India is not in favour of censoring social media platforms: Indian minister

Suneeti Ahuja-Kohli & James Jose/London
Filed on June 30, 2021

India is one of the biggest markets for social media platforms globally.

India is not in the favour of censoring (social media platforms) but democracies have to find a common ground on certain issues so that tech companies do their business, make profits, but become accountable by following the laws of the land, said Ravi Shankar Prasad, India’s Minister of Communications, Electronics & Informational Technology and Law & Justice, at the India Global Forum in London on Wednesday.

“Tech companies have contributed towards the expansion of digital footprint globally; empowered people; they operate in a system where boundaries disappear, but the larger question are you a platform or a regulator?" questioned the minister.

India is one of the biggest markets for social media platforms globally. WhatsApp has 530 million users in India. YouTube has 448 million, Facebook, 410 million; Instagram, 210 million; and Twitter has nearly 18 million users.

In May this year, the Indian government introduced new rules to regulate social media according to which firms must enable traceability of end-to-end encryption messages and establish local offices, and to deal with law enforcement and user grievances.

“You're free to do your business in India, but you have to be accountable to India's Constitution and India's laws,” the minister said.

“We appreciate social media. They have empowered people. They have enabled them to ask questions, they have brought accountability to governance, but the larger issue is which law governs you?” questioned Prasad.

The minister talked about the larger debate between digital sovereignty of the Big Tech and democracy.

India is celebrating the sixth anniversary of the digital India movement, a program that aims to empower ordinary people and bridge the digital divide in India. In the last six years, the program has since achieved several milestones including providing digital identity for almost 1.29 billion people in the population. The Indian government has saved $24 billion by automating social benefit payments directly into the bank accounts of people.

“India has biggest start-up movement in the world and has the third-highest number of unicorns, i.e. companies with $1 billion turnovers, at 51. Young people are changing the entire entrepreneur ecosystem,” Shankar said.

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