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Digital India Act Consultation in Mumbai: Live updates

India’s IT Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar is in Mumbai to hold the next round of public consultation on the Digital India Act. Digital India Act (DIA) is set to replace the IT Act. The first draft of DIA is expected  to be out by the first week of June.

We bring you live updates from the consultation:

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11:00 AM: MeitY Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar begins opening remarks for the Digital India Dialogue consultation on ‘Principles of Digital India Act.’

11:16 AM: Internet and tech ecosystem ought to be open since it is a competition as well, says MoS MeitY Rajeev Chandrasekhar while speaking on the objectives of global standard cyber laws.

11:19 AM: We need to be able to deal with different types of intermediaries differently, says the IT Minister. Check out the different types of intermediaries outlined by the IT Ministry here.

Cybercrime and hacking, amongst others, make up the traditional forms of harm. Today we have hate speech, misinformation, toxicity as harms on the internet, the minister adds.

11.29 AM: “There is a spectre of emerging tech like AI. Online safety and trust are going to be a huge section in the DIA.”

IT Minister presents the Index of the Digital India Act

11.32 AM: While speaking on the principle of Openness, the IT Minister talks about the visible lack of governance around the world and the importance of regulators.

“This is not an adversarial conversation between the govt and platforms that are operating on the internet. It’s a win-win for all, consumers, platforms and the government. Therefore, I want to be clear that we are not picking on intermediaries or big tech. This is a process to embark on a new direction and for using the internet for the better of all.”

11.33 AM: Through DIA the Indian govt wants to establish basic principles of safety and trust for consumer or digital nagrik ought to be, Chandrasekhar explains while talking about different types of user harms and rights of the consumers on the internet.

11.34 AM: “Certainly, misinformation is a huge user harm today and AI or deep fake is a catalyst to it and needs to be dealt with guardrails.”

11.36 AM: On content monetisation rules: “Should there be principles in the DIA to deal with the perceived asymmetry between content creators and platforms?”

11:38 AM: On weaponsiation of content: “This is not a binary between free speech and taking on menace or emerging danger of weaponsistaion of misinformation.”

Intermediaries, harmful content, and safe harbour

11.41 AM: On Section 79: “The onus is on the govt to protect the citizens aggrieved by the misuse of platforms. We are actively thinking to do away with Section 79. Safe harbour or immunity is not blanket. We have already established that if the platform does not do due diligence, then they won’t be eligible for Section 79 provisions. Do we need any immunity for any platform at all? This is worth having conversation on.”

11.42 AM: The govt is looking to creating an adjudicating mechanism for disputes between platforms and users, the IT Minister informs.

11:44 AM: “Our attempt is to regulate platforms and to do the right thing when they find something wrong is done on the platform. It cannot be the case that the platforms can hide behind Section 79 or it cannot be a built-in incentive for platforms when it comes to user harm on the platform.”

11:46 AM: On Intermediaries: The broad categories under which intermediaries would be classified in the DIA are the risks and the number of users they represent, the Minister explains.

11:50 AM: The IT Minister begins taking questions. While answering one of the questions, he says “This bill will harmonise everything that’s going on in the tech space.”

11:52 AM: On automated tools: “This bill is not prescriptive. We are saying the DIA will prescribe principles of safety and trust. How the platforms deliver on it, we will not prescribe that.”

11:53 AM: “The obligation of delivering safety and trust is an unwavering one on the platforms. They have to undertake more due diligence if they have to avail Section 79 provisions. Anything that causes harm to a digital nagrik, it should not be on the platform.”

11:56 AM: On AI and innovation: “Web3 is a big area in terms of innovation, but we want to lead the charge with guardrails defined. We will not ban anything in the innovation space, unless it is linked with user harm. We will try and capture these in the DIA.”

12:00 PM: “I am not a big fan of regulators in the sense that it shouldn’t create another layer of compliance. It should be something that intervenes when adjudication is required,” says the IT Minister.

12:01 PM: On AI regulation: “We do not want to get into this use-case business. We want to establish guardrails with the prism of user harm. This is the current approach with respect to the bill. We want to say that these are the no-go areas in a particular tech. We are not saying no to any technology.”

12:04 PM: On compliance concession for start-ups: The Prime Minister is very clear that anything the govt does should not cause difficulties for innovation in the start-up space, the IT Minister elaborates. “We will be extremely sensitive to this. It is not in our intention at all for making things difficult for startups. DIA will be an enabler for startup innovations.”

12:07 PM: On grievance redressal: The DIA will have a grievance redressal mechanism similar to existing mechanisms in the IT Rules. “Accountability will be a right granted by law to the digital nagrik.”

12:09 PM: “Enforcement is not the theme of this law. It’s about obligations and rights.”

12:10 PM: On Aadhaar-based universal KYC to authenticate all: “We are working on an e-KYC process with Aadhaar as a universal mode for authentication.”

12:11 PM: On traceability by intermediaries: If someone says anonymity is a right, the government is willing to agree but this casts an obligation on social media companies to do traceability, says the IT Minister.

12:13 PM: On regulatory uncertainties: “This [uncertainty] is not alarming. This shows that every segment of our economy is getting digitised. Sectoral regulators will continue regulating the corresponding sector. There will certainly be intersection of every area that has a digital footprint.”

12:17 PM: “We are certainly not saying that we are not going to regulate AI, but we will create guardrails for AI and Web3. This will be prescribed in the DIA. There will be no separate legislation, but a part of DIA will deal with intermediaries which deal with high-risk AI.”

12:20 PM: On how platforms determine misinformation: “The IT Rules cast this obligation [of determining misinformation] on platforms. If there’s a need to define misinformation in the DIA, we will do so.”

12:27 PM: On having a common regulator across sectors:  Can different regulators have some sort of understanding about where the digital ecosystem currently lies and know what their roles are in terms of the goals that the govt of India has, asks the IT Minister. The govt will get the sectoral regulators to understand and adjust the opportunities and challenges of the digital ecosystem, he adds.

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