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Union minister says AI advisory not aimed at startups, but doubts remain

Advisory is aimed at the significant platforms and permission seeking from Meity is only for large platforms and will not apply to startups, Chandrashekhar posted on 'X'.
Last Updated 04 March 2024, 23:51 IST

Bengaluru: Union Minister Rajeev Chandrashekhar on Monday clarified that the recently issued government advisory on seeking approval before deploying artificial intelligence models publicly applies only to ‘significant platforms’ and not startups.

“Advisory is aimed at the significant platforms and permission seeking from Meity is only for large platforms and will not apply to startups,” Chandrashekhar, who is the Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology, posted on social media platform X.

He also clarified that the advisory is aimed at untested AI platforms looking to deploy on the “Indian Internet.”

This comes days after the government issued an advisory on March 1 directing platforms that are being tested or trained will have to seek approval from the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (Meity) before launching AI products to the mass market, to widespread criticism from developers. The move was widely criticized over the weekend, with one X user calling it India’s ‘AI Salt Tax’.

Companies were also advised to clearly label if a product is under testing and inform users through a consent based disclosure that it may display erroneous and unreliable information.

“Process of seeking permission, labeling & consent based disclosure to users about untested platforms is an insurance policy to platforms who can otherwise be sued by consumers,” Chandrashekhar said on Monday.

While his latest clarification exempting startups has brought some cheer to the technology community, it triggered a new set of doubts due to vagueness of certain parameters.

“Not for startups! A good start. The next step would be defining revenue and user base numbers to classify a startup, which would clear the uncertainty cloud for many of us,” tweeted Pratik Desai, founder of Agri-tech platform Kissan AI.

Many were left questioning the definition of prominent or large platforms compared to startups, how tested models will be defined, who will be entrusted with approving the models, and if such a framework could be applicable for rapidly evolving technologies. Others lamented that such a diktat could burden technology firms with regulatory hurdles, and be buried under bureaucratic red tape.

Nevertheless, the move was heralded by Union IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, who said that the safety of Indian citizens and the democracy necessitated such an advisory, which he clarified was not a regulatory framework in itself.

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(Published 04 March 2024, 23:51 IST)

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