While everyone is contemplating what the new IT rules mean for social media platforms as well as over-the-top (OTT) platforms, it is also important to understand whether the new norms will bring any change to the influencer or content creator space.
And the answer to this is yes.
Suneeth Katarki, Partner, INDUSLAW, an Indian law firm explained that "the new IT rules bring in the concept of online curated content and anyone including an individual who publishes online curated content in a systematic, business, or commercial activity is considered a publisher of online curated content and is now subject to certain duties and obligations."
He added, "As hard as influencers may try to say that they are not doing any systematic activity, the fact is most influencers do work on curated content as a commercial activity and usually do it in a fairly systematic way. So, it would be hard for them to escape being categorized as a publisher."
And once you are a publisher you are required under the new rules to exercise due caution and discretion while featuring the activities, beliefs, prejudices of any racial, religious groups, added Katarki.
Tanu Banerjee, Partner, Khaitan & Co, a corporate law firm shared another perspective. She said, "While rules will not go after influencers, if the platforms will have to comply with the new rules, the platforms will get as much of the ground work done by the creators."
Banerjee added that "with ASCI (Advertising Standards Council of India) guidelines coming into the picture and now IT rules are already in place, what will happen is that to identify commercial arrangement on the backend, eventually the responsibility of making the disclosures will fall on the creators."
Adding to this, Hitarth Dadia, Head of Monetization, NOFILTR, an influencer marketing platform said that influencers will be more cautious towards what are they delivering to the audience. "Influencers will be very transparent about their content. Creators will be careful about the content that brands provide to them. And all this will benefit the brands as well as as influencer marketing space."
So, content creators have their work cut out but along with this Katarki thinks that the new norms will impact the content that the creators are producing.
"The expression, exercise due caution and discretion, is fairly vague and open to interpretation as to when one has exercised this. Should one keep in mind, the lowest common denominator of who can get offended and when? In today’s world when everyone is ready to take offense at the slightest hint of anything against their beliefs, race, or religion, this exercise of caution may literally stop the influencer from putting up or touching upon anything which is remotely sensitive," he said.
This is why he thinks that influencers will stick to commercial and fairly ordinary or material aspects of life such as talking about shoes to wear, which breakfast cereal to consume, etc."Whatever positive influence they may have had on more serious issues will be much less likely to occur as these influencers will steer clear of various sensitive but possibly much more socially important topics such as making people less racist, etc. If this happens, it will be rather unfortunate," said Katarki.