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Ashwini Vaishnaw: Must define responsibility for online content

India must “clearly define” the responsibility for the content being put out on social media platforms as there is an “implicit trust” of the word on internet, IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said.

“There is implicit in the written word. If we read something, we start believing it. Who is going to take responsibility for that content? It is very important because the young minds would be very easily tempted to believe what is the written word. Whether that content is on a social media platform or on a website, it should be clearly defined so that it becomes part of the society as an acceptable form,” the Minister said.

Speaking at the inaugural ceremony of the first India Internet Governance Forum (IIGF 2021), Vaishnaw said that a “fundamental rethink of the entire governance structure of internet” was needed.

Explained

Focus on key issues

The IT Minister’s statement brings into focus key issues around the internet — be its access, openness or safety. The accountability of large players on the internet to their consumers, or the emerging threat of online user harm and criminality are all issues that have to be debated and discussed.

“…the way content is consumed, the way the internet is accessed. The languages in which the internet is accessed, the machines, the modes in which the internet is accessed, everything has changed. So, with these fundamental changes, we certainly need a fundamental rethink of the entire governance structure of the internet,” Vaishnaw said.

Laying emphasis on understanding the social impact of disruptions in business models due to the advent of e-commerce, the minister said that though it has many benefits, but it also has certain things which need to be mitigated. “The way e-commerce has disrupted the entire business world, the way so many other industries are getting disrupted, that has a social impact, a social cost… It has many benefits, but it also has certain things which need to be mitigated. So, that is again something we as a society will have to think about, because that leaves out so many people, who are less able to cope with the changes… how do we bring those persons into the mainstream,” he said.

Vaishnaw also said that since all systems today were driven by digital technology and internet was the fundamental medium through which all this happened, it was important to build fundamental structures within the governance system itself so that cybersecurity became a “central part” of development.

Speaking following the inauguration, Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar said that global future of internet must be India led with the internet ecosystem and innovation capabilities that the country had.

“It is extremely important that we, as a nation, carefully shape the future of internet, carefully shape policies and regulation, rights and responsibilities around the internet going forward,” he said.

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