Press Council Of India Wants to Regulate Social Media, Is It Feasible?

About the newly passed resolution that the Government of India should initiate a suitable legislation to amend the Press Council Act, 1978. PCI wants the electronic media (both broadcast and social media) to be regulated by itself.

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“Social Media needs to be regulated and not to be controlled since self-regulation is futile and meaningless”, considers Press Council Chairman of India, Markandey Katju.

Markandey Katju
PCI chairman Markandey Katju

Press Council of India (PCI), the statutory board that governs the conduct of print media from 1966 has stirred the ongoing debate on social media regulation in the country. Last week the Indian government was in the news for it’s rampant blocking of websites and social media accounts since these were considered to be influencing the communal tensions related to the North-East.

Recently the PCI held a meeting on 27th August, 2012, at New Delhi and passed a resolution that the Government of India should initiate a suitable legislation to amend the Press Council Act, 1978. According to the new requested amendments, PCI wants the electronic media (both broadcast and social media) to be regulated by PCI. In addition to this, with the new amendment the PCI wants it to be renamed as “The Media Council.”

The PCI Chairman, Markandey Katju has been urging this change to happen from the time he joined PCI. However, the PCI Chairman made it clear that the PCI is in favor of regulation and not control, and this regulation should be by an independent statutory authority like the Press Council of India and not the government. Katju also cited the recent example of the North East tensions and requested the government that it should not be delaying any more on such a grave issue.

Reactions and Feasibility

The statements from Katju and thoughts from the PCI has found a strong opposition from both the news channels and print newspapers. The News Broadcasters Association (NBA) has shown extreme disappointment on this resolution, as reported by The Hindu. However, the move has seen support from some sections and it remains to be watched what stand the government takes.

Social Media is a double-edged sword and needs to be used wisely. Having said this, I am surprised that not a single mention has been made either by the government or any official on how they plan to enhance their social media activities. Instead officials are behind controlling and curbing the powers of social media rather than thinking about how it could be used effectively.

Time and again, I have debated on the feasibility of regulating social media content. Removing hate speech is justified but then to what extent and when do we draw line between freedom of speech and hate speech. These are matters of severe concern for the Government of India  in the coming days and it should brainstorm to find better and new ways to engage on social media.

The new resolution passed by the PCI not only lacks rationality but also it is not feasible on ground. Today if you raise a complaint against any print media, it involves a lot of process and is time consuming. Now as we know the speed at which content is produced in the world of social media where everyone is a publisher, so even if the government sets up a team to monitor content on social media then too it would be a mammoth task!

Some interesting times we are heading into where along with having a presence and engagement on social media, organizations, agencies and governments are forced to think about their reputation too. But for now the issue of regulating social media is not going to die soon.

Slider image courtesy: Funtik