India’s intermediary guidelines affect products like LinkedIn, GitHub: Microsoft’s Brad Smith

Microsoft’s President Brad Smith.  (Reuters)

India plays an important role in the regulation of technology in future, according to Microsoft’s President Brad Smith. “India has really been at the forefront in my view, together with the EU, in advancing principles around digital sovereignty,” Smith said while speaking to journalists over a call today. 

 “Our reaction is that we need to adapt, we need to address the market’s needs and respond to the government’s concerns. And you see that in the public cloud region that we have setup for India, and in our conversations with the government,” he added.

According to Smith, the government’s new Intermediary Guidelines affect products like LinkedIn and GitHub, which are owned by Microsoft, and the company will respect the laws. While companies like Twitter and Facebook-owned WhatsApp have publicly voiced their concerns over regulations at times, Smith said Microsoft has also been “engaging” with the government through industry bodies like Nasscom and through other means, like submitting views to the government.

 “I think that we’ve probably been more supportive in regulations playing a role than the other companies you mentioned. So we probably get less attention,” he said. “From our perspective, there’s good reason for that. We’ve been saying throughout that we need to start with the recognition that different countries have different needs, they want to ensure that technology is subject to their laws and addresses their values, and I think it’s our job to figure out how to make that work,” he added. “We are less controversial, perhaps, and therefore we get less attention,” he added.

In India, micro-blogging platform Twitter has tussled with the government over compliance with its new IT Rules, while Facebook-owned messaging giant WhatsApp has sued the government over traceability norms enforced in the rules.

Further, Smith said that regulations formed in South Korea and Japan over the past week, which regulate how Google and Apple operate their App Stores, are perhaps the most significant tech regulations in 2021 so far. “I think that is a reflection of what we’re going to continue to see. We’re going to continue to see it across Asia, and the rest of the world,” he said.

While software developers building apps for Windows aren’t required to use the company’s app store, with the launch of Windows 11, Microsoft had said that it will allow developers to keep 100% of their revenue by using alternate payment systems in their apps even if they distribute through Microsoft’s Store. 

South Korea and Japan passed regulations that are meant to stop Google and Apple from forcing their own built in payment systems on developers who use their app stores to distribute apps. Google and Apple are facing allegations over this in the US and India as well. Smith claimed that Microsoft is trying to ensure that its cloud service, Azure, and operating system Windows, remains an “open platform”. 

Lastly, the top Microsoft executive said that one of the leading international relations themes comes out of Washington DC this year is a “focus on closer collaboration” between the US, Japan, Australia and India. He also noted that the bilateral technology relationship between the US and China is important and the two countries need to provide clarity on how they intend to manage import and export of technology between each other.

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