Policing Online Content Censors People’s Right to Choose
A huge section of the social media is quite miffed about the petition filed in the Delhi High Court, for removal of vulgar and sexually explicit content from online platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, etc. According to NDTV, the petition has been filed by an NGO seeking a law or guidelines regulating such contents. The petitioner, Justice for Rights has stated online platforms offer vulgar, sexually explicit, pornographic, profane, virulent, religiously forbidden and morally unethical contents in order to attract more subscribers and generate profit.
This plea hasn’t gone down well with people who swear by the quality and variety of the content offered by online streaming platforms. Millions of Indians have long given up on television viewing and even films as their preferred choice of entertainment. They have moved to the greener pasture of web streaming, where content is diverse and engaging. To them, these platforms, with no holds barred content, is a sort of liberation from constant policing which is applied to other entertainment mediums. Can we not have just one platform where the moral brigade doesn’t get to babysit us, they ask?
This shouldn’t just be a debate on policing of web content, but also about how we need to review censorship in our country and give people the freedom to make their own choices.
Censor Board should guide viewers, not police them
It is not the first time that Indians find themselves divided on the issue of censorship. People who advocate it, do so on the grounds that it preserves morality and protects cultural sentiments of our vast and varying population. Then there are those who endure it, but would rather be without any censorship. Why can’t every individual be his or her own moral compass? Is our moral fabric so delicate, that it is at risk of wear and tear from watching certain shows?
- An NGO has filed a petition for removal of obscene content from online platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, etc.
- This plea hasn’t gone down well with people who swear by the quality and variety of the content offered by online streaming platforms.
- Not just for online streaming platforms, but we need to review censorship on creative content in our country across platforms.
Indeed, it is unfair to use censorship as a weapon of moral policing. Why must some individuals be forced to adjust their sensibilities, according to that of others?
What must be banned is misleading and manipulative content, content which intends to glamorize sexual crimes or is backed by political or religious agendas. As far as online streaming platforms are concerned, censorship will curtail a big selling point for them, that of being a platform which caters to those whose requirements the clipped and trimmed platforms cannot fulfill. Not all of us can find satisfaction in shouting matches and fake fist fights or watching naagins and djinns torment pious bahus and 50 plus superstars sanskarily serenade women half their age on screen.
If you have a problem with content on platforms like Netflix or Amazon Prime, then better not buy their subscription. All the shows on these platforms come with ratings and mention whether they contain violence, sex or explicit language. If one goes ahead to watch such shows, or let kids watch them, despite the disclaimers, then one does it on one’s own responsibility. What censoring online content will do is enable moral brigade to put its nose deeper in matters where it doesn’t belong.
But are we as a society ready for censor free entertainment?
Are we mature as an audience to tolerate content which may come across as obscene or vulgar to some, but might not bother others? Moreover, with our exponentially increasing tendency to be offended, how do we all coexist, if films, television and online platforms begin churning out content with a devil-may-care attitude? No, we are not ready for that level of liberty yet. Which why it is not possible to end censorship, once and for all. But then how can the censor board remain relevant, and yet allow people the freedom to choose what they want to watch? But not being their guide instead of being a rule book.
Censor board can best assist viewers by telling the nature of the content they are about to consume. We should have the liberty to decide what we want to watch or not according to our sensibilities. The simple answer to the question, “What if it does offend us?” is that do not watch it.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.