social media platforms

Why it’s time to regulate social media platforms now?

by | May 28, 2021 | Analysis, Viewpoint

It’s been fashionable to criticize governments, but the fact is that today’s social media platforms wield much power and shoulder little responsibility.
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In the last two decades, social media platforms have gotten too big  and powerful but have mostly shrugged responsibility. Moreover, the big ones are literally without competition in their respective markets. There is no close direct competitor to a Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, et al.

In this sense, social media platforms have become analogous to governments that are either free of any opposition or have a very weak opposition to contend with. Isn’t that what we call nonconductive to democracy?

Indeed. Be it Facebook, WhatsApp, or Google, they keep changing privacy policies. Sometimes these changes are to meet the regulatory requirements of the markets they operate in but often these changes are also at their wills (I chose not to use whims here) and fancies. Mostly, these changes are to suit their commercial interests, period.

Arm-twisting users to accept new privacy rules

Take the most recent and glaring instance of WhatsApp, for example. In early 2021, the Facebook-owned social messaging behemoth decided to issue a new privacy-policy diktat to its more than 500 million users in India to take it (the new privacy policy) or leave it (use of the WhatsApp app). After the government didn’t approve of its new privacy policy, WhatsApp did a climbdown from its earlier stand. It has postponed the exit of those users who have not accepted its policy for now.

WhatsApp argues against the government’s new guidelines (see article) on the pretext of servicing the ‘privacy interest’ of its users. At the same time, it tries forcing a privacy policy on users that they don’t approve of, by making a blatant misuse of its dominant position in the social messaging market segment. (It may be noted that Telegram is a distant second to WhatsApp globally as well as in India).

See also: Ironic that WhatsApp breaches privacy but wants govt to practice it.

Sumant ParimalSumant Parimal, Chief Analyst at 5Jewels Research and a keen IT industry observer agrees, “When they (social media companies) want, they impose any kind of term and conditions on users while even compromising privacy of users, but when Indian government asks for something then they are citing privacy as reason for not complying.”

So, what recourse do users have against such misuse of power by these platforms? There is no social-media appellate who could step in to safeguard the democratic interests of netizens. They are left with no other choice but to approach real-world courts and governments, who sometimes do step in and intervene.

Has regulation become a need of the changed times?

There is a thin line between democracy and anarchy, just as there is a thin line between freedom of speech and indecency of speech.

Social media is a platform that espouses the tenets of democracy and freedom of speech but where these cherished values can easily be sucked by dungeons of anarchy and indecent speech.

Worse, social media–and more so the social messaging platforms—can be misused by criminals and terrorists for perpetuating their respective agendas. Tech media is often replete with news of various cybercrimes ranging from digital frauds and cyber stalking to ransomware attacks.

Is government-led regulation of social media platforms needed?

Let’s be fair—the average internet user faces a perennial dilemma whenever the topic crops up. Netizens tend to see government interventions as a double-edged sword, which can cut both ways. There have been numerous instances in the past when netizens have opposed steps taken by governments to regulate the internet.

There are obvious reasons for users to be distrustful of both the government and the internet companies when it comes to protecting their freedom of speech and expression, particularly on social media platforms.

While the average utopian users will quite likely be fine with an intervention that rids social media platforms of obscenity, violence, and disharmonies of all kinds, they may not like any intrusive policing and patrolling of their social walls and communities.

Alas, internet is no longer the global village it was conceived to be!

Nevertheless, with the right regulatory mechanisms in place, it can be made a lot better than what it is today.

Verified accounts are a good way to autoregulate

Anshuman TiwariAnshuman Tiwari, a well-known process transformation professional, podcaster, and YouTuber has summed it up aptly, “So there is this chaos around the banning of some social media services in India. While we can debate the interest and logic in doing this, there is a huge opportunity to sort this mess. All social media should be ‘verified.’ Verified accounts will behave better. And the trolls will be careful. Essentially, what you can’t say in real life and get away with should also be not said online.”

A lot of people will lose a lot of ‘followers’ though, he quips.

A good thing is that amidst all the recent social-media din and commotion in the wake of the Intermediary Guidelines issued earlier by Ministry of Electronics and IT (MEITY), there has been some positive development on the front. Most significantly, Twitter has recently said it will enable a system for users to verify their Twitter accounts. It noted on its official website, “Starting May 20, 2021, we’ll begin rolling out verification applications to everyone. If you don’t see it in your Account Settings tab right away, don’t worry! Everyone should be able to apply soon.”

