Government Shuts Down 18 OTT Services Amid Crackdown on Inappropriate Content

The central government, in a stringent crackdown on digital content, has confirmed the suspension of 18 over-the-top (OTT) platforms accused of disseminating obscene, vulgar, and in some cases, pornographic material. This action comes in the wake of repetitive cautions from Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Anurag Thakur, who has spearheaded the effort to sanitize the digital space.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting orchestrated this clampdown in a concerted effort with various online intermediaries. In the process of blocking these platforms, the ministry also disabled 19 websites, 10 mobile applications—7 from Google Play Store and 3 from Apple App Store—and a sweeping number of 57 social media accounts that were linked to the offensive content being propagated by these entities.

To give an idea of the scale, one of these OTT applications was downloaded more than 1 crore times, and two others surpassed the 50 lakh download threshold on the Google Play Store, underscoring the extensiveness of their reach.

The decision to enforce these blocks was taken under the Information Technology Act of 2000. The provisions of this act, coupled with advice from collaborating government Ministries and Departments, as well as expertise from industry specialists in media and entertainment, women’s and children’s rights, formed the basis for this move.

Minister Anurag Thakur has been a vocal advocate for the responsibility these platforms must shoulder, specifying that they should not be conduits for obscenity, vulgarity, or abuse masquerading as “creative expression.”

The list of the now-blocked OTT Platforms includes recognizable names like Dreams Films, Voovi, Yessma, Uncut Adda, Tri Flicks, X Prime, Neon X VIP, Besharams, Hunters, Rabbit, Xtramood, Nuefliks, MoodX, Mojflix, Hot Shots VIP, Fugi, Chikooflix, and Prime Play.

The Minister elaborated on the nature of the content, noting a considerable segment as obscene and vulgar. This content portrayed women in demeaning roles, featured nudity, and depicted sexual acts in a range of improper and unethical scenarios, such as between teachers and students and incestuous relationships. The explicit content included not just sexual insinuations but also prolonged sequences of pornography and explicit sexual scenes that lacked any substantive thematic or societal validation.

For legal context, the content disseminated by these platforms was preliminarily adjudged to infringe upon Section 67 and 67A of the IT Act, Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and Section 4 of the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act of 1986.

Additionally, the social media machinery was robustly utilized by these platforms to circulate trailers, isolated scenes, and external linkages, with the tactical purpose of luring viewers to their web portals and applications. It was disclosed that the totality of the followers across the platforms’ social media accounts numbered over 32 lakh users.

Despite this comprehensive blackout, the government reaffirmed its commitment to nurturing the OTT industry’s growth and nurturing its potential. The focus remains on ensuring that digital content providers operate within the boundaries of the law and cultural acceptability while contributing positively to the media and entertainment ecosystem.

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