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Digital India Act Consultation: Why does Rajeev Chandrasekhar want to remove safe harbour?

Removing the safe harbour provision will shift the onus of protecting consumers’ rights onto online platforms rather than the government itself.

“I want to propose that we actively think to do away with Section 79 safe harbour [in the Digital India Act] completely, and say that it is the responsibility of the platforms that post the content. To do whatever due diligence they have on misinformation, on toxic content, illegal content, and that government doesn't get into it,” said Minister of State for Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar during a consultation on the Digital India Bill in Mumbai on May 23, 2023. This is the second time that Chandrasekhar has aired the idea of dismissing safe harbour altogether and holding platforms responsible for the content on their site. Why it matters: With talks of throwing out safe harbour in two consecutive consultations, the idea of tech companies losing this legal protection is becoming more of a reality. Until now, safe harbour laws have protected intermediaries/platforms from being held liable for third-party content on their sites. However, Chandrasekhar’s argument raises the possibility of shifting the onus of protecting people’s rights onto these companies rather than the government itself. Safe harbour does not mean blanket immunity: According to Chandrasekhar, most platforms encourage user anonymity on the platform, while enjoying protections under Section 79. As such, he said the government was considering moving from “blindfold immunity to conditional immunity.” “Maybe there's a case for a debate [on] whether in this day and age we need any immunity for any platform at all. I'm not saying I've decided or we [the government] have decided, but [it…

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I'm interested in the shaping and strengthening of rights in the digital space. I cover cybersecurity, platform regulation, gig worker economy. In my free time, I'm either binge-watching an anime or off on a hike.

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