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Ashwini Vaishnaw: ‘Where self-regulation not sufficient, government would have to intervene’

🔴 The minister spoke on the government’s priorities regarding the IT and electronics sector, regulation of social media and the data privacy bill, and the balance between national security interests and individual privacy.

Ashwini Vaishnaw, Ashwini Vaishnaw interview, Ashwini Vaishnaw news, data privacy bill, social media, communication, spreading information, Financial Times, Indian express, IT Act, privacy billUnion Minister for Railways, Communications, Electronics and IT Ashwini Vaishnaw

At the fourth Financial Times – The Indian Express webinars, Ashwini Vaishnaw, Union Minister for Railways, Communications, Electronics and Information Technology, said that social media is an important means of communication, spreading information and consuming a variety of entertainment. He discussed the “level of trust between users and the platform”. “We need to reinforce the trust,” he said. Vaishnaw was in conversation with Amy Kazmin, South Asia bureau chief, Financial Times. The minister spoke on the government’s priorities regarding the IT and electronics sector, regulation of social media and the data privacy bill, and the balance between national security interests and individual privacy.

An area of hot discussion, not just in India but across the world, is the regulation of social media, and the balance between free speech and stopping inflammatory speech and misinformation. Kazmin asked Vaishnaw about Modi government’s approach to the law intended to do that and how it was controversial and challenged by many media organisations on the grounds of serious impingement on the basic rights of free speech. Vaishnaw said that there has to be a balance between the consumer and trust that is implicit on social media platforms today. “Wherever self-regulation is not sufficient, the government would have to intervene in our opinion,” he said.

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Vaishnaw also listed the top priorities of the IT and electronics sector — to strengthen an already vibrant start-up ecosystem and support them during their most vulnerable phase; to overhaul the entire regulatory framework; to ramp up electronics manufacturing and the semiconductor ecosystem; and to develop more public platforms.

Moving on to the data privacy bill, Vaishnaw said that it was the first step in improving the regulatory framework and was hopeful that it would be converted into a law. “Besides that, the IT Act is an important part of this framework. [In] 2000, there was nothing like social media. We need to overhaul that. That will be an exercise we start after we place the privacy bill,” he said.

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When asked specifically about what the government is doing to tackle the increased cyber security threats generated by increased digitisation of government businesses and social communications, the minister said that a reasonable part of the threat could be mitigated with good passwords, antivirus and firewalls. “The second is to have a unified control and command setup, which various agencies working in this sector need to properly integrate. Third is the agility with which people who are perpetuating these threats are countered…,” he said. When asked about the possible surveillance of citizens through the use of hi-tech systems like the Israeli Pegasus. Vaishaw said, “…Whatever we are doing as a government is precisely as per the framework set by the Supreme Court of India…That law is absolutely clear — the balance between privacy and national security is well struck in that.”

First published on: 17-12-2021 at 04:20 IST
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