The virality of social media and its implications on everyday life of the citizenry is something that cannot be ignored, says Kazim Rizvi, Founding Director of The Dialogue. He believes the digital ecosystem is replete with CSAM, fake news, drug trade, radicalization, trolling among other social vices.
Given the network effect that these platforms have, Rizvi, in an interaction with My Big Plunge said it is important to ensure that these platforms are not misused. “Thus, a regulation that aligns with the contemporary challenges is necessary. It is equally important to understand how these platforms are enablers of the user’s right to privacy and free speech,” he said. “Challenges arise when laws of the physical world are applied in cyberspace. For instance take the mandate for ‘originator traceability’ on encrypted platforms in the IT Rules 2021. Any measure to find the originator which would harm user privacy is antithetical to the core tenets they function on.”
By profession a lawyer, Rizvi agreed that the government has a legitimate interest in responding to the challenges in the digital space. He, however, said imposing overarching regulations on these global platforms shall not only put unreasonable restrictions on the right to online free speech and privacy of the citizens but shall also undermine India’s image as a progressive democratic nation in the international community.
“It is important that every step of regulation that affects the free and inclusive nature of the internet be cautiously tailored and deeply scrutinized in accordance with the higher principles of the Indian Constitution,” Rizvi explained. “Moreover, it is also important to ensure that all such actions align with the global soft laws like the Manila Principles on Intermediary Liability and the Santa Clara Principles on Transparency and Accountability in Content Moderation.”
Recently, there has been an increased government push to regulate the Big Tech and the relations it holds with its people. Rizvi pointed out that due to the sheer number of people that these platforms have as their user base, and the viability of these platforms in everyday digital life, the trade off is to ensure the state objectives of protecting its citizens from harm are met.
“It is important to ensure that the regulations do not impose unreasonable restrictions on these companies and obviate them from dispensing the cardinal social and economic role that they play in any modern democracy.”
To ensure this, Rizvi explained there should be constant rounds of dialogues and negotiations between the government and big techs where both can voice their concerns to each other and then attain a resolution amicably.
“There are numerous examples of this from the west where the governments have started interacting with stakeholders to understand novel SOPs for developing a highly digitalized world,” he said. “There are instances where the government works with the big tech companies as well, for example Amazon delivery really helped during the various lockdowns. Google shares mobility data with the government that aids in policy making.”
Rizvi believes there is increased scope for collaboration between public and private, and the contours of that will be defined in the coming years through regulations, precedents from courts etc. He said that as long as the road for consultation and deliberation is open, and the consumer/citizens are kept at the centre of all such discussions, development of a rights based policy framework that takes into consideration the best interests of both the users and the platforms is inevitable.