“Social media companies must be responsible for content on platforms”

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New Delhi: Social media companies must be “responsible” for the content of their platforms and cannot hide behind “algorithms,” Rajeev Chandrasekhar, EU minister of state for electronics, told ET in an exclusive interview. and information technology.

“The government believes that all intermediaries are accountable to their users,” he said, especially when there is discrimination between users, online harm or the spread of disinformation.

The Joint Committee of Parliament (JCP) studying the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 recommended that social media platforms, which are not intermediaries, be classified as publishers and be made responsible for the content of their platforms. He also noted that the current IT law has not been able to regulate social media entities.

Calling these platforms “publishers, because they publish a lot of content,” Chandrasekhar said that “the only dispute was whether they (the social media companies) are responsible for the content posted on their platform. by someone else, or is someone else responsible?

Stating that he has not yet seen the final report of the committee, the minister said that platforms cannot claim publisher immunity while also refusing to reveal the identity of users who publish content. damaging. “There is a labyrinth of contradictions… some of the content is either wrong, defamatory or illegal. It’s abusive, or it’s outright predatory and exploitative of people, and then no one is held responsible (for that).

Until now, case law has allowed users to be anonymous and platforms to obtain immunity under section 79 of the Computing Act, but this cannot be a “situation for a civilized society or a law-abiding community, ”he said.

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Hiding behind algorithms

The former entrepreneur and technocrat who had previously been a member of the parliamentary committee was of the opinion that the Internet cannot be a “utopia for criminals”.

“If they (social media companies) think algorithms are a cover for (dodging) liability, that’s incorrect. I said very clearly to each of them that they will have to conform and respect the constitutional values ​​of Articles 14, 19 and 21. It is the right of every Indian citizen… ”, he declared.

Commenting on the dissenting notes from lawmakers, the minister pointed out that section 35 of the bill does not call for a blanket exemption.

“Under the Constitution, every fundamental right has exceptions, they are not absolute. Article 35 says that if there is a national security problem, (threat to) public order, government agencies will be able to access your data and information.

“Section 35 is not a problem. I do not understand what the concern is regarding article 12, and we are going to study it “, assured the minister while adding that” it is logical that personal data and non-personal data are regulated by a single authority of data protection ”.

Commenting on the current IPO frenzy in Indian markets, Chandrasekar noted that the Indian tech space has not seen any major IPOs since Infosys and Wipro entered the markets 15 years ago. The energy and momentum that emanates from the stock market is transformational and “the next big step will be public market financing of venture capital,” he said.

His ministry is working on a major digital governance project that will deepen the use of technology in governance, while the BharatNet project will bring 40 to 50 crore of Indians on broadband, making India the largest connected country. to the world, he added.

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