Online gaming

Working Group Offers Age Verification Analytics for Online Games | Latest India News

Online gambling companies should be made to use facial recognition technologies to verify the age of players, a Union Government interdepartmental task force has recommended, citing growing concern over addiction to such apps, especially in children.

The report from the task force, set up by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity) to begin work on new gambling regulations, includes recommendations from the Departments of Home Affairs, Sports and youth, information and broadcasting, finance, law and consumer affairs.

Submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office in September, the report cites the alarm being raised globally – it notes the World Health Organization’s official classification of gambling disorder as a disease in 2018 – and in India, where the National Commission for the Protection of Children’s Rights (NCPCR) in 2021 listed a long list of harms suffered by affected children.

“Financial loss due to real money online gambling has led to suicides in various parts of India including Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. There is no regulatory framework to govern various aspects of online gambling companies, such as the establishment of a grievance mechanism, the implementation of player protection measures, data and IPR protection and the prohibition of advertisements misleading,” said the report, a copy of which was seen by HT.

These concerns have forced several countries to tighten online gambling rules and laws. For example, in 2019, China passed new regulations that restricted gaming time for users under the age of 18: they are only allowed to play between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. for a maximum of one and a half hours on weekdays and three hours the weekend. Tencent, one of China’s leading gaming companies, uses facial recognition to enforce these usage limits.

The task force, according to the report, also suggested that a code of ethics be developed for game publishers and that charters be established by self-regulatory bodies and reviewed by government.

It also calls for provisions on restrictions for minors through algorithms, censorship of content that depicts violence or sexually explicit content, and parental consent mechanisms for making in-app purchases.

The report makes certain distinctions. For example, casual games not involving real money (as opposed to in-game currency) may be kept outside the scope of these rules unless they have a high number of users, involve any kind of violence, nudity, or addictive content, or lack an application certification. Games that also pose a national security risk should not be exempted from the regulatory framework, the task force suggested.

In-game money refers to the imaginary currency used by the game, as opposed to real money, which is usually involved in betting and gambling. The task force said games involving in-game money also pose similar risks to gambling.

“An online game involving a ‘loot box’ or ‘play money’ or any other similar feature that makes it easier for users to win a game should have regulations similar to gambling regulations, because anything the user wins out of the loot box is based on luck.Such platforms pose a risk of money laundering where addicted players are targeted for “skin play”, i.e. the illegal sale of loot box items in gray markets,” the report noted.

Mitigating societal harm “Any future rule aimed at mitigating societal harm from online gambling must aim to empower users and parents. India must learn from the experiences of countries like China and South Korea – which do not have failed to enforce prescriptive rules, including attempts to limit playtime. Instead, we must continue to build our own unique model of digital governance, one that prioritizes harm reduction over harm reduction. ban, and to user agency rather than digital paternalism,” said Vivan Sharan of Koan Advisory, a technology think tank.

He adds that an online gambling industry regulator be created to define games based on skill or chance, and certify different game formats accordingly, seek compliance and enforcement. While the long-term idea is to create a central law, the report also explores the possibility of enacting rules in the interim under the Information Technology Act.

Since online gaming platforms can be classified as both intermediaries and publishers, they can be regulated by rules issued under Section 79 and Section 69A of the information technology, the working group noted. The ruleset may specify conditional immunities to the online gaming platform while acting as a liability conduit for third-party content.

The central government, the report notes, received multiple representations, including letters from the chief ministers of Andhra Pradesh and Pondicherry, parliamentary interventions from various MPs, including two private member’s bills, and multiple representations from other stakeholders citing the need for regulation.

Various public interest litigations, including in the High Courts of Delhi, Allahabad and Bombay, have also been filed seeking the banning or regulation of the online gambling industry to address addiction concerns. and the consequences they entail.

The report draws conclusions from the regulatory frameworks of other jurisdictions such as the US, UK, Singapore, Malta, the Netherlands and Japan.

The report acknowledges that real money games of skill, broadly classified as electronic sports, are a protected activity under Article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution of India, as established by the Supreme Court.

E-sports should therefore be regulated by the Ministry of Youth and Sports and can explore the possibility of registering professionals to differentiate them from minors, the report suggests. The nodal ministry for other online gaming platforms will be Meity, he added.

The Home Office suggested that the issue of regulating betting and gambling under a central law should be considered, while the Revenue Department suggested that KYC standards using e-Aadhaar and storage data for at least five years are mandatory. It also indicates that the self-regulatory form of surveillance has not worked so far in the gaming sector.

MeitY has also conducted extensive consultations with players to discuss the regulation of this sector. The issue of players’ lack of rights under Indian law came up during the consultations and bodies representing players pointed to state-specific bans on games of skill and chance, which led the criminalization of platforms as well as individuals carrying out ancillary activities such as streaming and sound broadcasting. . Players should be represented in self-regulatory organizations that could be formed, the proposal suggests.