AI Is An Opportunity To Avoid Past Mistakes, Says Meity's S Krishnan

S Krishnan, Secretary Meity, Government of India talks about AI, IT Act 2000, Digital India Act, internet regulation and public access to unregulated information among more

"Our perception within the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has been dictated by the rapid changes that have been brought about by the emergence and adoption of artificial intelligence,” remarked S Krishnan, Secretary Meity, Government of India, as he delves into how people are waking up to the risks and problems that AI poses.

Addressing an industry gathering in Delhi on 6 February 2024, Krishnan noted that however, it is more a matter of change in terms of degree than its in terms of kind. He said, “Somewhere then we realise that our current laws do not deal with the whole set of issue that we need them to deal with.”

IT Act (2000) and Evolution of Internet

The IT Act of 2000 was forward-looking at the time, but it was formulated on the basis that the internet was a utility where most of the information was simply to be carried from one medium to another or one end to the other. Therefore, internet intermediaries, were defined as people who provided the service and somebody using the internet was putting up the stuff, therefore, they took responsibility for whatever they put up. According to Krishnan, that is not what an internet intermediary means today.

He explained that the internet has become very ubiquitous and everyone uses it to a great extent. Krishnan emphasised, “Content which gets generated through digital news providers who curate news content and they have a series of journalists who will fact-check various things and follow a rigorous process before putting something out in the public space, gets treated on par with someone who just voices an opinion. This is the problem that society is struggling with today.”

Advent of AI and Digital India Act

The Secretary asserted that with the advent of AI, it is an opportunity to not repeat the mistakes of the past.

Krishnan underscored, “These mistakes are apparent in the sense that with the safe harbour provision, what goes on to the internet in the name of free speech is virtually unregulated and it has its own set of issues across the world.”

He added that there is a feeling that the law needs to be written in a way so that it doesn’t need to change at all.

However, he explained, “The pace of technological change defeats all attempts at keeping a law current. Therefore, a law which is 25 years old and rules which in some cases are two years old, we need to keep revisiting.”

Krishnan said that it’s important that the internet as a public service gets preserved for the health of our society and democracy. What is done in terms of law in this sector needs to make sure that what is qualitatively different and required for society is addressed adequately.

The Secretary added, “As we continue work on the new Digital India Act, we have identified some areas of concern and it’s a space that we would want to look at much more closely to ensure that the concerns that the news industry has and the broader public interest in terms of well-curated and fact-checked information being available for the public at large need to be addressed.”