Dilution of Digital Intermediary Rights to Hamper Investments in India: IAMAI

Intermediary Rights of the digital industry are fundamental to the growth of the sector and any move to dilute the intermediary rights will prove to be a deterrent to the growth of the sector and also the foreign investments. The digital industry has during the last five years experienced a rapid growth and any policy uncertainty will throttle the pace of growth and will impact large scale investments.  These are some of the concerns raised by panellists in a conference organised by IAMAI to discuss safeguarding safe harbour provisions for digital intermediaries. The conference had representatives from civil society, law firms and industry to explore the various facets of the issue related to regulating digital intermediaries.

The conference started with the discussions revolving around the criticality of Intermediary Safe harbour for digital services. The panellists highlighted that Intermediaries, who are essentially technology platform providers for third party content hosting, are the mainstay of most of the popular digital services we use. Thus, any regulation for intermediaries impact a very broad set of services across different sectors of the economy and over-regulation may hamper the digital ecosystem. Pavan Duggal, Supreme Court lawyer shared his thoughts concerning how fundamental changes are needed and why new suggested regulations risk creating a burden and impacting the businesses. He also highlighted that there is a need for a consistent policy and clarification and stressed on the need for adopting a holistic framework. Rajat Garg (Co-founder MyUpchaar) suggested that start-ups need a stable environment to grow and required policy frameworks that provide ease for new start-ups to raise investments and scale up.

The panellists discussed that while the industry acknowledges the genuine concerns like Fake News, Counterfeit and Digital Piracy that do need to be addressed, several sectoral regulators are suggesting provisions that force digital intermediaries to undertake activities and liabilities that go beyond the remit of a digital intermediary. Panellists discussed the difference between lawful interventions and the right to privacy involved with certain forms of digital intermediary services, and how certain regulations like proactive monitoring risk freedom of expression.

The panel on future of regulating intermediaries discussed critical issues like the digital literacy of the Indian audience, the uniqueness of the challenges in India given the difference of regulatory framework in India compared to some other countries. For instance, the present suggestions of local incorporation for intermediaries can be replaced by a nodal officer in India for the same regulatory objectives. Certain panellists talked about the Code of Conduct initiated between social media platforms and the Election Commission of India (ECI) under the aegis of IAMAI that can serve as an example of collaborative regulation.

The conference was an attempt to allow free-flow discussion to share and acknowledge the different perspectives regarding intermediary roles and safe harbour rights. The association is attempting to evolve a holistic perspective that will help address the genuine concerns without compromising the safe harbour provisions for intermediaries.

Other speakers at the conference included: Dinesh Agarwal (CEO Indiamart), Shagufta Kamran (Twitter), Udbhav Tiwari (Mozilla) among others.

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