India Unleashes Digital Act: Regulating AI, Big Tech, and Online Content with Controversial Powers!


The Digital India Bill

India is gearing up to introduce a comprehensive digital law that will regulate various aspects of the digital landscape, including artificial intelligence (AI) and big tech companies. The Digital India Bill, which has been under consultation since March 2023, is expected to debut in early June. The country’s IT minister, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, has provided insights into the upcoming legislation.

One significant focus of the bill will be the regulation of AI. Chandrasekhar emphasized that AI would be regulated with a focus on preventing harm to users. While India acknowledges global interest in AI regulation, the minister stated that the country has its own perspective on implementing guardrails for AI and will not hesitate to do so, even if it diverges from international norms. The draft law is likely to define high-risk AI systems and subject them to special regulation.

The regulation of online content is another key aspect of the bill. One proposal includes empowering a government-operated fact-checking service to order content takedowns. The bill may also address the moderation of “fake news” on social media platforms, age-based restrictions on addictive services, algorithm risk assessments, and rules governing content monetization. Changes to India’s safe harbor provisions, which grant certain exemptions to online platforms for user-generated content, may also be on the horizon.

In addition to the digital regulation, Minister Chandrasekhar announced the upcoming launch of a semiconductor research and development (R&D) strategy. India aims to establish a holistic semiconductor R&D framework within the next six weeks, encompassing areas such as system packaging, chiplet architectures, technology, and collaborative frameworks. This move highlights India’s commitment to bolstering its semiconductor industry.

The Digital India Bill is expected to spark controversy both domestically and internationally. Concerns have been raised about the content takedown powers and fact-checking provisions, with critics arguing they could be used to suppress political opponents within India. Big tech companies and lobby groups from abroad have expressed concerns that stringent regulations on online speech could hinder the growth of India’s tech sector. Despite these challenges, Indian politicians remain steadfast, aware of the significant potential for growth in the country’s digital market. Criticism of Big Tech also resonates well within India, where comparisons to historical colonial practices are often made. India’s rich experience in dealing with such issues has strengthened its resolve to protect its interests.

As the draft legislation is unveiled next month, it is expected to ignite debates and discussions on the balance between regulation, freedom of speech, and the growth of India’s digital economy.

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