It is a well-known fact that getting an account ‘verified’ on Twitter has historically been one of the most arduous and hard-to-achieve tasks for a common Twitterati.

Multi-stakeholder regulation can infuse trust

When it comes to the wider impact of social media, there are multiple stakeholders at play. These include the general users, the government, the opposition, public figures, businesses, academia, judiciary, and the social media platforms themselves, among others.

So, a panel that comprises representations from several of these stakeholder groups should ideally be allowed to monitor, judge, and moderate the social media platforms. Such a measure would help alleviate the apprehensions that the new rules and regulations may be misused by a government in power.

It would also ensure that social media has not just power, but also shoulders the responsibility that is required of an internet intermediary in today’s context. With up to half of India’s eligible population (less than 13/14 years of age) likely to be on one social media platform or the other, there indeed is a need to ensure that these platforms are not used by elements that are detrimental to the society and the nation.

Indeed, when too much power, direct or indirect, gets concentrated in any institution or platform, it is important to put the right set of checks and balances in place.

By issuing the intermediary guidelines, the government has done well to put the necessary checks in place. What it needs to do now is to balance it all by constituting a multi-stakeholder mechanism (panel) to monitor any potential breach and recommend any corrective measures or punitive actions to the concerned government authorities.

This way, the panel itself works like an intermediary between the government and the social media companies as well as between the users and the government or the social media companies.

MORE FROM BETTER WORLD

GST sops for EVs, charging come into force

GST sops for EVs, charging come into force

ev-charging

GST on EVs and EV charging is down to 5%.

The recently slashed GST rates on all electric vehicles (EVs) have come into effect from today. All EVs, small or big, personal or commercial, will be costing 7% less as compared to the day before. The rate cut was announced only five days ago at the 36th GST Council meeting chaired by Union Finance & Corporate Affairs Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and attended by Union Minister of State for Finance & Corporate Affairs Anurag Thakur besides Revenue Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey and other senior officials of the Ministry of Finance. In the meeting held on 27 July, the GST rates were cut to 5% from 12% earlier. see news)

As announced in the meeting, the GST rates have also come down from today on chargers or charging stations for EVs. As against 18% earlier, a new rate of 5% has become applicable from today.

Additionally, hiring of electric buses with carrying capacity of more than 12 passengers by local authorities will be completely exempted from GST.

Atal Community Innovation Centre launched

Atal Community Innovation Centre launched

Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas & Steel Dharmendra Pradhan launched Atal Community Innovation Centre (ACIC) in New Delhi, to encourage the spirit of innovation at the community level. This initiative aims to encourage the spirit of innovation through solution-driven design thinking to serve society, a PIB release said.

Speaking on the occasion, Pradhan said, Atal Innovation Mission has a key role to perform in order to achieve the target of five trillion dollar economy by 2025. He urged the NITI Aayog to open innovation Centres in all Gram Panchayats of the country to promote local innovation. Pradhan said innovation is part of every Indian’s daily affairs and there is need to support and promote them.He said that traditional and conventional knowledge available in the country needs to be supported and brought into the mainstream, through innovative mechanism.

Dharmendra Pradhan

The minister urged for innovative mechanism to harness and support traditional knowledge in the country.

Lauding the efforts of NITI Aayog in coming up with the idea of ACICs, the Minister said that they will make available cutting-edge innovation platforms across all corners of our country, with a focus on Aspirational Districts, Tier 2 and 3 cities and to North-east and J&K which will give a fillip to the skill development and employment opportunities in these areas. ACIC’s grassroot-level approach shall focus on a community oriented problem solving through small ideas with a big impact. ACICs will become a conduit for CSR funding by private and public sector firms in addition to direct funding through Atal Innovation Mission (AIM).

Pradhan said reducing the lab to land distance is one of the key objectives of AIM and Atal Community Innovation Centre will help in further strengthening our mission to strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem of India. ACICs will add a new chapter to India’s innovation story. It is a platform where the most innovative minds of the country can get access to solutions to modern entrepreneurial challenges.

