Access Alert | Introducing Saudi Arabia’s UPDATED Digital Content Platforms Regulation

Access Alert | Introducing Saudi Arabia’s UPDATED Digital Content Platforms Regulation

On 08 March 2022, the Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) issued a public consultation on the second draft of the Kingdom’s Digital Content Platforms Regulation. This follows the publication of the first draft and a brief open consultation in November 2021.

The updated Digital Content Platforms Regulation signal a shift in the Kingdom’s treatment of platform operators. For example, language requiring platform operators/service providers to have a physical presence in the Kingdom was softened, with the CITC now specifying in Article 10-1-2 that “foreign service providers who do not possess at the date of application a commercial registration and/or foreign investment license in the Kingdom, may contact the CITC to further clarify the requirements to obtain a CITC license and status of the application upon submission.” This is akin to an exemption and provides leverage for international operators/service providers.

Similarly, the definitions under Article 2 were streamlined and simplified, providing greater clarity. While the apparent emphasis on content moderation and takedown requests (see Article 6-1 – first draft) was substituted with language on “content user protection, and personal data protection” and a mention to “complying with content regulations and rulings by competent authorities” in the updated Article 6-1 and Annex [1], respectively. It remains unclear, however, if the CITC will be strict in requiring operators to abide with the content-related undertakings prescribed in Annex [1].

Despite the positive changes, Article 5 (second draft) on the required “regulatory tool[1]” will be met with mixed reactions. While the general authorization categories were simplified and reduced to two types[2] – the updated categories – also require video sharing platforms, esports participation platforms, and social media platforms to obtain a registration certificate from the CITC, in comparison to a simple notification procedure as prescribed in the first draft.

In conclusion, the updated Digital Content Platform Regulations continues to include a broad set of obligations and compliance requirements on service providers and platform operators. These obligations and requirements require careful manoeuvring.

Access Partnership emphasises the importance of responding to the CITC’s public consultation. The deadline for contributions has been set for 24 March 2022. Interested stakeholders should submit their comments by email to: DCP_REG@citc.gov.sa.

If you are interested in learning more about the updated Digital Content Platforms Regulation, require support in drafting a response or engaging the CITC for clarity, contact Hussein Abul-Enein, Senior Policy Manager, Access Partnership.

[1] Regulatory Tool refers to an authorization mechanism by the CITC for the service provider, in form of licenses or registrations, with the aim of regulating the sector and providing services targeting users within the Kingdom.
[2] (1) a license (for satellite pay TV platforms and IPTV platforms); (2a) Registration – Category A (for video OTT platforms, audio-on-demand platforms, and Internet radio platforms); and (2b) Registration Category B (for social media platforms, video sharing platforms, and E-sports participation platforms).

 

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