The first consultation for the Digital India Bill was held in Bengaluru, with a diverse group of stakeholders participating. Among the topics discussed was the safe harbor provision in the current Information Technology Act 2000. Many stakeholders suggested that the government retain this provision, which currently protects social media intermediaries from being held liable for content posted on their platforms by third parties.
The safe harbor provision has been a contentious issue in India for some time. While some argue that protecting freedom of expression online is necessary, others believe it allows social media platforms to shirk their responsibility to moderate harmful or illegal content. The government has been considering whether to revise or remove the provision, and a consultation was held to gather feedback from stakeholders.
The stakeholders who attended the consultation were lawyers, technology policy groups, technology companies, and consumers. Many of them argued that the safe harbor provision should remain in place. One representative from a technology policy group stated that “it is important to protect intermediaries from legal liability so that they can continue to provide platforms for free expression and innovation.” Another attorney stakeholder argued that “removing the safe harbor provision would put an undue burden on social media platforms, making it difficult for them to operate in India.”
However, not all stakeholders were in favor of retaining the provision. Some argue that social media companies are responsible for moderate content on their platforms and that the safe harbor provision allows them to forget this responsibility. One consumer advocate stated, “social media companies should not be able to hide behind the safe harbor provision when their platforms are used to spread hate speech or incite violence.”
The consultation also touched on other issues related to the Digital India Bill, such as data localization and intermediary liability. Data localization, which requires companies to store data locally rather than in servers outside of India, has been a contentious issue in the country. While some argue that it is necessary to protect Indian citizens’ data from foreign governments and companies, others believe that it will harm India’s business environment and stifle innovation.
Intermediary liability, which refers to the legal responsibility of social media intermediaries for content posted on their platforms, was also discussed. Some stakeholders argued that social media companies should be held accountable for harmful content, while others argued that they should not be held liable for user-generated content.
The Digital India Bill is a comprehensive legislation that aims to regulate India’s digital economy. It covers various issues, including data protection, privacy, cybersecurity, and e-commerce. The Bill has been in development for several years, and the government has been holding consultations with stakeholders to gather feedback and input.
Overall, the first consultation for the Digital India Bill was a productive and informative event. While the safe harbor provision was contentious, stakeholders could engage in a respectful and constructive dialogue about the subject. The government will now consider the feedback it received as it moves forward with the development of the Bill.