The Minister also said that India produces approx. 600 MMT of non-fossilised biomass through farm waste, which if converted to energy can help usher prosperity in rural economy, promote a sustainable energy future & make our Annadatas, our ‘Urjadata’, in line with Hon. PM’s vision of Waste to Wealth creation. This is a CSR initiative in true sense.He expressed full support for the culture of innovation in the Country and assured that the public sector undertakings from Steel and Petroleum Sectors will provide support and hand-holding in this innovation mission. “I have asked Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) to support this initiative, I also request NITI Aayog & AIM to innovate ACICs to help in finding innovative solutions to extract consumable energy from Biomass available in the country”, Pradhan said. The Minister added that Unique and incentivized solutions offered by ACICs will encourage students, researchers and other individuals/group of individuals to ideate and design novel solutions. ACICs will also connect innovative thinkers to our market and mainstream economy.

ACIC is a new initiative of Atal Innovation Mission to support community innovation drive in the country. The program is directed to encourage the spirit of innovation through solution driven design thinking to serve the society. It will focus on underserved and unserved regions of the country which at present lack a vibrant start-up and innovation ecosystem. ACIC will be established either in PPP mode or with support of PSUs and other agencies. The maximum grant-in-aid support form AIM will be up to 2.5 crores subject following compliance to ACIC guidelines and contributing matching form the host institutions and their funding partners.

Following are the distinguishing features of the program:

  • Enabling infrastructure for building innovation ecosystem in above proposed areas.
  • Community oriented approach to innovation by enabling solutions through advanced tinkering
  • Offer opportunities to innovators to ideate in areas of societal importance
  • Capacity building of communities in evolving technologies and taking their solutions from ideation to prototype.
  • Promoting design thinking process to spur innovation
  • Providing a framework to engage local industries to facilitate offering of innovative solutions in their products, services and processes
  • Public private Partnership (PPP) mode to ensure financial sustainability and participationof central agencies, PSUs etc. to mobilize resources for running the program
  • Offer an opportunity for everyone to innovate, ideate and design impactful solutions, irrespective of their age.
  • One of the unique feature of this program wherein talented students and youth of ITI and Diploma will be offered opportunity to display their and build innovative solutions through ACIC.
  • The program will offer a big leapfrog jump towards establishing Indian for further scale up the ranking in Global Innovation Index.

The Vice-Chairman of the NITI Aayog Rajiv Kumar and CEO of the Aayog Amitabh Kant also spoke on the occasion.

A new logo, posters, brochure and video, AICC website, and application portal were also launched on the occasion.

Innovate to turn biomass into energy: Pradhan

Innovate to turn biomass into energy: Pradhan

Dharmendra Pradhan

The minister says 600 MMT of non-fossilized biomass could be converted to energy.

Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas & Steel Dharmendra Pradhan has said that India produces approximately 600 MMT of non-fossilized biomass through farm waste, as per a Press Information Bureau release. This, if converted to energy, can help usher prosperity in rural economy, promote a sustainable energy and make our Annadatas (foodgrains providers), our Urjadatas (energy providers), in line with PM’s vision of Waste to Wealth creation.

Pradhan was speaking at the launch of Atal Community Innovation Centre (ACIC) in New Delhi, which has been set up to encourage the spirit of innovation at the community level across the country.

Noting that this was a CSR initiative in true sense, Pradhan expressed full support for the culture of innovation in the country and assured that the public sector undertakings from steel and petroleum sectors will provide support and hand-holding in this innovation mission. “I have asked Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) to support this initiative, I also request NITI Aayog & AIM to innovate ACICs to help in finding innovative solutions to extract consumable energy from Biomass available in the country”, the minister said. He added that unique and incentivized solutions offered by ACICs will encourage students, researchers and other individuals/group of individuals to ideate and design novel solutions. ACICs will also connect innovative thinkers to our market and mainstream economy.

India holds energy talks with Niger, Togo, and Tonga

India holds energy talks with Niger, Togo, and Tonga

Amina Moumouni, the Minister of Energy, Niger.

Marc Dederiwe Ably- Bidamon, Minister of Energy and Mines, Togo.

