Gemini Row: MoS IT Slams Google; Startups Raise Concern Over MeitY Advisory On AI

Gemini Row: MoS IT Slams Google; Startups Raise Concern Over MeitY Advisory On AI


Rajeev Chandrasekhar expressed his dissatisfaction with Google’s response on its AI chatbot’s answers over questions related to PM Modi

"Our DigitalNagriks are NOT to be experimented on with "unreliable" platforms/algos/model,” the MoS said in a tweet

After multiple startups raised concerns over the IT ministry’s advisory on AI products, the minister said it wouldn’t apply to startups

The minister of state (MoS) for electronics and information technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar has expressed his dissatisfaction with Google’s response over the row created by its AI chatbot Gemini’s answer to a question related to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“The AI data is coming out straight from the lab onto the public internet, without any testing, and without any guardrails. And then, when they are caught flat-footed, they say sorry, it is unreliable,” the minister told Times of India.

“That is not a defence you can take,” the minister added.

Taking to social media platform X, Chandrasekhar said, “Our DigitalNagriks are NOT to be experimented on with “unreliable” platforms/algos/model. Safety & Trust is platforms legal obligation. “Sorry Unreliable” does not exempt from law,” the minister said. 

In a subsequent post, the minister reiterated that “Unlawful content specified under Rule 3(1)(b) of IT rules” will attract legal consequences. 

The Rule 3(1)(b) of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 mandates digital intermediaries to not host content that is defamatory, libellous, violates laws or threatens the unity and integrity of India.

The row was triggered when an X user put out a post with screenshots of Gemini’s response to his question of “whether Modi was a fascist,” on February 23. In its reply, the chatbot said Modi has been “accused of implementing policies some experts have characterised as fascist”.

Chandrasekhar highlighted that the response by the chatbot is in direct violation of guidelines. In response to the government’s notice over Gemini, a Google spokesperson reportedly said, “We’ve worked quickly to address this issue. Gemini is built as a creativity and productivity tool and may not always be reliable, especially when it comes to responding to some prompts about current events, political topics, or evolving news. This is something that we’re constantly working on improving.” 

While Gemini’s response added on to the stack of issues between the government and the tech giant, it also heightened government’s concerns about the sensitivity of AI related tech.

Centre’s Advisory Raises Concerns

Following this, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) issued an advisory that mandates digital platforms to seek prior approval before launching any AI product in India on Sunday (March 3).

The advisory states that all intermediaries or platforms are to ensure that use of Artificial Intelligence model(s) /LLM/Generative AI, software(s) or algorithm(s) on or through its computer resource does not permit its users to host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, store, update or share any unlawful content. 

Releasing the advisory, the MoS also added that it can help regulate companies while they are launching their AI models and platforms in the market.  

He has clarified that the advisory is exclusively meant for larger companies foraying into the AI space like Google. He has also said that smaller startups would not have to apply for necessary permissions as mentioned under the advisory. 

“Advisory is aimed at the Significant platforms and permission seeking from Meity is only for large platforms and will not apply to startups,” he said in a post on X. 

The minister’s clarification came after the advisory came under criticism from AI startups. Many startup founders took to X to express their concerns, saying the government’s move would impact generative AI startups. 

“Bad move by India,” said Aravind Srinivas, CEO of Perplexity.AI.

Meanwhile, Pratik Desai, founder of Kissan AI which provides AI-backed agriculture assistant, called the move demotivating.

Gemini Row: MoS IT Slams Google; Startups Raise Concern Over MeitY Advisory On AI

Addressing criticism over the advisory, Chandrasekhar has said that, “[the] advise to those deploying lab level /undertested  AI platforms onto public Internet and that cause harm or enable unlawful content – to be aware that platforms have clear existing obligations under IT and criminal law. So best way to protect yourself is to use labelling and explicit consent and if your a major platform take permission from govt before you deploy error prone platforms.”

The minister reassured that the country is supportive of AI given its potential of expanding India’s digital and innovation ecosystem.  “India’s ambitions in AI and ensuring Internet users get a safe and trusted internet are not binaries,” he added. 

Meanwhile, Aakrit Vaish, founder of Reliance-owned Haptik, called the entire issue a case of poor communication.  

“… Truth is not much is going to change. This is just a poor job in communication, resulting from the need to do something in an election year. Remember an advisory has no legal ground. The Government will issue clarifications and things will settle down. Still long on AI for India,”  he said in a post on X.

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