India considers censoring Netflix, Amazon

Published October 18, 2019
This file photo taken on April 19, shows the logo of the Netflix entertainment company, displayed on a tablet screen in Paris. — AFP
This file photo taken on April 19, shows the logo of the Netflix entertainment company, displayed on a tablet screen in Paris. — AFP

NEW DELHI: India is deliberating potential censorship on streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, said a senior government source.

While film and TV certification bodies already moderate public content in India, the country’s laws do not allow censorship of content on the increasingly popular online streaming platforms.

The government’s concern has been sparked by several court cases and complaints filed to the police in recent months, alleging that some content was obscene or insulted religious sentiment, said the government official, who has direct knowledge of the deliberations.

Though concerns around possible censorship had prompted Netflix and Indian rival Hotstar to signs a self-regulation code in January, Amazon did not sign up and said “the current laws are adequate”.

“The self-regulation isn’t the same for all, which is raising a concern ... the directions are clear, we have to see how to address the problems,” the government official said.

Netflix’s first Indian original series, Sacred Games, faced a court challenge last year over “offensive scenes” and derogatory remarks about a former Indian prime minister, but the case was later dismissed. There was also a police complaint filed last month by an Indian politician who accused some Netflix shows of “defaming Hindus”.

Though it is possible the government will decide against any regulation, several other options are being explored, the government source said. These include a self-regulation code without government interference, a government-monitored code or measures requiring platforms to obtain content approval in advance.

“With regulation, all of the [global] content will need to be sanitised for India — a huge, expensive and time-consuming exercise,” said Prasanto Roy, a New Delhi technology policy analyst who advises global tech companies.

Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2019

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