Tech Ticker Issue 38: July 2022 – Telecommunications, Mobile & Cable Communications

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Here’s a 5 minute rundown of what’s happened since the last time we spoke to you.

And you, Twitter?

Blown legally: Earlier in July, Twitter challenged content takedown orders issued by the IT Department in the Karnataka High Court. The case has been admitted by the High Court and will next be heard on August 25. The High Court also ordered Twitter to file the content takedown orders issued to it in a sealed cover – to ensure their confidentiality is maintained.

Twitter cited procedural shortcomings in issuing orders under the Information Technology (Computers Act) 2000 and infringement of users’ right to free speech as main grounds for the lawsuit . The IT Ministry had asked Twitter to remove user content/accounts related to farmers’ protests and the Indian government’s alleged mishandling of Covid-19. He gave Twitter an ultimatum to comply with orders or take responsibility for user-generated content on its platform.

Twitter’s rebuttal: Twitter said most of the accounts and content ordered blocked were for arbitrary reasons. And that the takedown orders were unrelated to the ground for blocking content under Section 69A of the Computers Act. This allows blocking only in the interest of national security. Twitter also relied on the IT Ministry’s response to a Delhi High Court case stating that blocking user accounts should be exercised as a last resort. Furthermore, the Supreme Court of India in the Shreya Singhal vs Indian Union upheld the government’s power to issue blocking orders on the grounds that there are “sufficient safeguards” in place, such as notice, to protect users from restrictions on free speech and prevent abuse of the government.

The biggest tweet: This dispute highlights critical issues relating to the government’s content blocking process. The decision in this case will impact the Government Withdrawal Orders and Intermediate Safe Harbor Act. The past few years have seen a steady increase in government efforts to tighten regulations on social media and we have seen a few public clashes between the two sides. It was inevitable that some thorny issues would eventually end up in court. Anyone interested in platform regulation should watch this case. We certainly are.

The Drugs and Cosmetics Act of the 1940s gets a makeover

New version on the block: On July 08, the Ministry of Health published the Medicines, Medical Devices and Cosmetics Bill 2022 to replace the Medicines and Cosmetics Act 1940. This bill aims to regulate different health products such as medical devices, cosmetics, drugs and Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, Sow-Rigpa and Homeopathy (AYUSH) products separately.

What is happening? For each health product, the bill establishes guidance to encourage research and policy advice. The bill also clarifies licensing authorities, sets quality standards, addresses issues such as poor branding and tampering. Some of these entities already exist, while others are new. For example, the bill establishes a new Medical Devices Technical Advisory Council to regulate medical devices. The bill removes medical devices from the definition of drugs, recognizing the need to regulate them separately. Several penalties have also been increased.

Know your online sales: Under the proposed new law, entities must obtain licenses to sell/store drugs, etc. on line. Selling drugs online has been a hot topic for several years now, with the association of retail pharmacists mobilizing against unlicensed online sales. Online pharmacies argue that they are merely intermediaries linking authorized retailers with buyers. Cases are also pending before the high courts. (See our timeline of the history of e-pharmacy in India). In 2018, the Department of Health released draft rules to govern online pharmacies, which remain pending. The bill recognizes online sales but does not take into account the different business models for online sales of drugs, AYUSH products and medical devices.

In case you missed it

Mercury has been retrograde since

  1. Data: On August 3, Mr. Ashwini Vaishnaw, Union IT Minister, withdrew the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019, which has undergone several iterations over the last 5 years, including recommendations from a joint parliamentary committee. The IT ministry is now expected to present a new bill, which may also be open for public consultation.

The stars have aligned for

  1. Competition: The Competition (Amendment) Bill 2022 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on August 5. This bill does not introduce ex ante regulations or regulations that apply prospectively. It provides a settlement and engagement framework within which companies can settle competition cases out of court. It expands the scope of anti-competitive agreements by covering agreements between parties that may not have a vertical relationship. And by introducing provisions on star cartels. It proposes a transaction value threshold of INR 2000 crore – now more transactions are likely to come under the scrutiny of the Competition Commission. However, there was no movement on this bill, with the monsoon session of parliament ending on 08 August.

  2. Telecommunications: The Department of Telecommunications has invited comments on its consultation paper on the need for a new legal framework for telecommunications in India. The document aims to simplify the regulatory framework for telecommunications, including on spectrum management, right of way, the process of mergers/acquisitions and restructuring, and sanctions. Stakeholders can send their comments until August 25, 2022.

  3. Digital game: Noting that digital gaming is an important industry, the State Minister for IT, Mr. Rajeev Chandrashekhar met with a group of gamers to discuss the issues in the sector. Players called for regulating gaming content that could be harmful to women and drew attention to the banning of games like chess in some states. They also pointed to the need for self-regulation in space. Mr. Chandrashekhar said that the opinions of gamers will be taken into account when drafting the next policy on digital games.

  4. Consumer protection: In May, the Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA) and the Advertising Standards Council of India held a meeting with e-commerce stakeholders to discuss measures to tackle fake reviews on e-commerce platforms. During the meeting, Rohit Kumar Singh, DoCA Secretary, noted that reviews play a decisive role in digital commerce and e-commerce and that false/misleading reviews also violate consumers’ right to information. The Central Consumer Protection Authority is developing a framework to tackle fake reviews on e-commerce platforms.

The best Ikigai readings of July:

  • Nehaa and Sreenidhi write in the Times of India on what a new data law must have

  • Anirudh and Nehaa write in the Times of India on the role of investors in creating a good culture of corporate governance in startups

  • Mayank and Anirudh write about privacy coins and their key regulatory concerns

  • Aparna and Anirudh write about regulatory compliance to launch medicinal hemp product

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.

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