Vaishnaw, who was speaking at Times Now Summit 2022, also countered criticism around the draft Digital Personal Data Protection (DPDP) bill and questions around surveillance and said risk of terrorist threats, cyber threats and changing nature of global warfare have to be kept in mind.
These realities have to be considered, and a balanced view has to be taken. Supreme Court, he said, has set clear processes on surveillance, with many checks and balances.
To questions regarding just how independent will be the proposed Data Protection Board, the minister made it clear that independence and autonomy come from law, and cited the strong reputation enjoyed by RBI, Sebi all over the world. Since the draft data protection bill clearly mentionsthat the proposed Data Protection Board will be independent and perform in a certain way, “automatically its independence is guaranteed”.
The government hopes that the new bill will be passed in the Budget session of Parliament, he informed.
On social media platforms, the minister said the power to make laws in India’s democratic set up vests with Parliament, and that power cannot be given to tech companies. The minister made it clear that social media platforms have to be abide by India’s laws.
Vaishnaw said while digital platforms are an important tool for people to express their views and feelings, there is a serious evaluation happening all over the world, not just in India, around the accountability of social media.
He questioned whether platformslike Facebook and Twitter were dedicating as much resources in India to crack down on content around violence and pornography as they are, say in US and other markets.
“There are serious discussions happening on the social media’s accountability, even in those countries where freedom of speech is considered sacrosanct. . . Everywhere legislators, regulators, Parliamentarians are all evaluating and paying close attention to ensure there is no disruption in society. . . and that there should be harmonious growth, there should be mechanisms for expression but, at the same time, accountability. ”
Vaishnaw urged people to come forward to give views on what should be the accountability of social media platforms, how regulatory discourse should evolve.