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There is need for positive regulatory framework for internet cos: Facebook India head

Facebook India Head Ajit Mohan said there is a need for a “forward-looking and positive regulatory framework” for internet companies, and that organisations also need to be more transparent about how they use customer data.

The executive noted that India has seen an “explosive shift” in terms of access to the internet and this expanded access gas-driven the emergence of entirely new models, a feat that no other country has managed to do so much in such a short period of time.

“We absolutely do believe that the internet needs new rules, not just in India but around the world. We operated for a very long time with not enough clarity on the traffic lights. And this is the moment when we should think especially in democratic societies, think about how we navigate complex issues where there are competing trade-offs. I’m hoping that we can emerge with a very forward-looking and positive regulatory framework,” he said at the Raisina Dialogue.

Mohan, Vice President and Managing Director, Facebook India, said that there are a few areas that the regulations can focus on.

“One is transparency mandates. Make it the company’s to be more transparent about how data is used. Second, there’s a lot of concern about algorithms, and how machines are controlling people’s lives. I think we would be very keen to lean in and say how do we protect user agency where people have the opportunity to make explicit choices that drive algorithms,” he said.

Mohan added that a lot of the conversation has been about how large tech companies benefit from large sets of data.

“I think we have been very forward in saying we are open to creating frameworks that still protect the interests of privacy and safety when data moves around, but make it easier for users to move data between competing platforms. I do believe that we are a partner in this. But I agree with the framework that we need rules and we hope those will be forward-looking and positive,” he said.

The top executive also noted that having an open Internet is an area where the US and India can work together.

“I think democracies will have to decide the future of the internet, and in particular, US and India, and I do believe that it’s an explosive opportunity for the two countries to work together, and a lot of the classical models of trade that has influenced the debate over the last few decades may not be relevant here,” he pointed out.

Mohan emphasised that facebook’s mission in India is to be an ally for the country and to be a very positive force for good in India’s transformation for the next few decades.

Facebook has drawn flak in the past for its handling of hate speech on the platform in the country. India is among the biggest markets for Facebook and its group companies, WhatsApp and Instagram. According to government data, India has 53 crore WhatsApp users, 41 crore Facebook users, and 21 crore users of Instagram.

Mohan said the company is focused on investing in people and systems to make sure that harmful content doesn’t get distributed on our platform and that users have greater control.

“The company has been leaning in on safety and security to make sure that harm is reduced to the extent possible… much of our energy is focused on how do we make sure that we reduce harm but equally, how do we continue to expand the canvas for people and businesses to make sure that they are able to use platforms like ours to move from an idea to a company that is relevant around the world, to build communities in the middle of the pandemic,” he said. PTI 

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