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Arvind Gupta, National Head Of BJP’s IT Cell, On E-Commerce, CMS, Trolling, Freedom of Expression & More


Update: Arvind Gupta, via email, as shared the following clarifications with us:
1. We don’t have enough information on CMS to comment right now. The govt. should come clear on CMS and PRISM
2. FDI in Ecommerce – On a lighter note, I had explained that when we opposed FDI in Retail, which was opposing FDI in Ecommerce. Two negatives made a positive. We will be reviewing the Industry needs and responding.

Earlier: Arvind Gupta, the National Head of BJP’s IT Cell, speaking yesterday at the ‘The Internet We Want‘ discussion organized by the Software Freedom Law Center, said that the very fact that the party had opposed the proposal limiting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Multi-Brand Retail should be an indication that the party supported FDI in e-commerce. “You will have to wait for a couple of months for our vision on the Internet side, on agriculture and other things.” On a worrying recent trend, he said that “More and more businesses want to operate out of India. FDI in ecommerce is a huge issue because companies are dying here.”

“Many people might not be aware, but in the last General Elections,” Gupta added, “we were the only party to release an IT vision statement for this country. There was a separate manifesto for IT.” The party is currently crowdsourcing its manifesto, Gupta said. Given that the Food Security Bill was being discussed in Parliament, the event saw limited participation from Parliamentarians, and no one from the Congress Party attended, although the CPI (M) was represented for a short period by a rather unwell P. Rajeeve, the MP who had introduced a Private Members Bill in the Indian Parliament to annul the draconian IT Rules. Milind Deora, Minister of State for IT, was expected at the event. Also present was MouthShut Founder Faisal Farooqui

A quick overview of what Gupta said:

– IT Rules: It was never thought that subordinate legislation (for example, the IT Rules) could be annulled in Parliament. The guidelines should be clear, and an extension of current laws, and they should recognize the existence of the online world. We’ve seen nothing since the debate in Parliament on May 16th or 17th last year. The BJP’s position is clear: there has to be clear cut guidelines. The online guidelines have to be an extension of the existing laws and we should not reinvent online.

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– CMS, PRISM & the National Security ruse: The National Security angle to the CMS is bunkum. They (the Government) use Hotmail and Gmail for confidential tendering. They are so casual about using webmail for their confidential discussions. If their excuse is that NIC is not good, then strengthen it. All that we are doing is being monitored under the garb of national security. I have a few points to make. We have not seen what the kind of action that the govt is taking (in intelligence reportS). The govt is not taking preventive measures using cyber intelligence. What stops them from preventing issues before they happen, with the monitoring that they are doing. Technology exists to analyse data and identify trends. SEBI today has said that SMS’s and Whatsapp are being used to manipulate the market. The market can be manipulated. Do we have processes around that? No. What is being done is that political free speech is being killed. Across party lines, anybody in power can exercise that (CMS). There are numerous incidents where people are being told on a phone call, saying we know what you’re writing, we’re going to come and arrest you. It is stifling of freedom of expression.

I think the government doesn’t understand the innovation business. The rules and regulations are so archaic that they are not taking into account how the tech is changing. What is criticism? If a critic writes a bad review of a movie, it loses business.

National security is the Brahmastra. It’s not something that they’re following. They do post mortems, but preventive action is little. If they’re anylising information to take action, anyone would support that.

We have raised questions related to PRISM, but the government has not come clean. What is the info the Indian govt has shared with the US govt? On CMS, we’ve said that we need to know more. There’s a technical paradigm within CMS. You can analyse trends and understand information and then act upon it. You can understand info from analytics, and understand where the problem is. The changes in telecom licenses give a back-door entry. You don’t need a DoT notice, and as per a (new) license term, for the need to share information. That’s scary, and we should think about.

– On Trolling: It’s (The Internet) an animal they can’t control. People talk about trolling. What is promoting anonymity? Because everyone is afraid. They believe that if they show their real identity, they will be hounded. There is a relationship between the two.

– On Aadhaar and Privacy: We are for a national identity number. We are not in favor of UID in the structure it is: it compromises the federal structure, privacy and citizenship.

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Quick Take: The statements regarding e-commerce, IT Rules and particularly PRISM and CMS are welcome, but I find his suggestion regarding preventive actions using the data gathered by the government a little worrying. We don’t want to create a Minority-Report-like scenario wherein individuals are looked upon suspiciously, and picked up for questioning on the basis of trends related to search. Governments and execs with the wrong intentions can selectively pick data from that collected, to frame citizens. We’ve said it before, and will say it again – the CMS must go.

Written By

Founder @ MediaNama. TED Fellow. Asia21 Fellow @ Asia Society. Co-founder SaveTheInternet.in and Internet Freedom Foundation. Advisory board @ CyberBRICS

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



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