I&B Ministry Cracks Down on OTT Platforms for ‘Obscene’ Content

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The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (I&B) has reportedly taken action against three OTT platforms—Hunters, Besharams, and Prime Play—operated by Thane-based company Webworld Multimedia Private Limited. This marks the first instance where laws related to vulgarity have been invoked against OTT platforms.

Government’s Directive

The I&B Ministry has ordered the platforms to remove content deemed as obscene or potentially pornographic. The examination of various web series on these platforms revealed prima facie violations of the IT Rules, 2021, and other obscenity-related laws, including Sections 67 and 67A of the IT Act, 2000. Notices were issued in late October, providing the platforms with a five-day window for compliance.

Company’s Response

A spokesperson for Webworld Multimedia Private Limited confirmed that the content in question has been taken down, and a comprehensive review of all content is underway.

Unregistered Platforms Targeted

All three platforms, subject to the removal order, were reportedly unregistered. The I&B Ministry has been grappling with an increasing number of complaints about vulgarity on OTT platforms. While there are currently 57 registered OTT platforms, the majority of complaints seem to stem from unregistered platforms that have proliferated recently.

Potential Legal Actions

Sources suggest that the I&B Ministry may consider invoking the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986, in the future. This act carries penalties, including imprisonment.

Minister’s Stance

I&B Minister Anurag Thakur has been vocal about the surge in abusive and obscene content on OTT platforms in recent months. He emphasized the government’s commitment to addressing complaints and hinted at possible rule changes if necessary. Thakur stated, “The government won’t back down from taking necessary action.”

Industry Meeting and Minister’s Warning

During a meeting with OTT industry representatives in July, Minister Thakur emphasized the responsibility of these platforms to ensure they do not propagate vulgarity and abuse.

So, what are we concluding?

The recent crackdown by the I&B Ministry reflects the government’s growing concern over the content standards of OTT platforms. As the industry faces increased scrutiny, it remains to be seen how regulatory measures may evolve to address content-related challenges in the digital space.