NEW DELHI: The government may have to revise the Information Technology Act, 2000 to include oversight on digital streaming and news portals, top officials say. The discussions to introduce new provisions are aimed at regulating technology aspects such as collection of users’ metadata, which refers to bulk demographic and other data that firms collect about their users, as well as the algorithms that define how content is served up to individual consumers.This follows the government’s notification last week, bringing all digital news as well as streaming platforms such as Amazon Prime and Netflix under the purview of the Information & Broadcasting (I&B) ministry.Officials said that a separate framework to regulate the underlying technology solutions that power digital news and entertainment is required as “algorithms play an important role in how news aggregators and other platforms curate their feeds and how platforms use the metadata they collect of their users.” This can include users’ personal data such as age, educational qualification, choice of content and time spent viewing or reading it.”All these aspects of metadata along with the algorithms will come under the IT Act, while the content part will be governed by the I&B ministry,” said one official cited above. “Some aggregators may design their algorithms to just pick content which is against a particular religion, that’s why it’s important to bring them under the ambit of the IT Act,” the person said. 79294660Regulations by MeitY, I&BThe executive order bringing all “films and audio-visual programmes made available by online content providers” and “news and current affairs content on online platforms” under the purview of the I&B ministry, is aimed at ensuring a “level playing field” for all media, the government had said last week while issuing the order.Parminder Jeet Singh, executive director for Delhi-based think tank IT for Change, said, “Regulation of algorithms is definitely needed in defining some transparency, auditability and accountability parameters. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) can help in defining technical parameters of how this is to be achieved.” He added that express instructions coded into algorithms, say a racial bias, could be a problem along with algorithms that just choose to amplify whatever content is traveling fast. “It is estimated that falsehoods seem to travel six times faster than truth in digital platforms, so designers should have a higher level of responsibility in designing algorithms.”The two-decade old IT Act is also expected to be revised to keep pace with technological advancements, officials said. Although this will “run parallel” to other changes needed since bringing a new legislation might take many years, the sources said.Fear of over-regulationLegal experts are of the view that any proposed demarcation of responsibilities between two ministries will require coordination. While MeitY retains control over policies on algorithms, metadata, personal data or non-personal data, the I&B ministry will have legislative control over content-related issues of all online news and entertainment platforms.”Some rationalisation of the responsibilities across various arms of the government may be required,” said Rahul Matthan, founder partner at Indian law firm Trilegal. With streaming and digital news platforms now under the regulatory regime, “over regulation is the big fear,” he said.ET reported last week that social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter along with Google, which offers curated news, could come under the purview of the new regulations. However, if such platforms and other news and content aggregators do not alter the content they host, they can continue to enjoy the immunity given to intermediary platforms under the IT Act. But, intermediaries will be under scrutiny if they deploy algorithms to curate a news feed. “Algorithms end up creating echo chambers …the issue is how the government will control them, unless they tell (technology) platforms to come up with a solution,” said Trilegal’s Matthan, adding that it is also important to understand what user data is being collected by these platforms and why.”The approach taken by the committee on non-personal data may be adequate as it asks companies to publicly publish a list of all metadata that has been collected,” he said.