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New IT Rules: State, district level sensitisation drive soon

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology is planning to organise workshops and training sessions for senior government officials in administrative roles at the district and state level to sensitise them about the new guidelines for social media intermediaries, digital news channels and over-the-top (OTT) platforms.

The need to organise these training and sensitisation sessions was felt after district authorities in Manipur had recently sent a notice to a digital news platform operating out of the state’s capital Imphal, asking it to “furnish relevant documents” showing “compliance” with the government’s new rules for digital media.

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Need for proper oversight mechanism

The plan to conduct workshops and training sessions comes after a news website in Manipur’s Imphal was issued a notice to prove compliance with the new norms. Though the notice was revoked and the IT Ministry handled the situation swiftly, the incident has brought to light the need for setting up a proper oversight mechanism.

“If you look at that notice, it was withdrawn within a few hours of being pointed out. We are conscious of the fact that it (the new rules) could be misused or misinterpreted, especially in small towns and cities. We have sent notices to all district administrations that all powers under the IT rules are only with centre,” a senior official told The Sunday Express.

On March 1, district authorities in Imphal had issued a notice to news website The Frontier Manipur and “publisher/ intermediary” of “Khanasi Neinasi”, a weekly online discussion programme hosted on The Frontier Manipur’s Facebook page.

The notice also asked journalist Paojel Chaoba to submit relevant documents showing that his website was in compliance with the new guidelines for digital news platforms issued by the central government.

Though it was withdrawn later, the notice had raised questions of administrative overreach without proper oversight mechanism in place.

This also resulted in the ministry acting swiftly and send out a missive to all district administrations, stating that no powers under the new IT rules had been “delegated to the state government/ district magistrate/ police commissioner”.

Following the training sessions and the workshops, there will be regular monitoring of any such instances where the district administration tries to send out any notice under the new rules to any digital news channel, the IT Ministry official said.

“We have sent out a circular from the central level already and will monitor all such developments closely. If this repeats, appropriate action can be taken against such officials,” the official further said.

On February 25, the IT Ministry had notified the new rules and guidelines for social media intermediaries, significant social media intermediaries, digital news services as well as OTT platforms.

The rules for digital news platforms required them to provide information about the geography they operated from, monthly compliance report on details of grievances received and action taken on them and other details to the ministry of information and broadcasting within 30 days from February 25. In case of any violations of these rules and guidelines, the power to take any action rested only with the secretary of the ministry of information and broadcasting.

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