There have been talks around the regulation of (over-the-top) apps in India. The issue is that not all government ministries are on the same page. OTT apps such as WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram are being sought by the telecom department to be put under regulation. Both Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) are in the favour of regulating OTT apps, but the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) does not hold the same view, said an ET Telecom report. Comments from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting have not come yet.
DoT has reportedly sent a reference to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), asking the body to relook at its recommendations on the matter given in 2020. For the unaware, in 2020, TRAI had concluded that at that point, there was no need to regulate the OTT apps, but a periodic review of the same would happen to ensure that steps could be taken whenever necessary.
DoT Wants the Spread of Misinformation to Stop
DoT wants the power to selectively ban OTT apps which are spreading misinformation. An official aware of the matter told the publication that the need to regulate OTT apps is urgent for the security and protection of consumer privacy.
MeitY believes that the decision taken by TRAI in 2020 is good enough for now, and there's no need for regulation of OTT apps. DoT wants the power to regulate OTT apps in real time because it wants to stop the spread of misinformation on such apps.
COAI (Cellular Operators Association of India) had said that OTT apps should be brought under the licensing regime. COAI would definitely support the idea of regulation of OTT apps as it would be advantageous for telecom operators. MeitY oversees apps such as Facebook and Twitter right now, while DoT deals with communication apps.