The government has very strongly said that it will no longer accept “internet imperialism” by a select few technology companies. This is an effort to ensure that local ideas, culture, traditions and people’s sentiments are respected.
Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Information Technology Minister, said if the internet is a global phenomenon, it has become so because it has empowered people across. “It has crossed boundaries of the physical world. There is an extraordinary evolution of internet democracy. There is a need to respect it,” he said.
The minister’s comments come in the backdrop of new guidelines for social media intermediaries, which were announced by the Ministry of Electronics and Information (MeitY) a couple of weeks ago. The government had said the new rules were needed to hold social media and other companies accountable for “misuse and abuse”, and now require platforms with more than 50 lakh users to set up stronger grievance redressal mechanisms, and appoint executives to coordinate with law enforcement in India.
However, several privacy experts have red-flagged provisions in the IT Act, including requiring “significant social media intermediaries” to have automated tools to proactively track certain words.
Prasad said the new rules are in the form of an architecture that the intermediaries should themselves follow rather than the government mandating it through law. He pointed out that those who wished to criticise the government must also have the courage to verify and identify themselves on social media platforms so that their genuineness could be ascertained.
“My department has been flooded over the years that those who are victims, their voices, their concerns were not heard. We are not saying how you the platforms will dispose of it the complaints. In many cases, they can reject it also. But that is between the user and the intermediary. The government would not have a role in it,” Prasad said.
Experts point out the fact that US-owned social media platforms and international content creators have proliferated and profited, representing marginal, alternative, subcultural and subaltern voices rarely seen in the United States, or in many cases, in traditional entertainment in their own countries. This new world of online entertainment may be far from flat, and a new wave of media globalization may, at best, prove to be a ripple, a consequence of the disruptive undulations of technology and media capital and innovation in the digital age.