Union Minister of State for Power and New & Renewable Energy (IC) and Skill Development & Entrepreneurship RK Singh held bilateral meetings with Energy Ministers of Niger, Togo, and Tonga on 30 July. The bilateral talks were held with Amina Moumouni, the Minister of Energy, Niger; Marc Dederiwe Ably- Bidamon, Minister of Energy and Mines, Togo and Poasi Mataele Tei, Minister of Energy, Tonga in New Delhi, a PIB release said.

Poasi Mataele Tei, Minister of Energy, Tonga.

The meetings were held on the sidelines of first International Solar Alliance (ISA) Standing Committee Meeting in New Delhi. During the meetings, the Minister discussed various issues pertaining to ISA and areas of bilateral cooperation between India and these countries in Energy sector.

The ISA is an alliance of more than 122 countries headquartered in India. As the largest grouping of countries after the United Nations, ISA’s objective is to leverage solar energy in an efficient manner in order to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. As per the International Solar Alliance (ISA), it is conceived as a coalition of solar resource rich countries to address their special energy needs and provide a platform to collaborate on addressing the identified gaps through a common, agreed approach. The initiative was first proposed by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015.

 

Govt mulls waterways for the Northeast region

Govt mulls waterways for the Northeast region

(Representative image)

The Ministry of Shipping is keen to start inland waterways navigation and passenger transportation in the rivers in the North Eastern states of the country. Mansukh Mandaviya, Minister of State (Independent Charge) of Shipping and MoS, C&F has said that the public sector company Water and Power Consultancy Services Limited (WAPCOS) is preparing a model detailed project report (DPR) for implementing projects for running low-cost ferry services in the inland waterways in these states. This model DPR can be adopted for quick implementation by the Inland Waterways Authority of India in consultation with the different state governments in the region.

As per a PIB release, Mandaviya also said that inland waterways transport can be a game changer for the North Eastern states as land routes here are often long, circuitous and time consuming due to the difficult terrain. Besides bringing ease of movement, the waterways projects will also help generate employment locally, he said.

It is noteworthy that after the passing of the 2016 National Waterways Act, India has made significant progress in developing new waterways. When it comes to the Northeast, waterway navigation could help cut distances as well as the carbon footprint in the region by several notches and hence may be seen as a positive for the environment. Given the intent to focus on low-cost ferry services, the impact on river ecology may also be designed to be minimum.

PM lays stress on balancing development and environment as tiger count nears 3,000

PM lays stress on balancing development and environment as tiger count nears 3,000

royal bengal tiger

A Royal Bengal tiger in Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh, India. (Source: Wikipedia)

On the occasion of Global Tiger Day today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi released the results of the fourth cycle of All India Tiger Estimation – 2018, at Lok Kalyan Marg in New Delhi. The count of tigers in India, has risen to 2,967, in 2018, according to this survey.

Speaking on the occasion, the Prime Minister described this as a historic achievement for India, and reaffirmed India’s commitment towards protecting the tiger. The Prime Minister appreciated the speed and dedication with which various stakeholders worked to achieve this. He described it as one of the finest examples of Sankalp Se Siddhi. Once the people of India decide to do something, there is no force that can prevent them from getting the desired results, he declared.

The Prime Minister said that with almost 3000 tigers, India is today among the biggest and most secure habitats.

Prime Minister asserted that the way ahead is “collectiveness” instead of “selectiveness.” He said that a broad-based and holistic look is essential for environmental conservation. He said, it is possible to strike a healthy balance between development and environment. “In our policies, in our economics, we have to change the conversation about conservation,” he added.

India will build more homes for our citizens and that the same time create quality habitats for animals. India will have a vibrant marine economy and a healthier marine ecology. This balance is what will contribute to a strong and inclusive India, the Prime Minister asserted.

He expressed confidence that India will prosper both economically and environmentally; India will build more roads and India will have cleaner rivers; India will have better train connectivity and also greater tree coverage.

He said that in the last five years, while work has proceeded at a fast pace for next-generation infrastructure, the forest cover in the country has also grown. There has also been an increase in the “protected areas.” In 2014, there were 692 protected areas, which increased to more than 860 in 2019. The “Community Reserves” have also grown from 43, in 2014, to more than 100 now.

The Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Prakash Javdekar; the Union Minister of State for Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Babul Supriyo; and the Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, C.K. Mishra, were present on the occasion.

News Source: Press Information Bureau 

Pix Source: Wikipedia (see attribution)

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