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Uber files: Rajeev Chandrasekhar promises new rules to rein in Big Tech

New Delhi, July 13 (IANS) After a leaked trove of internal Uber documents revealed that the ride-hailing platform allegedly broke laws and secretly lobbied governments to expand globally, Minister of State for Electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar said on Wednesday that the government is planning tougher rules to tame Big Tech and social media platforms operating in India.

In an interview with Nikkei Asia, the minister said that the government is set to tighten laws for the internet and digital players.

“India will also have new laws and regulations. The issue of laws and rules in the tech space will be a continuously evolving one. Whether there will be structurally new laws, amendments to old laws, additional rules and directions, I would say, all of the above,” Chandrasekhar was quoted as saying in the report.

According to The Guardian report, revelations from the leaked files include how senior Uber executives ordered the use of a “kill switch” to stop police and regulators accessing sensitive data during raids on its offices in India and other countries.

“In some ways, the (Uber) revelations only confirm that in many cases, the Big Tech companies are, in a sense, gaming the system, and most importantly, the customers,” Chandrasekhar noted.

India has drafted new IT Rules, 2021 to fix more responsibility on social media intermediaries and a personal data protection bill is also in the pipeline.

After Twitter took the government to court last week over content blocking orders, Chandrasekhar said that all foreign intermediaries and platforms have a right to approach the court and judicial review in India.

“But equally, all intermediary/platforms operating here have an unambiguous obligation to comply with our laws and rules,” he posted last week, as Twitter moved the Karnataka High Court against the government’s order to take down some content on its platform.

The micro-blogging platform has clearly said that it will listen to the Indian government’s content removal demands seriously only when the personal data protection bill is firmly in place.

The proposed Personal Data Protection Bill also has provisions that impose heavy penalties on tech companies for non-compliance.

It has also proposed to term social media companies as publishers, which will make them liable for the content on their platforms.

Chandrasekhar told Nikkei Asia that large technology companies have been evading regulatory scrutiny for “more than a decade” by positioning themselves as “innovators that help citizens with convenience”.

“There was not enough scrutiny and regulations because they were seen as doing good. It is only recently that the awareness of user harm that these platforms are capable of, or responsible for, has come to the forefront,” he stressed.

The republished draft by the IT Ministry has revealed a plan to form an appeals panel that can reverse content moderation decisions by Big Tech companies like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

The new IT rules also require big social media platforms to help the government trace the originator of messages in special cases.

–IANS

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Shehnaaz Gill

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Karan Kundrra

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