The regulatory framework For Online Gaming And Misinformation
To reaffirm its dedication to preserving the security and confidence of the Digital Nagriks, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) published the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Regulations, 2021, with their final changes. The amendment gives the Union Government the authority to name an official fact-checker for false information and "fake news" and to control the online real money gaming sector, which includes rummy, poker, and fantasy sports websites. The distinction between "online games" and "online real money games" has been added as a result of these recent developments. Furthermore, the regulations will provide several self-regulatory organisations (SROs) the ability to judge whether real-money games are permitted in India.
Governments around the world are debating how to control social media intermediaries (SMIs). It is crucial for governments to update their regulatory framework to deal with new challenges given the complexity of the issue, the significance of SMIs in influencing public discourse, the effect of their government's policies on people's ability to express themselves freely, the amount of information they host, and the constant technological developments that have an impact. The IT Rules, 2021, which were primarily created to put standards on SMIs to promote an open, safe, and trusted internet, updated India's ten-year-old SMI legislation in 2021.
An Online Game is a game that is accessible to users via a computer resource or middleman and is made available over the Internet. Whereas, Online Real Money Game is an online game where players deposit funds or other items with the hope of winning on their deposits.
The Press Information Bureau's fact-checking division, which has spent years "debunking" news stories and WhatsApp forwards on programmes and ministries of the Central Government, will be named the official fact-checker for the Union Government. So, social media corporations will lose their "safe harbour" for such content if any news is reported as phoney, leaving them vulnerable to lawsuits or other legal action. Social media businesses have historically had legal protection for user-posted content since they are considered intermediaries under the Information Technology Act of 2000. According to the IT Regulations, they lose this status if they don't, among other things, have an Indian grievance officer or don't promptly respond to user complaints. Also, as a result of this modification, they will no longer enjoy safe harbour status for articles that the government has identified as false information.
The amendment mandates that real money gaming services, where players deposit money in the hopes of winning, obtain "permissibility" certification from a Self-Regulatory Board (SRB) made up of professionals and business leaders. As the definition of "betting and gambling," for which regulatory authority belongs with States, has been whittled down through decades of constitutional interpretation, "permissible" real money games will probably be those whose results don't solely depend on chance. The real-money gaming sector, which has fought States in court against blanket bans—often successfully—has welcomed this modification and said it will abide by it. The "betting and gambling" category would include any games that have not been deemed "permissible," making them subject to limitations from jurisdictions where such activities are outlawed.
The question of whether a real money game is one of skill or chance, which is a critical distinction to legally decide whether an app supports betting or gambling, has been explicitly avoided by the government. The SRBs are in charge of making this choice. As a result, popular card games and fantasy sports applications that have received court decisions recognising them as games of skill may be unaffected. The Union Cabinet changed the Allocation of Business Regulations before approving this modification to grant the Center authority to control "online gaming." State governments might not like this amendment. For instance, Tamil Nadu has made three unsuccessful attempts to outlaw real money internet betting and gaming.
The declared goals of the revisions were threefold, according to the press release that came with the draft amendments in June 2022. The interests and constitutional rights of netizens needed to be protected, the Rules' grievance procedure needed to be strengthened, and early-stage Indian start-ups shouldn't be negatively impacted by compliance with these requirements. This led to a number of modifications that can be roughly split into two categories. The first category comprised giving SMIs more responsibilities to ensure better user interest protection, and the second category required establishing an appeals procedure for grievance redressal.
The Union government will now be the last arbitrator of what news can and cannot be published, which will have a substantial impact on online freedom of expression and access to information. The Amendments, 2023 carry a significant risk of going against the fundamentals of natural justice.The government's intention regarding intermediary liability should be outlined, including a precise articulation of the issues/risks/harms it has considered, the outcomes and analysis of any cost-benefit analysis it has conducted, the types/kinds of options and/or alternatives it has considered to address these issues/risks/harms, and its position(s) on each of them.