The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), in a recent development, introduces provision on online gaming vide (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules 2023
The definition of “online gaming” has been introduced under Section 2(ii)(qa) which means a game that is offered on the internet and is accessible by a user through a computer resource or an intermediary.
According to the amendment, an obligation has been laid down on part of the intermediaries to make every possible effort prohibiting the publication, sharing, or hosting of any online games that may have a potential to harm the users, are not verified by the gaming self – regulatory body, include such ads or verifications that may cause loss of potential data such as banking details or KYC details of the user and many other provisions which are aimed to safeguard the interests of the users and make social media safer in terms of data protection and privacy.
A proviso to Rule 3(1)(f) has been inserted that says that if an online gaming intermediary has enabled the users to access any will have to inform its users of such change as soon as possible, but not later than 24 hours after the change is affected.
As per the amendment, the government as a stakeholder has been given an important responsibility to notify a number of self-regulatory bodies which shall represent the online gaming sector but will not have any close relationship with their members in order tomaintain the autonomy of the organisation.
According to Rule 4A (6) of the rules, the online gaming self-regulatory body has been given the power and authority to suspend or revoke the verification of the applicant after giving them a chance to be heard, if it is found that compliance of the provisions of these rules has not been done. Provisions as to allowing online – real money games have also been set forward in the rules along with specific guidelines for permitting them under Rule 4A (3).
Rule 4A (8) has also set forward guidelines for online gaming – self regulatory bodies to publish on their website a framework through which verification of online real money games can be done. This includes factors such as:
The self-regulatory bodies have also been bestowed additional roles and responsibilities. Firstly, it is the duty of the self-regulatory bodies to satisfy themselves that there is no sort of gambling or getting in the outcome of any online games. Secondly, the compliance mechanism for online games must be set in such a manner that strict adherence to the laws is followed including parental control mechanisms. These obligations of the self-regulatory bodies will come into force as soon as a number of these bodies have been set – up in order togive an adequate time for such bodies to comply withthe rules.
A provision for grievance redressal mechanism has also been set forward under rule 4 (11) which mandates the online gaming self-regulatory body to provide pertinent contact details of the grievance officer on their website through which complaints can be addressed. A maximum period of 24 hours has been set for acknowledgement of any grievance along with a resolution period of fifteen days from the date of receipt.
Rule 4B of the guidelines has also laid down that the obligations under rules 3 and 4 shall not apply to online games until an expiry period of three months from the date on which at least three online gaming self-regulatory bodies have been designated.
The amendment has been aimed to enforce greater due diligence by online gaming and social media intermediaries and to ensure the safety and trust of the individuals in the digital space along with providing every possible opportunity to create and develop new business ventures and startups. Various objections from social media companies and news agencies have come up including the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) which have urged the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to withdraw the IT amendment guidelines 2023 stating that a plethora of discretionary powers have been given to the ministry which could hamper the working of the news agencies and social media providers.
Secondly, another reason for revolt by the newspaper and social media providers is that the guidelines have made it mandatory to not publish any news piece without a holistic method of fact checking. Moreover, the onus of a fact check mechanism also lies with the newspapers making it an expensive and tedious process.