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DPCGC Recommends Punitive Action on OTT Platform


For the first time, the Digital Publisher Content Grievances Council (DPCGC), self-regulatory body for online curated content (OTT), has recommended punitive action on a platform invoking the Information Technology Rules (2021).


GS II: Government Policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. DPCGC Orders Removal of Obscene Content from OTT Platform ULLU
  2. About IT Rules 2021 (Major modifications introduced through IT Rules for Intermediaries)
  3. About Digital Publisher Content Grievances Council (DPCGC)

DPCGC Orders Removal of Obscene Content from OTT Platform ULLU

  • The Digital Publisher Content Grievances Council (DPCGC) has issued an order to take down objectionable content being streamed on the OTT platform ULLU.
  • The order came in response to a complaint regarding the explicit and obscene nature of certain web series on ULLU.
  • The DPCGC, as a self-regulatory body for OTT platforms, has the authority to address such grievances.
  • ULLU has denied the allegations and defended its content as being based on viewer discretion and protected by the freedom of speech and expression.
  • However, the DPCGC has reprimanded the platform and advised it to either remove the web series entirely or edit the offending scenes to comply with the IT Rules.

Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021

Due Diligence to Be Followed by Intermediaries: 

  • The Rules prescribe due diligence that must be followed by intermediaries, including social media intermediaries.
  • In case, due diligence is not followed by the intermediary, safe harbour provisions will not apply to them.

Grievance Redressal Mechanism:

  • The Rules seek to empower the users by mandating the intermediaries, including social media intermediaries, to establish a grievance redressal mechanism for receiving resolving complaints from the users or victims.
  • Intermediaries shall appoint a Grievance Officer to deal with such complaints and share the name and contact details of such officer.
  • Grievance Officer shall acknowledge the complaint within 24 hours and resolve it within fifteen days from its receipt.

Ensuring Online Safety and Dignity of Users, Especially Women Users: 

  • Intermediaries shall remove or disable access within 24 hours of receipt of complaints of contents that exposes the private areas of individuals, show such individuals in full or partial nudity or in sexual act or is in the nature of impersonation including morphed images etc.
  • Such a complaint can be filed either by the individual or by any other person on his/her behalf.

Two Categories of Social Media Intermediaries: 

  • To encourage innovations and enable growth of new social media intermediaries without subjecting smaller platforms to significant compliance requirement, the Rules make a distinction between
    • Social Media Intermediaries and
    • Significant Social Media Intermediaries. 
  • This distinction is based on the number of users on the social media platform.
  • Government is empowered to notify the threshold of user base that will distinguish between social media intermediaries and significant social media intermediaries.

The Rules require the Significant Social Media Intermediaries to follow certain additional due diligence. 

  • Appoint a Chief Compliance Officer who shall be responsible for ensuring compliance with the Act and Rules,
  • Appoint a Nodal Contact Person for 24×7 coordination with law enforcement agencies,
  • Appoint a Resident Grievance Officer who shall perform the functions mentioned under Grievance Redressal Mechanism.
  • Publish a monthly compliance report mentioning the details of complaints received and action taken on the complaints as well as details of contents removed proactively by the significant social media intermediary.
  • Significant social media intermediaries providing services primarily in the nature of messaging shall enable identification of the first originator of the information that is required only for the purposes of prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution or punishment of an offence related to sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, or public order or of incitement to an offence relating to the above or in relation with rape, sexually explicit material or child sexual abuse material punishable with imprisonment for a term of not less than five years.
  • Significant social media intermediary shall have a physical contact address in India published on its website or mobile app or both.

Voluntary User Verification Mechanism: 

  • Users who wish to verify their accounts voluntarily shall be provided an appropriate mechanism to verify their accounts and provided with demonstrable and visible mark of verification.

Giving Users an Opportunity to be Heard: 

  • In cases where the significant social media intermediaries removes or disables access to any information on their own accord, then a prior intimation for the same shall be communicated to the user who has shared that information with a notice explaining the grounds and reasons for such action.
  • Users must be provided an adequate and reasonable opportunity to dispute the action taken by the intermediary.

Removal of Unlawful Information: 

  • An intermediary upon receiving actual knowledge in the form of an order by a court or being notified by the Appropriate Govt. or its agencies through authorized officer should not host or publish any information which is prohibited under any law in relation to the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with foreign countries etc.

Digital Publisher Content Grievances Council (DPCGC)

  • The Digital Publisher Content Grievances Council (DPCGC) is an independent self-regulatory body established under the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) in June 2021.
  • It serves as a platform for addressing grievances related to online curated content providers (OCCPs) and ensuring a balance between viewer complaints and freedom of expression.
  • The DPCGC operates within the framework of the Information Technology Rules 2021 and other relevant statutes, rules, regulations, and guidelines concerning the publishing of online curated content.
  • Its primary objective is to establish a redressal mechanism that upholds a free-speech environment while addressing concerns raised by viewers.
  • By adhering to these guidelines, the DPCGC aims to foster responsible content creation and consumption in the digital space.

-Source: Indian Express, The Hindu

December 2023