On April 06, 2023, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (‘MeitY’) notified the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023 (‘Amendment Rules’) amending the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (‘Intermediary Rules’). Key changes include: (i) online gaming being brought within the ambit of the Intermediary Rules, and (ii) intermediaries being required to make efforts to not host any information that is identified as fake by a fact-checking body notified by the Indian Government. Some of the key aspects of the Amendment Rules are:
i. Classification of Online Gaming: The Amendment Rules classify online gaming into two different categories i.e., ‘online games’ and ‘online real money games’. While the former refers in general to all games that are offered to users on the internet, the latter has been defined as an online game where a user makes a deposit in cash / kind with the expectation of earning winnings (cash or kind) on such deposits. Further, the Amendment Rules introduces the concept of an ‘online gaming intermediary’ and, defines it as an intermediary that enables the users to access multiple online games from its computer resource;
ii. Permissible Online Games: Only ‘permissible online games’ may be hosted by online gaming intermediaries. Permissible online games are categorised under the Amendment Rules as: (a) online games that are not ‘online real money games’, or (b) ‘online real money games’ that are duly verified by SRBs (defined below) in accordance with the Amendment Rules. MeitY is also empowered to designate any other game as ‘permissible real money game’ and impose relevant obligations as set out under the Amendment Rules;
iii. Self-regulatory Bodies: The Amendment Rules empower the MeitY to designate Self-Regulatory Bodies (‘SRBs’), including the number of SRBs to be designated, and specifies the criteria for such designation. A SRB’s primary role is to verify ‘online real money games’ as being permissible as per the standards set by the Amendment Rules;
iv. Due Diligence Obligations: Due diligence obligations applicable to existing intermediaries under the Amendment Rules now extend to online gaming intermediaries. Further, additional due diligence obligations must be adhered to by online gaming intermediaries; and
v. Hosting of Information: In addition to the existing due diligence obligations, the Amendment Rules requires the intermediaries (including online gaming intermediaries) to not host any information in relation to the business of the Central Government identified as fake or false or misleading by such fact check unit to be notified.