India needs independent regulatory body to oversee Big Tech firms: Sushil Modi

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Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lawmaker Sushil Modi on Tuesday said India needs an independent regulatory body that will regulate the activities of Big Tech firms and ensure that they dedicate proper budgetary allocation towards “content moderation” as well as “revenue sharing” with traditional media organisations.

He also accused social media platform Facebook of not flagging fake content and hate speech, thereby “undermining [the] safety” of users in India.

Speaking in the Rajya Sabha during zero hour, Modi said Google and Facebook together dominate around 75% of the digital advertising market in India.

“With ad revenues of 23,213 crore – 9,326 crore for Facebook and 13,887 crore for Google – they (Facebook and Google) earn a share higher than the combined revenues of the top 10 listed traditional media companies. At 8,396 crore through their advertisement reseller model, they send away the major portion. Facebook sends 90% of gross advertisement revenues to the global subsidiary, while Google India sends 87%,” he said.

The lawmaker claimed that these Big Tech firms don’t pay traditional news platforms sufficiently despite making money by displaying their journalistic content.

“To ensure this following an EU directive, countries such as France, Germany and Australia have already legislated neighbouring rights in which platforms such as Google are made to pay traditional media outlets for use of their content,” he said.

Criticising the companies for not flagging hate speech and fake news, Modi said, “Facebook is undermining safety of the largest user base of 34 crore users in India. It does not flag problematic content such as fake [news], misinformation and hate speech. As per a report, Facebook found that over 40% top views in the state of West Bengal were ‘fake or unauthentic’.”

Modi said the social media giant spends “a miniscule 13% of its budget” to flag content outside the US. The MP also said with its budget allocation for India, the platform lacks capacity to flag content for Hindi and Bangla languages.

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