Kingshuk Banerjee: All eyes are on the proposed Indian Digital Law (Draft Digital Law), which is due to be submitted to Parliament soon. The new year does not bring great hopes for the global IT industry. On the contrary, the dark clouds of fear about the manpower reduction of large multinational information technology (IT) companies such as ‘Google’ continue to grow. While Europe is on fire from a devastating war, East Asia’s Taiwan Strait has also begun to fluctuate. And its direct impact reached the global semiconductor market.
Delhi’s proposed digital law will take on new meaning in the new year amid ominous signs of a global financial meltdown. Not only the IT industry, but also the general public are very curious about this proposed bill. Because this is the first time an attempt has been made to answer the thousands of questions posed about social media. The biggest reason the IT industry is interested is that the Information and Communications Act currently in effect in Korea is 22 years old. At the time this law was drafted, there was no social media craze, no global conquest of apps. As a result of the industrial environment, the problems were all different.
Why New Entity?
The poet says that he needs to throw away his old clothes and put on new ones because he needs time. Proposed to replace turn-of-the-century laws, these new laws are the call of the times. In 2000, the then government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee enacted legislation to leverage the open economy to make the most of the country’s nascent IT industry. Only 1.2% of the country’s total domestic goods and services (referred to as ‘gross domestic product’ or ‘GDP’) comes from this sector. In 2022, it will be 7.4%. In 2021, the country’s information technology income was $196 billion, but rose to $233 billion the following year. The difference can also be seen in the number of employees. According to statistics, the number of IT workers employed domestically in 2009 was about 1.2 million, but by the end of 2022 it had quadrupled to 48.5 million. This is not the end. If all goes well, by 2030, business in this industry will not only reach $1 million, but will also provide employment to 5 million more people.
It doesn’t end here. The future vision proposed by Nascom, an organization of domestic information technology companies, clearly shows the need for a new mandatory law instead of the current law for large corporations. According to a Nasscom report, India is currently ranked 4th in the world in terms of apps. Online transactions accounted for 5% of GDP in 2017. By 2027 it will be 20%. At the same time, mobile transactions will increase by leaps and bounds. In 2016, transactions through the mobile app were Tk 200 crore, and in 2019, Tk 1 lakh 83,000 crore, a whopping 917-fold increase. Unsurprisingly, online shopping has skyrocketed with the help of information technology. According to statistics, domestic e-commerce sales increased from $14 billion in 2014 to $75 billion in 2022. It is expected to reach $35 billion by 2030.
The country’s digital landscape has also changed over the past 22 years. According to the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) statistics, as of the end of October 2022, 79 million of India’s 1.17 billion mobile subscribers were online.
The number of social media users is staggering! Statistics show that in 2022, of the 4.7 billion Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and WhatsApp users worldwide, 460 million will be Indians. In 2022, it added about 20 million new users to the domestic social media world. By 2040, South Korea’s social media users are expected to reach 1.53 billion. The point is that the Information Technology Act of 2000 no longer fits the modern era. This is because issues such as personal information protection, financial transactions, media reports, and social media information sharing have emerged. Therefore, the law of 2000 must be completely changed. Indian digital law should do just that.
News revenue share and a few questions
A major focus of the new law is how to share news and information from social media with the media.
There are thousands of questions here. For example, if a multinational social media company signs a unilateral long-term news reporting agreement with a major news agency (as in the case of Australia’s Rupert Murdoch-led newsgroup ‘Google’), where does the small-to-medium-size media outlet go? Selling that information and news is in the hands of big corporations! But ‘social media’ is where billions of people around the world talk. And the small press also provides a lot of important news.
If social media had a unilateral agreement with the big media, doubts would arise as to whether news links could be used! Local level news is important to small and medium media outlets, but large media outlets often do not provide it for a variety of reasons. For example, the news of the Gariahat traffic jam in Kolkata, which is important to the people of South Kolkata, may not have entered the radar of the major media outlets. Again, only the big media can analyze an issue holistically. That’s why it’s so important to stay in touch with all kinds of information and news on social media.
I have more questions. Can media big and small get deals with social media companies? who will see these? When a dispute arises, who will listen to both sides and take action? In that case, would there be a regulatory body like TRAI at the head of social media companies? The point is whether doing business in India has to comply with the regulations of that country according to the regulatory body.
More questions: If social media collects news from individuals rather than news organizations, how will revenue be shared? This is because complaints from local residents have become popular these days. The same applies to vlogs. Nowadays, audio and video blogs, as well as articles on food, cooking, health awareness, sports, travel and even national and international news analysis are published on social media and are regularly ‘followed’ by thousands of users. In this case, carriers and individuals will be measured on the same basis, right? If not, on what basis is the income distribution given to individuals? Who sets these standards?
Copyright issues also arise in the case of individuals. Let’s say someone uses a photo they took on Facebook. So, are royalties given to photographers as copyrights? The same goes for your own posts. Who will determine the criteria for this award?
According to Australia’s former Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher (the 2020-2022 minister introduced the ‘Media Negotiation Code’ to ensure that content developers receive fair royalties from social media), Google-Facebook shares ad revenue with digital content providers. You should. Remember, ads are coming, but for content. In Fletcher’s words, ‘India, Britain, France, America – it’s a burning issue in every country. Governments of all countries should legislate against this. It should be seen that the final decision on this matter rests with the government, not the IT companies.’ Canada is also introducing new broadcasting laws in this regard.
So, will the new law talk about the creation of an autonomous neutral body to regulate social media in the country? Ninduke, however, would be skeptical about whether autonomous neutral organizations could work in exhausted countries. Whatever it is, we’re looking forward to it.