT) platforms. These platforms were found to be publishing content that is not only obscene but, in some instances, crossed into the realm of pornography. As a result, 19 websites, 10 apps (7 on Google Play Store, 3 on Apple App Store), and 57 associated social media accounts have been disabled for public access in India.

Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting, Anurag Singh Thakur, has reiterated the responsibility of these platforms to refrain from promoting obscenity and abuse under the guise of creative expression. His announcement on 12th March, 2024, revealed the culmination of efforts to clamp down on such content.

The decision to block these platforms was made under the provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000, after consultation with various Ministries/Departments of the Government of India and domain experts specializing in media and entertainment, women’s rights, and child rights.

A thorough examination revealed that a significant portion of the content hosted on these platforms depicted nudity, sexual acts, and portrayed women in a demeaning manner. Themes such as relationships between teachers and students, incestuous family relationships, and explicit sexual innuendos were found prevalent. Such content lacked thematic or societal relevance and was deemed prima facie in violation of Section 67 and 67A of the IT Act, Section 292 of the IPC, and Section 4 of the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986.

Of particular concern was the popularity of these platforms, with one app amassing over 1 crore downloads and two others having over 50 lakh downloads on the Google Play Store alone. Moreover, these platforms extensively utilized social media to attract audiences, with a cumulative followership of over 32 lakh users.

The Ministry of I&B has been actively engaging with OTT platforms and their self-regulatory bodies established under the IT Rules, 2021, through various sensitization efforts such as meetings, webinars, and workshops.

Despite the crackdown on obscene content, the Government of India remains committed to fostering the growth of the OTT industry. Initiatives in this direction include the introduction of the Inaugural OTT Award for Web Series at the 54th International Film Festival of India, collaborations with OTT platforms in the media and entertainment sector, and the establishment of a light-touch regulatory framework emphasizing self-regulation under the IT Rules, 2021.

This move underscores the government’s dedication to ensuring that the digital content landscape remains conducive to healthy and respectful discourse while safeguarding the interests of all stakeholders, especially women and children.

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