The government’s relationship with any social media platform is simply through the prism of compliance of law and rules, and therefore there is nothing personal or adversarial against one platform or the other, Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar has said.
The platforms have to respect the Indian laws, the Minister of State for IT and Electronics asserted.
Chandrasekhar, who was speaking at the inaugural edition of FinancialExpress.com’s Digital Bharat Economy Conclave 2023 on Wednesday, made it clear that the government’s relationship with any social media platform is simply through the prism of compliance of law and rules, and thus there is nothing personal or adversarial against one platform or the other.
“But we certainly and consistently ask from these platforms to respect the Indian laws,” he said.
The minister also rebuffed claims of an alleged data breach of the CoWin platform (the Covid vaccination portal).
“I would like to emphasise that there was no breach of the CoWin database. Whatever personal information that the Telegram bot was throwing up was not from the CoWin database,” Chandrasekhar said while in conversation with Indian Express Group executive director Anant Goenka.
The conclave, which was designed on the theme of building a digitally-led economy, saw the attendance of many dignitaries from diverse fields.
The union minister said based on initial investigation, the “leaked” data likely belonged to the person who owned the Telegram bot. “That data in that person’s database, which is being seen today when you access the data bot, which has disappeared, that data to a large extent is fake,” Chandrasekhar added.
The Centre, he informed, is still trying to investigate every aspect of the data. “How old the data is, where did it come from and if this is a deliberate attempt to mimic a breach is being investigated,” he pointed out.
The minister also called out former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey for his recent statement where he had alleged that during the farmer protest, the Indian government pressured the microblogging platform and threatened to shut down Twitter in India, raid the homes of employees if it didn’t listen to what was being told.
The minister slammed Dorsey’s claims as an “outright lie”.
“It is an outright lie because at no time in the history, specifically in the 2020-2022 period, has Government of India ever done anything to Twitter, despite the fact that the platform was in violation of Indian laws for a period of two years. The government didn’t shut down Twitter or jail anybody and it is ironic because I have to quote inaction on the part of the government against violation of law to deny what Jack Dorsey has put out there,” Chandrasekhar said.
The minister also put a spotlight on two aspects about Twitter that are out in the public domain. “One is that they believe they are a sovereign entity and therefore the rules and laws of any nation didn’t apply. But the rules apply to all. Secondly, it has become very clear that these platforms require more oversight because of the kind of arbitrary abuse of power that they exercise either because they follow a particular political ideology or because somebody just wants to play God,” he said.
Further, he added: “So, a lot of stuff about Twitter that is now in public domain reinforces the need for governments all around the world, including in India, to have very clear guard rails for these platforms.”
On Artificial Intelligence (AI), the minister said that India is ready for it.
“AI is at an initial stage as of now and it is only going to enable tasks, get things done faster and with more intelligence, rather than replace humans or mimic human behaviour. Whoever has a reasonable view of AI knows that it won’t completely replace jobs. Currently, AI is very far from human reasoning and mimicking reasoning,” he said.
The minister also talked about the expansion of the digital economy and innovation in the country, and said India will be among the league of nations shaping the future of technology.
“Digital economy was about 4 per cent of GDP in 2014 and we are close to 10 per cent today. By 2026, the digital economy will constitute 20 per cent of the GDP. So certainly, Digital India will lead India, and vice-versa. Going forward, India will certainly be among the leading pack of nations that will shape the future of technology,” he said. PTI