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Sundar Pichai calls for ‘responsible’ tech regulation; over 57% want Elon Musk out as Chief Twit

At the eighth edition of Google for India on Monday, CEO Sundar Pichai said India has a leadership role to play in crafting “responsible regulations” for tech firms, given the number of people whose lives are touched by technology. He also said artificial intelligence would be a key focus area for Google as it looked to become universally accessible.

Credit: Giphy

Also in this letter:
■ Poll shows over 57% want Musk to step down as Twitter chief
■ Data, telecom bills will be ready in five to six months: Vaishnaw
■ Crypto trading volumes fell 76% between Jan and Nov: WazirX

Tech needs ‘responsible regulation’ as it touches many lives: Sundar Pichai


Technology needs “responsible regulation” since it touches the lives of so many people, Alphabet Inc and Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said on Monday at the company’s flagship ‘Google For India’ event in Delhi.

“I think it’s important for countries to think about how best to safeguard their citizens… privacy, security… India has a leadership role to play here. It is important to make sure you are creating safeguards for people and creating an innovative framework for companies,” he said, adding that he hoped the country would be a supporter of an open and connected internet.

AI push: Pichai also said artificial intelligence (AI) would have a huge impact on the world, touching every sector. The focus on AI is core to the company’s mission of making Google universally accessible, “using AI to scale up languages,” Pichai said.

In connection with this, the company announced the launch of Project Vaani, an initiative which aims to collect speech data from 773 districts in India to make information available in nearly 1,000 languages.

Sanjay Gupta, country head and vice-president of Google India, also emphasised the importance of AI, saying: “Technology has the potential to become the single largest contributor to India’s economy. With the power of AI, we can democratise opportunity by building ramps through language, video, and safety.”

UPI praise: Praising India’s Unified Payments Interface (UPI), Pichai said; “We built Google Pay on UPI’s stack and now we are bringing it to the other countries around the world.”

Support for startups: Gupta also said Google would support early-stage companies in India, with a focus on women-led startups. “Most of recorded history has one big data gap, with women missing,” said Sapna Chadha, vice-president of marketing at Google India & Southeast Asia.

PM meet: Madurai-born Pichai, who is on an India tour, also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his residence. The Google CEO tweeted “Thank you for a great meeting today PM @narendramodi. Inspiring to see the rapid pace of technological change under your leadership. Look forward to continuing our strong partnership and supporting India’s G20 presidency to advance an open, connected internet that works for all.”

Poll shows 57% want Musk to step down as Twitter chief


The verdict is out. Twitter users no longer want Elon Musk to helm the micro-blogging platform, according to a poll tweeted by the billionaire, which closed on Monday evening.

Catch up quick: In the poll, which Musk tweeted early morning India time, he asked Twitter users if he should step down as the head of Twitter, saying he would abide by the results of the poll. Over 17.5 million people took part in the poll and 57.5% of them voted yes.

So, what’s next? Whether Musk steps down remains to be seen, though he has abided by the results of his previous Twitter polls, including one that asked whether former US President Donald Trump should be allowed back on the platform.

Policy update flops: The poll on Sunday came soon after Twitter announced a new policy update, which prohibited accounts from promoting other social media firms and content that contains links or usernames of rival platforms.

The new rule affected content from social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon, Truth Social, Tribel, Nostr and Post.

Twitter, however, rescinded the rule after facing a backlash. Multiple users pointed out that the rule was illegal under the European Union’s Digital Markets Act and US antitrust law.

Tweets pertaining to the policy have since been deleted from @TwitterSupport and from Twitter’s website.

Musk also posted an apology, saying, “Going forward, there will be a vote for major policy changes. My apologies. Won’t happen again.”

Data, telecom bills will be ready in five to six months: Vaishnaw

Ashwini Vaishnaw

Indian citizens will have the backing of the Digital Personal Data Protection law in the next five to six months, information technology minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said on Sunday.

Driving the news: Vaishnaw made his comments at a press conference a day after the European Union warned Twitter owner Elon Musk it could impose sanctions on the platform for banning some journalists.

Asked what he made of Twitter banning one of the accounts of Koo, an Indian microblogging platform, the minister said, “We have robust IT regulations and rules. These rules are now getting further strengthened by the two bills – the telecom bill and the data protection bill. These two bills should be done by the next five to six months.”

On industry feedback: In response to ET’s query on whether the industry has raised concerns about the data bill, Vaishnaw said, “The feedback has been very good. So far, the template for the world was the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation. Most of the industry is saying this bill will now become the template for the world.”

Crypto trading volumes fell 76% between Jan and Nov: WazirX

WazirX says it received 828 requests for information from law enforcement agencies in 6 months

Indian crypto trading firms are reeling from the brutal crypto winter this year, with WazirX reporting a 76% fall in users’ trading volumes from the start of 2022 to November 30. In January-November 2021, the exchange had clocked $43 billion in trade volumes.

‘Alarmingly low’: “After five years of consistent efforts to provide easy crypto access to users, we witnessed market sentiments reaching an alarming low. This was in contrast to the positive sentiment we saw in the last few years, especially in 2021, when crypto saw its best bull run ever,” WazirX said in its year-end report for 2022.

The crypto industry worldwide has seen a massive downturn this year with the collapse of several large firms such as FTX, Terraform Labs (creator of TerraUSD), Celsius Network and Voyager Digital.

Double whammy: Indian cryto firms are also battling the effects of the 30% tax on profits from virtual digital assets and a 1% tax deducted at source on all crypto transactions, introduced in the Union Budget for 2022-23.

Infosys contracts in Australia under scanner


The Australian government may review government contracts awarded to Infosys by Synergy 360, a lobbying and consulting firm in Canberra, owned by friends of federal Liberal MP Stuart Robert.

Details: As per a report by the Sydney Morning Herald, Robert was secretly providing advice to Synergy 360, which helps large companies win lucrative government contracts. Infosys is one of the major clients of Synergy 360.

The firm is owned by its MD David Milo and Robert’s former business partner John Margerison.

“Milo repeatedly provided access to Robert in 2019 for one of Synergy’s key long-term clients, Indian multinational Infosys. As the minister responsible for government services, Robert announced in November 2019 that Infosys had won a multimillion-dollar open tender to deliver welfare calculation technology to Centrelink, known as the Entitlement Calculation Engine (ECE),” said the report, published on December 1.

Infosys replies: In a statement to TOI, the IT major said that the “specific contract being referenced underwent a 14-month-long government procurement process as per the Australian government procurement framework”.

Today’s ETtech Top 5 newsletter was curated by Zaheer Merchant and Megha Mishra in Mumbai. Graphics and illustrations by Rahul Awasthi.

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