Nodal agents in ministries to spot illegal digital media content, alert I&B Min to block it under new IT rules

Each ministry, department and other attached government organizations will now have a dedicated nodal officer, who will be the sole authority to identify digital news media and OTT content that may be “illegal” and report it to the Ministry of Information and Communication. broadcasting (I&B) for blocking under intermediate and digital media rules released last year, News18 has learned.

The I&B ministry, in a letter to all ministries and departments a few weeks ago, said they should appoint a nodal officer. This officer, he said, will be responsible for sending requests to the ministry regarding the blocking of content published or transmitted by digital news publishers and those disseminated by over-the-top (OTT) platforms or streaming, which may relate to content described under section 69A of the Information Technology (IT) Act 2000. The letter was viewed by News18.

What the rules say

Section 69A of the Computers Act authorizes the blocking of content by the central government in the interests of sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order, or to prevent incitement to commit any recognizable offense relating to the foregoing.

The Information Technology Rules 2021 (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Code of Ethics) authorizes the I&B Department to administer the blocking of content published by digital news media as well as OTT platforms.

The rules state that the department can initiate the blocking of specific content in two ways. The first is on the recommendation of an interdepartmental committee and the second is under Rule 16 of the IT Rules, in an emergency, by the I&B Secretary.

In the former case, the blocking of specific content from an online news website or its removal from a video streaming platform is only applicable in the event that a grievance remains unresolved within first two levels of a three-level grievance redress mechanism – the first is at the publisher level and the second is an appeal level of the self-regulatory body.

Last month, the Department of I&B issued instructions to block 35 YouTube channels, two Twitter accounts and two Instagram accounts, two websites and one Facebook account, under the emergency provisions of the new digital media rules. . These channels operated from Pakistan and broadcast anti-Indian and fake content.

As the government finalizes a standard operating procedure (SOP) to clarify various aspects of the 2021 IT rules – including which agencies or bodies will have the authority to issue a takedown notice to a business – the appointment of a nodal officer designated for this purpose releases the air on the person who can officially report the content, in violation of the laws of the country, for removal.

Mechanism similar to computer blocking rules, 2009

Prior to the entry into force of the new IT Rules, what existed was the procedure for blocking content under the IT Rules (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking Access to Information by the Public) 2009. This procedure was established by the central government for the implementation of Section 69A of the Computer Act.

The provisions for blocking digital news content or that delivered by an OTT platform under the new IT rules largely draw on the existing blocking rules from 2009.

In its letter, the Ministry of I&B said ministries, departments and various state governments have already designated nodal officers who report illegal Internet content to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeiTY ) for blocking under the 2009 Blocking Rules. An institutional mechanism will be established for Nodal Agents appointed under the new IT Rules.

He suggested that the same nodal officer who had already been appointed under the provisions of the Blocking Rules, 2009, could be appointed to send ‘blocking’ requests to the I&B Department as well, under the new Digital Media Rules.

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