Today's Editorial

Today's Editorial - 15 March 2024

In issuing AI advisory, MEITY becomes a deity


Relevance: GS Paper II & III

Why in News?

Recently, MEITY issued an advisory to several large platforms for the regulation of generative Artificial Intelligence (AI). It was immediately criticised by both a cross-section of experts in regulation and AI and even the more reticent start-up founders.

Overzealous regulation:

  • Until a few years ago, the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY/MeitY) was called the Department of Electronics and IT, or DEITY.
    • The abbreviation often led to its overzealous and early attempts to censor the Internet or regulate technology.
      • One of the instance was on March 1, 2024, when MEITY issued an advisory to several large platforms for the regulation of generative Artificial Intelligence (AI).
  • The recent advisory on AI, dated March 1, 2024, marks an escalation following earlier advisories on generative AI (November, 2023, and December, 2023).
    • In November, the Rashmika Mandanna deepfake video went viral.
    • In December, the Prime Minister issued a public warning to “ very careful before believing the authenticity of a video or an image”.
    • In February, a Twitter/X user posted a screenshot of Google’s AI response to the question, “Is Modi a fascist?”.
  • MEITY shortly afterwards issued an advisory on each of these occasions.
  • The other common link between all three advisories is the opportunistic transparency adopted by MEITY.
    • The November advisory cited social media platforms’ censorship obligations under the IT Rules, 2021.
    • The December advisory reminded platforms to educate users about Indian law under the IT Rules, 2021.
  • In many ways, these were meaningless other than being official coercion for social media companies to perform more proactive censorship.

Ambiguous stance on legal status:

  • The term “advisory” lacks definition under the principal legislation empowering MEITY and the Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act).
    • Unlike regulatory bodies like the Securities and Exchange Board of India, MEITY has no residual powers.
  • Still, it has regularly issued advisories since 2020, with four published on its website until June 2022 and none thereafter.
    • These advisories, aimed at “all social media platforms”, demand vague censorship without citing any legal authority.
    • These advisories are more than mere suggestions. One is even titled “notice”, indicating MEITY’s ambiguous stance on the legal status of these advisories.
    • They imply compliance without stating clear penalties.

‘Undefined’ terms:

  • The advisory vaguely directs compliance for AI models, including bias prevention and a licensing regime for “under testing” or “unreliable” AI.
    • These terms escape the definition under the IT Act, the IT Rules or even the advisory itself. Glaring errors and phrases such as “Indian internet” increase uncertainty.
  • On March 4 the government claimed that the advisory “needs to be understood” and abruptly exempted “startups”. Later, facing growing online criticism and ridicule, the government issued a second clarification. But there were signs of a climbdown: “Advisory was simply that — advise”.
    • The government avoided any comment on the licensing requirement that goes far beyond the dictionary meaning of “advice”.

Shift from deliberation to influencer culture:

  • The IT Rules, 2021, which were initially intended to regulate user-generated content, have expanded into the “everything law”.
    • Its overreach encompasses digital news, video streaming, and online gaming, prompting many High Courts to question its constitutionality.
  • The practice of issuing advisories without amendments to the IT Rules but merely referring to them represents a further decline in administrative standards.
  • Moreover, advisories are subsequently modified on social media posts without any official documentation. This demonstrates how technology policy is increasingly driven by an influencer culture.
  • Policy decisions are swayed by press coverage and social media metrics rather than the processes of working groups and stakeholder consultations.


MEITY's approach to the advisory was overzealous; this raises concerns about their regulatory approach. There is a lack of transparency and legal ambiguity, indicating a shift towards authoritarianism in technology policy-making. There should be proper deliberation and discussions with the working groups, before making policy decisions.