Ashwani Vaishnaw

Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Saturday said there is a clear consensus in the country on making social media platforms more accountable, and assured that the government will bring legal changes and regulations needed to do so.

Internet on mobile phones and social media platforms have brought powerful and transformative changes, but it must come with realisation of responsibilities, the Minister said emphasising that social media and digital world needs to be made more accountable.

“Whatever legal changes are required, we will do. Within media groups, the self-regulation needed…self regulation will be done…but whereever needed, we will take all steps to make social media more accountable,” Mr. Vaishnaw said speaking at ‘TV9 What India Thinks Today Global Summit’.

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Mr. Vaishnaw stated that there is a broad consensus in the country, whether in Parliament or outside, that holding social media responsible is critical.

“There is a clear trend that social media has to be held accountable on a global scale. In India, the situation is the same. As I already stated, legal action will be taken “According to the Minister.

“Bringing regulation where needed, and to the extent needed, is the government’s job, and we will bring it,” Mr. Vaishnaw stated, adding, “but bringing regulation where needed, and to the extent needed, is the government’s responsibility, and we will bring it.”

The comments are significant as the government works to finalise new social media guidelines that will provide users a way to appeal arbitrary content moderation, inactivity, or takedown decisions made by giant tech corporations like Facebook and Twitter.

The IT Ministry issued new draught guidelines earlier this month, proposing a government tribunal to hear user appeals against inaction on complaints or content-related decisions made by social media platform grievance officers. “At this time, there is no credible self-regulatory mechanism in place, nor is there any appellate process given by intermediaries,” the IT Ministry stated.

After lengthy consultations, the administration intends to finalise new social media restrictions by the end of July. During the consultation process, it is widely expected that the big tech platforms will reject the draught change.

Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp have all faced regulatory scrutiny in the past for concerns like hate speech, dangerous content, and misinformation on their services.

A subset of users is also expressing dissatisfaction, claiming that digital platforms have been acting arbitrarily in removing content.

The government has stated that no social media firm can infringe on individuals’ fundamental rights, and that the internet must be a safe and secure environment where all platforms are accountable to their users.

Last year, India implemented new IT intermediary rules with the goal of increasing accountability for large tech corporations such as Twitter and Facebook.

The guidelines mandate that social media companies remove any content detected by authorities within certain timeframes, as well as provide an effective complaint redressal procedure with a local official. Social media businesses are obligated to remove posts that display nudity or photographs that have been altered morphed photos within 24 hours of receiving a complaint.

Large social media businesses with 50 lakh or more members must also publish a monthly compliance report detailing complaints received and actions taken, as well as proactively removed content.

On the subject of cyber security and hacking incidents, Vaishnaw stated that cyber-warfare has become a reality, demanding the creation of a powerful cyber army and cyber security measures.

The government has built institutions capable of utilising advanced technologies for defensive and offensive measures, as well as rapid response, in order to take a methodical approach to cyber security.

India is among the top ten countries in the world when it comes to cyber security preparation. We’ll continue to consolidate on this,” Vaishnaw vowed, noting that Indian firms are producing world-class products in this field.

Users of digital technologies must also be aware of their duties and take security-related issues very seriously.

On semiconductors, Vaishnaw stated that, as a result of the government’s strategic push on chip production, India is making significant progress, and that the first agreement and knowledge transfer for this will be a reality by the end of 2022.

“I recently spoke with the president and CEO of IMEC, a Belgian company that specialises in sophisticated semiconductor technology, and there is a firm commitment to India,” the minister stated.

In the next years, he expressed optimism that India will emerge as a significant and reliable chip supplier for the rest of the globe.

Semiconductor manufacturing in India will boost the electronics industry, create new jobs, and lower prices.

“Employment opportunities in electronics manufacturing will increase to 1 crore from 25 lakh in the next 4-5 years…we are working in this direction,” he said.

The government authorised a Rs 76,000-crore policy boost for India’s semiconductor and display manufacturing ecosystem in December last year, in an effort to position the country as a worldwide hub for hi-tech production. PTI MBI HVA

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