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MediaNama Daily: Safe Harbour Schmafe Harbour

30 talking points from Digital India Bill consultation held in Bengaluru, Explainer on Corporate Affairs Ministry’s fine on Deciwood, and more

?If There’s One Story To Read Today 

Who needs safe harbour anyway?

“Glitzy room, big chandelier…about 70 odd people from some of India’s top tech companies huddled around circular tables. Mostly seem to be lawyers, or from big tech, start-ups, and industry associations. I think about 120 people are joining on video call. A sea of suits and Nehru jackets. Significantly more men than women.”

Those were the initial notes we scribbled as we peered around the plush consultation room for the Digital India Act on Thursday.

After explaining the Act’s more predictable provisions on regulating platforms and preventing online harm, junior IT Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar switched to a topic that’s been creating waves worldwide: safe harbour protections for platforms. They traditionally protect “intermediaries” or platforms from being held liable for the third-party content they host.

“The whole logic of safe harbour is that platforms have absolutely no power or control over the content that some other consumer creates on the platform,” mused Chandrasekhar. “But, in this day and age, is that really necessary? Is that safe harbour required?…There is a legitimate question, should there be safe harbour at all?”

There are even more juicy tidbits from the consultation to mull over—the Act won’t regulate content, platform dominance is a big concern for the government, and Chandrasekhar was once forwarded a deepfake of Bill Gates. We round up the 30 talking points you need to know here. [10 minutes]


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? Our event is around the corner

MediaNama invites you to attend our hybrid roundtable on ‘Exploring User Verification’ at The Claridges in New Delhi on March 23, 2023. We plan to talk about a possible framework for the gradation of verification and introduce proportionality to verification. Come along? Read more here or register here.

? Your Tech Policy Agenda

  • Health, Data, and AI: Christian Medical College, Vellore, is organizing a National Symposium on Health Data and Artificial Intelligence to discuss the development of patient-centric AI  in India on March 17-18, 2023. Find registration details here.
  • Tech Talk: FemTechConf is holding its Global Women in Tech Q1 Summit from March 24-25, 2023 to connect over 75,000 professionals in the tech domain. Request your ticket to the summit here.
  • FOSS Summit: Businesses, developers, and tech communities will come together to discuss the latest developments in open source at the FOSSASIA Summit from April 13-15, 2023. Register here.

?Today’s Top Stories

FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND EXPRESSION

When Courts indulge in moral policing: Calling an online web series profane and obscene for its language, an Indian Court recently presented a lengthy order justifying moral policing. Amid no definite understanding of what’s morally right and wrong, the arguments are amusing to read just as they are critical to see how matters like these can be dealt with by the judiciary. [Read ?, 6.5 minutes]

ONLINE GAMING

Missing data: The IT Ministry doesn’t maintain data on online gambling-related suicides in the country. This RTI response indicates that despite newspaper reports on the rising numbers of gambling-related suicides across states, official numbers may be inadvertently underreporting them instead. And that does very little to protect consumers from gaming-related harms—like the government wants. [Read ?, 2 minutes]

DIGITAL PAYMENTS/FINTECH AND LENDING

Tightening the noose around crypto: The Indian government may not be coming out with a regulatory framework for crypto anytime soon but it is not resting easy. The latest measure will require crypto exchanges to monitor transactions and report suspicious activity to law agencies. It also brings India’s laws on par with major countries around the world. [Read ?, 3 minutes]

STARTUPS

How not to raise funds: Shark Tank India has had a successful run so far. Not only have numerous startups become famous overnight, everyone watching these episodes now has the sudden desire to invest in a startup. And online fundraising platforms like Tyke are capitalizing on this desire by allowing startups to find such investors. But the recent fine on startup Deciwood for raising money through Tyke is a caution to all startups. For more on what rules Deciwood broke and how—check out our explainer. [Read ?, 5 minutes]

PRIVACY

We will break the rules: By now, WhatsApp has made itself abundantly clear that it will not comply with any laws that require it to weaken encryption. But that doesn’t stop countries from coming up with such laws, and WhatsApp reiterates its stance. The cycle goes on and on. In the latest, CEO Will Cathcart has said that the messaging app rather be blocked in UK than comply with the online safety bill. [Read ?, 2 minutes]

TELECOM AND ACCESS

Is CNAP a prudent idea: India’s telecom regulator held an open house discussion on March 9, 2023, to discuss issues related to its proposal to identify callers in order to curb spam. It is safe to say that the proposal has met with criticism over how it compromises privacy and does not seem adequate to deal with the problem of spam which needs telecom operators to fix accountability. [Read, 6 minutes]

2023 and still no safe space for women? That’s right, a survey by Local Circles showed that online harassment is still a major concern for women. As per the report, most women in urban areas seem to be using the internet as a means to stay connected with their family. And yet, they’re still scared of harassment? This just goes to show that online sexual harassment and such abuses have become a major concern for urban Indian women using the internet. What are the governments and platforms doing to address this? [Read ?, 3 minutes]

? Tech Policy from Around the World

Meta is building a decentralized, text-based social network [Read] (Casey Newton/Platformer)

Crypto Bank Silvergate to Shut Down, Repay Deposits [Read] (Rachel Louise Ensign/The Wall Street Journal)

U.S. Chamber of Commerce calls for AI regulation [Read] (Reuters)

Young kids are bringing Tik Tok to the playground [Read] (Heather Kelly/The Washington Post)

Meta is ‘pausing’ bonus payouts for Reels creators [Read] (Karissa Bell/ Engadget)

Discord hops the generative AI train with ChatGPT-style tools [Read] (Benj Edwards/Ars Technica)

U.S. mulling a probe of deceptive advertising on social media [Read] (Reuters)

Wing debuts a rideshare-style drone delivery network [Read] (Jon Fingas/Engadget)

FBI finally admits to buying location data on Americans, horrifying experts [Read] (Ashley Belanger/Ars Technica)


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