OTT platforms contain pornography, needs law to control them: Supreme Court

Recently, Supreme Court of India came down heavily on over-the-top (OTT) platforms demanding the screening of video content released on platforms like Amazon Prime and Netflix.

For OTT platforms, 2020 was a time for serious growth. Almost everyone last year when forced to stay indoors gave various streaming platforms millions of additional eyeballs every single day. With theatres closed all around the world, these over-the-top content platforms whether it be Netflix, Amazon Prime, Voot or Hotstar made video content consumption an anywhere, everywhere and anytime experience.

With so much of content available and consumed on these platforms, it becomes important for authorities to screen the available content present on digital platforms. Recently, Supreme Court of India came down heavily on over-the-top (OTT) platforms demanding the screening of video content released on platforms like Amazon Prime and Netflix. The court also directed the Centre to frame new guidelines on regulating social media and online streaming platforms.

The court’s observation came while hearing a plea on the controversy surrounding Amazon Prime Video’s latest show ‘Tandav’. The hearing in the anticipatory bail plea filed by India Head of Amazon Prime Video Aparna Purohit was an interesting dialogue between the lawyers appearing in the matter and the Bench. During the hearing the court said that some regulation is needed for web content as some cases have even shown that “pornography is being telecast on such platforms” and a “balance has to be maintained”.

Neither a producer nor an actor, Purohit is just an employee

It was in just in January, when the Director of the Amazon Prime series Tandav, Ali Abbas Zafar, the show’s writer Gourav Solani and actor Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub along with Amazon Prime India head Aparna Purohit had filed a petition in the Supreme court asking for protection from the arrest as FIRs had been filed against the makers of the show for allegedly hurting the religious sentiments of a community. 

According to the reports, there were a total of three FIRs filed against the makers of the web series in Uttar Pradesh. The FIRs were filed against the wrongful depiction of the Uttar Pradesh Police, and Hindu deities.

The Supreme Court then rejected the plea of the makers from arrest. The court in its judgement said, “Right to freedom of speech is not absolute. You cannot play the role of a character that hurts the sentiments of a community.”

In a recent hearing on Thursday, India head of Amazon Prime Aparna Purohit challenged Allahabad High Court’s order of denying her bail. On behalf of Purohit during the hearing, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi said the case against her was “shocking” as she was just an employee of Amazon. He even said that she was neither a producer nor an actor, but still, she had been made an accused in around 10 cases across India in relation to “Tandav” that started streaming a month ago.

Porn on OTT platforms

Hearing a petition on the web series Tandav, the Supreme Court said that a few over-the-top (OTT) platforms even show “pornographic content” at times, and there should be a mechanism to screen such programmes.

The Minister for Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar after the hearing on Thursday stated that representatives from excessive (OTT) trade have been defined provisions of the brand-new guidelines governing them. The government on February 25 notified new rules for social media and OTT platforms under which the OTT platforms and digital media will be required to disclose the information about where they publish, the nature of the content they share as well as the size of their subscriber data.

Author: Mahima Joshi

Mahima Joshi is a writer at The Wonk. She is a postgraduate in Journalism, who is just curious about everything that is happening around. She is an enthusiastic reader especially concerning gender dynamics in mythological stories.

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