Is 2021 the year of Big Tech legislation?

Sunil Rajguru
New Update
Is 2021 the year of Big Tech legislation?

In 2020, the Indian government cracked down on Chinese apps in a big way. In various stages, overall hundreds of apps were banned either generally for the citizens or specifically for soldiers at the border. Two of the most high-profile ones were the immensely popular battle royale game PUBG and teen sensation TikTok. Soon after the US government also cracked down on Big Tech and then sealed the rising global ambitions of TikTok.


The US saw a slew of antitrust cases against Big Tech, the likes of Google and Facebook by multiple states and the US Congress summoned Silicon Valley moguls for questioning. The banning of the then US President Donald Trump by many US tech platforms sent alarm bells ringing among many global leaders, for they could also theoretically be banned in the future. The move was condemned by even Trump critics. How these leaders react this year to protect their interests may also be the hot topic of 2021. Russia had slowed down Twitter services in the country over non-compliance issues related to the political campaign of Vladimir Putin rival Alexei Navalny. After that Facebook froze the page of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro because he promised a miracle cure for Covid.

Australia decided that these giants should pay the mainstream media for the use of their content and prepared legislation accordingly. That was implemented this year with a grace period for the giants to sort out their issues. Earlier Alphabet had threatened to close down its Google Search in that country. Facebook had banned users from posting and sharing links from Australian media sites and even added the Australian State Health Departments, Emergency Services and The Bureau of Meteorology.

A minister called it an attack on a sovereign nation and Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Facebook had unfriended Australia, warning that no Big Tech was above government laws. After that, they have come out with a white paper that is looking to default settings on pre-installed web browsers and search engines that could be giving them an undue advantage.


The IT Ministry in India has said that there will be stricter scrutiny and compliance from now on when it comes to spreading misinformation on the Net. There is something called the tracking of the ‘first originator’ or ‘creator of mischief’ in messages. WhatsApp will have its hands full if it has to identify all those messages and what happens to end-to-end encryption?

Social media intermediaries will have to hire a Grievance Officer who will have to register a complaint within 24 hours and address it in 15 days. There should also be a Chief Compliance Officer and Nodal Contact Person all of whom should be Indian citizens. That’s not all, they will also have to come out with a monthly compliance report. Aadhaar and mobiles have been suggested as possible mechanisms to verify social media users.

This is after the Indian government had asked Twitter to take down handles spreading misinformation relating to the new Indian Farm laws leading to riots. Twitter banned some, reversed some and tried to counter some more under freedom of speech and was involved in a confrontation with the government.


OTT regulation is also an ongoing process and the likes of Netflix and Hotstar will have to certify their content the way films already do, this time with 5 age categories. They will have to come out with a three-tier redressal mechanism. Interestingly in a case, even the Supreme Court seemed to be in favour of regulation, observing that in some cases even pornography was shown on such platforms and called for a balance.

India is coming out with “The Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021” “To create a facilitative framework for the creation of the official digital currency to be issued by the Reserve Bank of India.” One thing that doesn’t look good is to keep out private cryptocurrency especially with the spectacular success of Bitcoin. Modi has talked about using blockchain for governance. However, there does seem to be some softening off late when it comes to the use of Bitcoin.

Earlier in the year, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal had sought information on a Reuters Investigates report that claimed that Amazon in India skirted the rules and favoured big sellers, at the cost of small retailers. The Competition Commission of India is already looking into both Amazon and Flipkart, which has been taken over by Walmart. The national e-commerce policy may ask these companies for the source code for their algorithms. The issue of the fairness of algorithms will also be looked into.

For those expecting a respite after Joe Biden took over as US President, they were in for a bit of a shock as the administration is being packed with antitrust experts. The EU is looking to toughen up the GDPR regime, which some experts felt has too many loopholes. Finally, China is also cracking down on tech companies with companies like Alibaba coming under great scrutiny.

Big Tech became Bigger and even more powerful during the Covid crisis. This fact has not escaped Big Government. 

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