IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said on Saturday that there is a clear consensus in the country on making social media platforms more accountable, and assured that the government will make the necessary legal changes and regulations.
The internet on mobile phones and social media platforms have brought about powerful and transformative changes, but it must come with the realization of responsibilities, the minister said, stressing the need to make social media and the digital world more accountable.
“Whatever legislative changes are needed, we will do. Within media groups, the necessary self-regulation… self-regulation will be done… but where necessary, we will take all steps to make social media more accountable,” Vaishnaw said speaking on “ TV9 What India Thinks Today Global Summit’.
Whether in parliament or outside of it, there is a clear consensus in the country that it is essential to make social media accountable, Vaishnaw said.
“If you also see worldwide, there is a clear trend that social media has to be held accountable. That is also the case in India. As I said, legal action will also be taken,” said the minister.
No industry wants regulation, Vaishnaw said, adding, “but bringing regulation where necessary, and to the extent necessary, is the responsibility of government, and we will bring (it)”.
The comments take on significance as the government prepares to finalize new social media rules that propose to give users a grievance mechanism against arbitrary content moderation, inactivity or takedown decisions by major tech companies such as Twitter and Facebook.
Earlier this month, the IT ministry released the new draft rules proposing a government panel to hear user appeals against the inaction of complaints filed or against substantive decisions made by complaint officers of social media platforms. At the moment, “there is no redress mechanism provided by intermediaries, nor is there any credible self-regulatory mechanism,” the IT ministry had said.
After extensive consultation, the cabinet expects to finalize the new rules for social media before the end of July. The design change is expected to be opposed by the major technology platforms during the consultation process.
Social media companies such as Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp have faced a lot of regulatory pressure in the past over issues such as hate speech, harmful content and misinformation on their platforms.
There is also a growing discontent among some of the users who claim that digital platforms are indulging in arbitrary acts when removing content.
The government has made it clear that no social media company can undermine the constitutional rights of citizens, and the internet must be a safe and trusted place with all platforms accountable to their users.
India last year enforced new rules on IT intermediaries, aiming to take greater responsibility for major tech companies, including Twitter and Facebook.
The rules require social media platforms to remove all content flagged by authorities within established timelines and establish a robust grievance mechanism with an officer based in the country. Social media companies are required to remove posts containing nudity or distorted photos within 24 hours of receiving a complaint.
Major social media companies – those with 50 lakh users or more – are also required to publish a monthly compliance report detailing complaints received and actions taken, as well as the content being proactively removed.
On the issue of cyber security and cases of hacked sites, Vaishnaw said that cyber warfare has become a reality, requiring a strong cyber army and cyber security measures.
The government is systematically addressing cybersecurity and has developed institutions that can deploy advanced technologies for defensive and offensive tactics and for rapid response.
“India is in the top 10 globally in cybersecurity preparedness. We will further consolidate this,” Vaishnaw promised when noting that Indian startups are creating world-class products in this arena.
Users of digital technologies should also be aware of their responsibilities and take security-related aspects very seriously.
In the field of semiconductors, Vaishnaw said that, following a government policy impulse on chip manufacturing, India is making rapid progress and by the end of 2022 the first agreement and technology transfer for it will be a reality.
“I recently met the president and CEO of IMEC, headquartered in Belgium, which is working on advanced semiconductor technology, and there is an absolute commitment to India,” said the minister.
He radiated confidence that India will become a major and trusted supplier of chips to the world in the coming years.
Semiconductor manufacturing in India will propel the electronics industry, create new jobs and usher in competitive prices.
“In the next 4-5 years, the employment opportunities in electronics manufacturing will increase to 1 crore from the current 25 lakh… we are working in this direction,” he said.
In December last year, the government approved a policy boost of Rs 76,000 crore for the country’s semiconductor and display manufacturing ecosystem in an effort to position India as a global hub for hi-tech manufacturing. PTI MBI HVA