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One Day National Round Table Discussion on ‘Regulation of Social and Digital Media Platforms and OTT in India’

Symbiosis Law School Pune (SLS-P) in collaboration with Symbiosis Institute for Media and Communication, Pune (SIMC); Symbiosis Institute of Digital and Telecom Management, Pune (SIDTM) and Symbiosis Center for Media and Communication, Pune (SCMC) - constituents of Symbiosis International Deemed University, Pune organized the One Day National Virtual Round Table on ‘Regulation of Social and Digital Media Platforms and OTT in India’ on 22nd May 2021. The Round Table Discussion was held on the virtual platform, Zoom at 11 A.M. IST.

The event began with the welcome address by Dr. Shashikala Gurpur, Fulbright Scholar, Director, Symbiosis Law School Pune, Dean, Faculty of Law, Symbiosis International (Deemed University). In her address, Dr. Gurpur stated that social media holds a vibrant space for the Indian democracy. Dr. Gurpur raised several significant questions for the discussion, that included: - “Are we readjusting the balance of freedom of speech and expression with reasonable restrictions?”; “How far are the regulations by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting successful in dealing with the threat to democracy as well as freedom of speech and expression of the content creators and media platforms along with the State’s own responsibility of protecting public interest?”. Does this guideline serves global big tech initiatives’ and meet the tripartite test of promulgation, necessity and public interest while blocking their content.

The welcome address was followed the address by Vice Chancellor, Dr. Rajani Gupte, Symbiosis International University, Pune. She stated that this interdisciplinary discourse and the theme of discussion is pertinent at present due to the recent enactment of new Regulations. She stated that “Privacy comes with responsibility” and there is a need to prevent misuse of online platforms. The Opening Remarks were delivered by Dr. Vidya Yeravdekar, Pro Chancellor Symbiosis International University, Pune who considered this round-table as a meaningful initiative for discussing pertinent issues relating to Social and Digital Media and OTT Platforms. She spoke about protecting the right to privacy, creativity and regulation of content on the online platforms.

Recounting the history of media and communication, Dr. Ruchi Jaggi, Director, SIMC presented an introduction to the theme and spoke on the evolution of the Internet in India. Dr. Jaggi put forth her belief that these new rules are a double-edged sword and the discussion would unravel several dimensions of this subject and contribute to knowledge-creation and policy-making.

The Plenary session on ‘OTT Regulations: Emerging Legal and Policy Dimensions’ began with the address by Mr. Hitesh Jain, Managing Partner, Parinam Law Associates. He addressed several significant questions like whether OTT platforms should be regulated? Whether regulation is possible through various mechanisms? and Whether journalistic norms should be imposed on digital online media? Mr. Jain also spoke about the guidelines dealing with due diligence regulation of online digital news platforms and their accountability in the light of the Safe Harbour Provisions. He further pointed out that with the evolution of technology, legal responsibility needs to be allocated on social media, OTT platforms and online media such as self-regulation and mechanisms of conflict resolution.

Panel 1 on the theme, ‘Decoding the Regulatory Framework for OTT Platforms: Impact on Creativity and Content’ was moderated by Prof. Preeti Raghunath. The first speaker in the panel was Ms. Alpa Golcha, Creative Director, Amazon Prime. She spoke about the processes of content creation with reference to regulation and censorship. She supplemented the discussion by citing examples of the controversial Tandav series. Thereafter, Mr. Dominic Dsouza, Former VP, Legal Team of Zee and Star, elaborated about the recent surge in over-sensitization of the masses regarding content. He raised concerns over difficulty in balancing between ensuring the integrity of storytelling with regulation and censorship. The last panelist for the session was Dr. Sreeram Gopalkrishnan, Director at Symbiosis Centre of Media and Communication. He enlightened the audience about the subjectivity in censoring and regulation and the right to free speech should be discussed organically in relation with censorship. He also said, “Regulation is a way or a process that gives agency to the legislators”.

The theme for Panel 2 was ‘Law and Policy with reference to Social Media Intermediaries: Prospects and Challenges’. It commenced with an introduction of the esteemed panelists by the moderator Dr. Shashikala Gurpur. She began with highlighting various debates from K.A. Abbas to the ‘Tandav’ to reflect as to how “Artistic freedom is a sacred freedom”. Dr. Gurpur raised the question of how Allahabad High Court and Supreme Court differed in response to current guidelines in the Tandav case? How the Supreme Court pointed about no punishment? She also raised the mental health issues of binge watching and protection of children. The discussion began with Mr. Vishal Jain, Partner, Deloitte highlighting the changes marked in the digital environment and the circumstances under which digital content is viewed today as opposed to the earlier times. He elaborated on the ethical concerns associated with AI enablement of OTT platforms. Thereafter, Dr. Ramamurthy Venkatesh, Professor, SIDTM, Pune, addressed the various aspects involved in the fight against misinformation in the digital era. He suggested the incorporation of a fact verification and misinformation ranking system, similar to the Global Disinformation Index present in Europe. The last panelist for the session Mr. Dominic Dsouza, Former VP, Legal of Zee and Star emphasised that the users should follow a digital ethics, manners and boundaries. The event also witnessed the release of Lexet, the bi-monthly newsletter of SLS-P by Dr. Ruchi Jaggi. The Vote of Thanks was delivered by Dr. Bindu Ronald, Professor, Deputy Director (Academics), SLS Pune.

The panel discussion was followed by Paper Presentations in two parallel breakout rooms. The first room was chaired by Dr. Kanan Divetia, Faculty of SLS-Noidaand Dr. Atmaram Shelke, Faculty of Symbiosis Law School, Pune and the discussion was compered by Prof. Richa Dwivedi, Assistant Professor, SLS-P. The panel witnessed 4 paper presentations. The concluding Remarks were given by Prof. Kshitij Naikade, Assistant Professor, Deputy Director (Admin) SLS, Pune. The second room was chaired by Dr. Meera Mathew, Associate Professor, Symbiosis Law School, Noida and the discussion was compered by Prof. Garima Panwar, Assistant Professor, SLS-P. The panel witnessed 5 paper presentations. The concluding remarks for this session was given by Dr. Baidurya Chakrabarti, Assistant Professor, SCMC, Pune


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