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India should enforce media regulation on big technologies: analysis


Are major Internet companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google, such as social media platform operators, publishers of editorial content (like the Hindustan Times en), or are they indiscriminate platforms that offer open access to anything you want to see?

At first, the debate seems nerdy: a kind of philosophical investigation that should only concern professors and legal scholars as a matter of business regulation. But this seemingly narrow intellectual issue is increasingly becoming a central issue of urgent concern in the context of Indian democracy, and indeed democracy and the free flow of information around the world. Foreign governments are moving to impose new responsibilities on dominant tech companies. Australia, for example, is forcing Facebook and Google to pay news companies for showing their stories; French antitrust authorities have ordered Google to negotiate with local media companies to pay for displaying their content; and in the United States, a fierce political war is being waged between liberals and conservatives on this very subject.

However, let’s go back to that philosophical question for a moment. Editors have always held a treasured position in society. Traditional media formats (newspapers, television networks, and radio stations) once consumed the attention of the public. My grandfather leafed through the newspapers and news magazines every day, while my grandmother listened to the radio all day, every day, which is not uncommon for those of her generation. The result was that we got to know not only the voices and faces that graced these media, but also the publishers and media personalities behind the business. This intense aura over the media ecosystem, a world that could make someone famous, gave news organizations great power. They had the power to transmit the news, and with that power came a great responsibility.

As with any line of business, news organizations cannot necessarily be expected to demonstrate that responsibility voluntarily, for example, by not spreading political falsehoods, hate messages, and other criticism. To put it another way: in the absence of meaningful regulation, companies operating in a free market economy, including the media, will do whatever they want to maximize shareholder returns. Profit displaces social considerations.

So, to ensure that they would act responsibly, the government created a policy framework.

In India, the contours of media regulation have become sophisticatedly diverse, with laws such as the Press Council Act, 1978, the Medicines and Magical Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954, the Newspaper Act (Price and Page), 1956, and the Photography Act, 1952.

To cite an example, the last of these, a reform of the Indian film industry enacted 70 years ago, states that “a film will not be certified for public exhibition if, in the opinion of the competent authority to grant the certificate, the film or any part of it goes against the interests of 1 (the sovereignty and integrity of India), the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or implies defamation or contempt of the court or is likely to incite the commission of any crime. ” Without the law, the government could not be sure that a fearless director could simply slide offensive content into mass market movies from time to time.

Some might argue that Facebook and Google should also be treated as publishers; They now dominate the media sector in India and often facilitate the spread of offensive content. Until now, they have been considered as open platforms, which allow all kinds of discourse (different types of points of view / all kinds of opinions)but they can drop whatever they want: a conceptualization originally sourced from Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a 1996 United States law that simultaneously states that Internet companies will not be “treated as the publisher or speaker of any information “and not be held responsible for any action taken voluntarily in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material.” The idea was simple: let the Internet grow and develop your own business standards as needed.

Here is the problem. This benevolent regulatory framework has allowed Facebook to claim that it acts as a publisher and reap its censorship rights, but turn around and also claim that it is a discreet platform to reap the benefits of the free speech indulgence. A fairer regime could, instead of giving the company a free pass at both ends, keep its feet on fire both ways. There can be no doubt that the company acts as a novel form of intermediate entity; Even the company’s attorneys have suggested that the company has a “quintessential publisher role” over the “protected” practice of determining “what to post and the decision not to post,” while Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, He also said that the company “should err on the side of greater expression.”

So if it’s true that internet companies do have editorial power, and it is, as long as they decide what specific news, search results, and social media posts will show us among the billions of possibilities, then let’s treat them as such. The responsibility now must rest with the national government to do the right thing for its citizens.– many of which have been attacked, tricked and deceived, which has been enabled by Internet platforms. The time has come to impose decency in exchange for continued participation in the Indian consumer market.

Dipayan Ghosh, Ph.D, is co-director of the Digital Platforms and Democracy Project at Harvard Kennedy School. He was a policy adviser at the White House during the Obama administration and later served as a policy officer at Facebook. He is the author of the next Terms of Service: How Silicon Valley is destructive by design.
The opinions expressed are personal.

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