Govt to bring legal changes, regulations needed for greater social media accountability: Vaishnaw


NEW DELHI: IT 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 realization of responsibilities, the minister said emphasizing 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,” Vaishnaw said speaking at summit organized by a media house.
Be it in the Parliament or outside, there is a clear consensus in the country that making social media accountable is essential, Vaishnaw said.
“If you see globally too, there is a clear trend that social media needs to be made accountable. It is the same in India. As I have said, legal steps will also be taken,” the minister said.
No industry wants regulations, Vaishnaw said adding, “but bringing regulation where needed, and to the extent needed, is governmental responsibility, and we will bring (it)”.
The comments assume significance as the government prepares to finalize new social media rules that propose to give users a grievance appeal mechanism against arbitrary content moderation, inaction, or takedown decisions of big tech companies such as Twitter and Facebook.
Earlier this month, IT ministry circulated the new draft rules that proposes a government panel to hear user appeals against inaction on complaints made, or against content-related decisions taken by grievance officers of social media platforms. At present, “there is no appellate mechanism provided by intermediaries nor is there any credible self-regulatory mechanism in place”, the IT ministry had said.
The government expects to finalize new social media rules before July-end after extensive consultations. The draft amendment is widely anticipated to be opposed by the big tech platforms during the consultation process.
Social media companies such as Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp have drawn regulatory heat in the past on issues such as hate speech, harmful content and misinformation on their platforms.
There is also brewing discontent among a section of users who allege that digital platforms have been indulging in arbitrary acts in taking down content.
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 enforced new IT intermediary rules last year, aiming to bring greater accountability for big tech companies, including Twitter and Facebook.
The rules require social media platforms to remove any content flagged by authorities within stipulated timelines, and set up a robust complaint redressal mechanism with an officer being based in the country. Social media companies are required to take down posts depicting nudity or morphed photos within 24 hours of receiving a complaint.
Large social media companies – those with 50 lakh users or more – also have to publish a monthly compliance report disclosing details of complaints received and action taken, as well as the contents removed proactively.
On the issue of cyber safety and instances of sites being hacked, Vaishnaw said that cyber-warfare has become a reality, necessitating the need for strong cyber army and cyber security measures.
The government is taking a systematic approach to cyber security and has developed institutions capable of leveraging advanced technologies for defensive and offensive tactics and for rapid response.
“India ranks among the top 10 globally in cyber security preparedness. We will consolidate on this further,” Vaishnaw promised as he observed that Indian startups are creating world-class products in this arena.
Users of digital technologies also need to be aware of their responsibilities and need to take security-related aspects with utmost seriousness.
On semiconductors, Vaishnaw said that following a policy push by the government on chip manufacturing, India is taking rapid strides and by 2022-end the first agreement and technology transfer for this will be a reality.
“I recently met the president and CEO of Belgium-headquartered IMEC, which works on advanced semiconductor technology, and there is absolute commitment towards India,” the minister said.
He exuded confidence that India will emerge as a large and trusted supplier of chips for the world, in the coming years.
Manufacturing of semiconductors in India, will propel the electronics industry, create new jobs and and usher competitive prices.
“In the next 4-5 years, 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 Rs 76,000-crore policy boost for semiconductor and display manufacturing ecosystem in the country, in an bid to position India as a global hub for hi-tech production.

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