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India’s Crypto War 2.0 is not about Encryption

By Anand Venkatanarayanan                         There has been enough commentary about the Indian IT Rules notified in February 2021. Almost all of them focus on the how and what, but not the why. A simple framework to understand these rules is via the lens of My country, My rules. This framework has the following axioms driving the rule making: Social Media is a tool that can bring about regime change and hence must be regulated. Private Communication at scale is also Social Media. Social Media and Regime Change Private clubs and trading organisations have been in existence for long and except for regulation around financial affairs, governments have stayed away from interfering in their day-to-day affairs. A notable exception is the British East India Company, which was so successful in running its private enterprise and ended up owning most of the erstwhile princely kingdoms in the Indian sub-continent, that it had to be taken over by the British government. An important lesson that can be learnt from this historical episode is - A private entity that owns a lot of territory becomes a sovereign state by itself. A similar construct can be applied in the domain of cyber, where instead of owning a lot of territory, a private entity ends up owning mind space and conversations which ends up driving narratives. When a significant portion of a country’s population uses a digital tool, developed by a private entity, it becomes…

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