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HomeTechStakeholder consultation for Digital India Bill likely from March: Rajeev Chandrasekhar

Stakeholder consultation for Digital India Bill likely from March: Rajeev Chandrasekhar

The stakeholder consultation process for the much-awaited Digital India Bill – that is likely to introduce provisions related to a comprehensive framework for the internet, including provisions on user harm, ownership of non-personal data, cyberbullying, doxing, and other cybercrimes – will start in March, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, minister of state for electronics and information technology told ET on Thursday.

“Digital India Bill will have extensive consultation across the country,” he said. “Keeping in mind our pipeline of goals, it will start in March. The first consultation will start in New Delhi.”

ET had reported in January that the government is likely to soon start multi-city, multi-stakeholder meetings, and companies such as Meta Inc (Facebook), Google, and Microsoft are likely to participate in the consultation process.

The Digital India Act will replace the Information Technology Act of 2000.

It may also introduce provisions to classify and regulate various online portals such as ecommerce websites and artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled platforms, among others.

Chandrasekhar said the government is waiting for social media players including Facebook, Twitter and Google to come up with a concrete framework for fact checking information on their platforms.

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Press Information Bureau (PIB) will be the fact checker when it comes to checking government-related news, he added.At a recent meeting held by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), representatives of social media platforms suggested that they prefer a self-regulatory organisation (SRO) to fact-check non-government-related news, Chandrasekhar said, adding that the industry will create a criteria for trusted network of fact checkers that the SRO can rely on.

“They are yet to come back with suggestions. For government-related news, it will always be the Press Information Bureau,” he said. “On the fact checking of non-government related news, we will not bring out any notification till they come up with a structure for an SRO.”

Chandrasekhar said the government is waiting for firms such as Google, Meta and Twitter to send in their proposals for the fact checking SRO.

He said there is a lot of interest in the data embassy concept that finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman talked about in her budget speech because India is increasingly being known as a safe and trusted place for data storage.

“For business resilience, the backup data must be in India,” Chandrasekhar said. “There is a lot of interest and the interest is manifesting itself in the Indian data centre industry. The underlying IT sector, IT manufacturing sectors are also getting a boost.”

He said the norms for what constitute a data embassy are currently being drafted and will soon be notified. “We will notify data embassy norms in terms of the data centre’s size and whether there can be virtual data embassies. The norms are being drafted,” the minister said.

Sitharaman had in her budget speech said, “For countries looking for digital continuity solutions, we will facilitate setting up of their data embassies in GIFT IFSC.”

Gujarat International Finance Tech-city (GIFT) is India’s first International Financial Services Centre (IFSC).

On industry body Assocham’s suggestion to allow data embassies to be set up across the country and not just in Gujarat, Chandrasekhar said, “Let the data embassy concept take off, let it be successful in one place. If it succeeds and there is a dearth of capacity in one place, the obvious, logical thing is to look at another place.”

The government on January 28 had issued a notification pertaining to the setting up of three Grievance Appellate Committees (GACs) with three members each. The GACs will be operational from March 1. These GACs will create avenues for grievance redressal of social media users apart from courts.

Chandrasekhar said the idea of the GACs is to make sure grievance redressal works at the intermediary/platform level. The ex officio chairpersons of the three notified committees will be from the ministries of home affairs, information and broadcasting, and electronics and information technology.

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