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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

‘Responsibility, accountability of big tech firms must be debated’: Jaishankar

Jaishankar's comments came amid strained ties between Indian authorities and American social media giant Twitter on a range of issues including the new IT rules.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: July 1, 2021 7:31:15 am
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday said that issues like responsibility and accountability of the big tech companies which enjoy huge power and influence must be debated and they cannot be brushed under the carpet.

Jaishankar’s comments came amid strained ties between Indian authorities and American social media giant Twitter on a range of issues including the new IT rules.

In an interactive session with former British prime minister Tony Blair at the India Global Forum, Jaishankar said that a vigorous debate on big technology firms is going on in India like in various parts of the world, and that nobody denies that they are “forces of progress”.

“But, in a democratic society, we have to ask ourselves, big tech is there; it is in my life, very visibly in my life. You have a big presence, (but) where is the responsibility which comes with it,” Jaishankar said.

“They have huge power, where is the accountability? This is again not an issue limited to India. They harvest our data as they do across the world. So you have, in a sense, the opposite of the American Revolution, which is to have representation and no taxation,” he said, when asked about the power of technology and issues relating to it.

“These are very serious questions that need debating. I think they cannot be brushed under the carpet, saying you should not question them because then you are attacking freedom of speech. I think that’s a cop-out. Obviously, it serves their interests,” he said.

The External Affairs Minister said there are various aspects to these issues, including political and the influence commanded by the technology giants.

“The other is to look at the influence they command. International relations have been devised on the basis of State-based players. What happens when you have non-State players who in some ways are bigger than many States,” Jaishankar said.

‘Be cognizant of Indian laws’

Calling for accountability of big social media companies, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Twitter invoked a US copyright Act to block his account but it should also be cognizant of the law in India where it is operating and earning money.

Speaking at the India Global Forum, the minister said Twitter last week blocked his account for an hour on a complaint made four years ago under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of the US. “If you are going to invoke the… digital copyright act of America then you have to also be cognizant of the copyright rules of India. That is the point. You cannot say my whole stand will be regulated by an ex-parte assessment of the US law.”

With PTI inputs

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