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Digital India Bill draft to be available in June first week
The first draft of the much-awaited digital India bill, that will replace the existing information technology act as the main legislation governing the space, is set to be released for public consultation by the first week of June, Union minister of state for electronics and information technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar said on Tuesday.
At a public consultation held in Mumbai, Chandrasekhar highlighted the that the bill has been drafted after several rounds of discussions covering several areas that it will address, including expanding the number of categories of intermediaries and differentiating between them on the basis of risk of user harm and number of users.
“The internet is evolving and the legislation to govern it must be dynamic to meet the future challenges of emerging technologies,” Chandrasekhar said. “The digital India bill will aim to address the gaps in the policy segment.”
From whether there is a need for safe harbour to countering potential user harms, ensuring an open, safe and trusted internet, grievance redressal, formulating global standard cyber laws, and addressing challenges thrown up by emerging technologies, Chandrasekhar said the bill will harmonise separate legislations .
The bill proposes ways to deal with things that could harm users such as revenge porn, cyber flashing, defamation, cyberbullying and doxxing. It also suggests age-gating addictive technologies and protect data of minors on social media and gaming applications.
In a presentation, the minister added that devices and information technology have empowered users but also thrown up challenges of new user harms, ambiguity of user rights, safety and security of women and children, organised information wars, radicalization and circulation of hate speech, misinformation and fake news and unfair trade practices. He stressed that there is a need to counter the anti-competitive practices undertaken by Big Tech.
“Should there be safe harbour at all for intermediaries? I leave you with that thought,” Chandrasekhar said.
Section 79 of the IT Act, 2000, absolves social media firms of liability for third party content. “An intermediary shall not be liable for any third-party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted by him,” the section states. The provision, may now be read down in the digital India bill for which a draft is yet to be released, Chandrasekhar said, stressing the need to revisit and rethink it.
The bill may also contain ownership standards for anonymised data stored by intermediaries, disclosure norms for the data collected and monetization rules for user and platform generated content.
According to Kazim Rizvi, founder of the tech policy think-tank The Dialogue, who attended the consultation, the bill needs to factor in artificial intelligence or AI. “That said, concerns about algorithmic biases, user safety and privacy and job displacement that have been highlighted by some experts also need to be addressed to ensure that AI continues to remain a force for social good and its opportunities are maximised,” he said. “Towards this, it will be important that the new law prescribes sustainable co-regulatory models for regulation of AI and other emerging technologies which will help in addressing the concerns without stifling its growth.” Hindustan Times
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