India changes AI stance, requires government approval for model launch

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India has waded into the global AI debate by issuing an advisory requiring tech firms to seek government approval before launching new models.

India’s Ministry of Electronics and IT issued an advisory to firms on Friday. The advisory, not published in the public domain but a copy of which was reviewed by TechCrunch, also asks tech firms to ensure that their services or products “do not contain any form of bias or discrimination.” do not permit or threaten the integrity of the electoral process.”

While the ministry acknowledges that the advisory is not legally binding, India’s IT deputy minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar says the notice “signals that this is the future of regulation.”

He adds: “We are doing this today as an advisory and asking you to comply.”

In its advisory, the ministry referred to the power given to it by the IT Act 2000 and the IT Rules 2021. It seeks compliance with “immediate effect” and asks tech firms to submit an “action-taken-cum-status report” to the ministry within 15 days.

The new advisory, which also asks tech firms to “adequately” label the “possible and inherent error or unreliability” of the output produced by their AI models, India’s guidelines for AI regulation. This is the reverse of the previous hands-off approach. Less than a year ago, the ministry refused to regulate the development of AI, instead citing the sector as vital to India’s strategic interests.

India’s move has taken many industrialists by surprise. Many Indian startups and VCs say they fear the new advisory and believe such regulation will hamper the nation’s ability to compete in the global race, where it is already lagging behind.

“I was very foolish to think that I would work from SF to bring GenAI to Indian agriculture,” wrote Pratik Desai, founder of startup Kisan AI. “We were training a multi-modal low-cost pest and disease model, and were very excited about it. It’s scary and discouraging after 4 full years of work to bring AI to this domain in India. “

Several Silicon Valley leaders also criticized India’s change in policy. Arvind Srinivas, co-founder and chief executive of Perplexity AI, said the new advisory from New Delhi is a “Bad move by India

Martin Casado, a partner at venture firm Andreessen Horowitz, said“Good fucking lord. What a story.”

The advisory comes after Chandrashekhar expressed his dismay at Google’s Gemini in a specific response last month. A user last month asked Gemini, formerly known as Bard, whether Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was a fascist.

In response, Gemini – citing experts he did not identify – said Modi has been accused of implementing policies that some have described as fascist. Chandrasekhar reacted to the exchange by warning Google that such responses were in “direct violation” of the IT Rules 2021 as well as “numerous provisions of the Criminal Code”.

The advisory added that non-compliance with the provisions of the IT Act and IT Rules would result in “potential penal consequences for intermediaries or platforms or its users.”

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