On streaming and censorship

Wrt Netflix removing Annapoornani, why are we even surprised? This is the rule of the mob, and we’ve seen this before when theaters used to be attacked in India, for films that, at times, people hadn’t even watched, but came along because everyone loves a riot. As someone who had once participated in one once told me, beheti ganga mein haath dho liye.

It’s the duty of the law to protect freedom of expression, but more often than not, actions taken to enforce “public order” works in favor of mobs. There appears to be nothing illegal about the movie.

There also isn’t a law for censoring online content yet, but I expect that India will soon have one, especially with the draft Broadcast Law in place.

The IT Rules exist, and there are “self regulatory organisations” that have gone beyond what the IT rules even mandateā€¦ but the problem with the IT Rules 2021 is that they create a legal structure for regulating online streaming without the backing of a law. Essentially, they’re not legally valid, and news organisations, which are also covered under these rules, have challenged them in court.

What we’re also seeing is the expected capitulation of streaming services, but that was to be expected: they haven’t challenged the rules in court and they’re unlikely to push back against any kind of bullying or censorship, even though there is no law in India that allows such censorship of streaming services, which are essentially private viewing.

It’s no surprise that Netflix has taken the movie down. I wouldn’t be surprised if they do this again in the future, or if others also follow suit.