Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Safe Harbour clause in IT Law
- IISC Study on Antibiotics administered in livestock
- India – Australia Relationship
1 . Safe Harbour Clause in IT Law
Context: The Union government formally outlined the Digital India Act, 2023 which is a broad overhaul of the decades-old Information Technology Act, 2000 and the government is reviewing the “safe harbour” clause in the Information and Technology Act 2000 which provides legal immunity to platforms against content shared by their Users.
What is ‘safe harbour’?
- Safe harbour is a legal immunity that online intermediaries enjoy against content posted by users on their platforms, as long as these platforms abide by certain due diligence requirements such as censoring content when asked by government or courts.
- The concept originally came from Section 230 of the United States’ Communications Decency Act, which has been termed one of the “foundational laws behind the modern Internet”.
- According to the safe harbour principle, an online platform such as Facebook or Twitter cannot be held accountable for the content posted on them by users. The government is debating whether such platforms should continue to have zero liability for what users post on their platform.
- The safe harbour provision has been given under Section 79 of the IT Act 2000. It states that “an intermediary shall not be liable for any third-party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted by him”.
- But there are conditions for safe harbour. Section 79 states that safe harbour wouldn’t be given if the intermediary “fails to expeditiously” take down a post or remove a particular content even after the government flags that the information is being used to commit something unlawful.
Who is responsible for taking down harmful content online while still ensuring that the best practices of free speech are protected?
- Last year, the government had mandated, through the IT Rules of 2021, that social media platforms must appoint a Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), Resident Grievance Officer (RGO), and Nodal Contact Person.
- Under the new Digital India law, each intermediary category will be subject to new regulations with a heavy focus on fact-checking to prevent misinformation or misuse of data.
- These platforms will now be held accountable for any content violations or cybercrimes that occur on their websites.
Reason to review the safe harbour clause
- The idea behind revisiting the concept of safe harbour has stemmed from the fact that in the two decades since the Information Technology Act was formulated, intermediaries have become more complex. So the government recently planned to review the safe harbour clause because it believes that there should be no free pass to social media companies and ‘safe harbour’ cannot be an excuse to let harmful posts remain.
- Safe harbour has often led to a lack of content moderation, inadequate fact-checking, and content violations on platforms.
- The platforms for which the safe harbour concept was applied back in the 2000s have now morphed into multiple types of participants and platforms on the internet, functionally very different from each other, and requiring different types of guardrails and regulatory requirement. Hence the government planned to review the safe harbour clause.
2 . IBSA
Context: India, Brazil, and South Africa, which have together formed the tripartite IBSA Forum, may play a prominent role in the process of reforming digital governance, at a time when digital geopolitical tensions are showing no signs of easing, according to the Geneva-based Diplo Foundation.
- The IBSA Dialogue Forum (India, Brazil, South Africa) is an international tripartite grouping for promoting international cooperation among these countries. It represents three important poles for galvanizing South–South cooperation and greater understanding between three important continents of the developing world namely, Africa, Asia, and South America. The forum provides the three countries with a platform to engage in discussions for cooperation in the field of agriculture, trade, culture, and defence among others
- All three countries are developing, pluralistic, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious nations.
- On 6 June 2003, Yashwant Sinha (External affairs minister of India), Celso Amorim (Foreign minister of Brazil) and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (Foreign minister of South Africa) met in Brasilia, where the IBSA Dialogue forum was formalized through the adoption of the “Brasilia Declaration”.
- After the co-operation between India (South Asia), Brazil (South America), and South Africa (Africa). The Declaration at the trilateral meeting in Brasília, called for removing protectionist policies and trade distorting practices by improving the multilateral trade system.
- The IBSA Dialogue forum facilitates regular consultations at senior officials level, government (summit) levels as well as amongst academics, intellectuals and other members of the civil society.
Objectives of IBSA
- The IBSA Dialogue Forum aims to promote South-South cooperation and build consensus on issues of international importance.
- It aims at increasing the trade opportunities among the three countries, as well as facilitate the trilateral exchange of information, technologies and skills to complement each other strengths.
- It promotes the international poverty alleviation and social development with focus being on equitable development.
- It aims to explore avenues to promote cooperation in broad range of areas, which include agriculture, climate change/global warming, culture, defence, education, energy, health, information society, science and technology, social development, trade and investment, tourism and transport.
- Cooperation in IBSA is on three fronts:
- First, as a forum for consultation and coordination on global and regional political issues, such as, the reform of the global institutions of political and economic governance, WTO/Doha Development Agenda, climate change, terrorism etc.;
- Second, trilateral collaboration on concrete areas/projects, through fourteen working groups and six People-to-People Forums, for the common benefit of three countries;
- Third, assisting other developing countries by taking up projects in the latter through IBSA Fund.
Areas of cooperation
- Agriculture, Education, Energy, Science and Technology, Trade, Transport
3 . IISC Study on Antibiotics Administered in livestock
Context: In a study conducted in the Spiti region of the Himalayas and which was published in Global Change Biology, CES researchers found that grazing by livestock leads to lower carbon storage in soil compared to grazing by wild herbivores and this difference appears to be due to the use of veterinary antibiotics such as tetracycline on livestock.
Findings of the study
- Livestock are the most abundant large mammals on earth. When the livestock administered with antibiotics such as tetracycline, it released into the soil through dung and urine, these antibiotics alter the microbial communities in soil in ways that are detrimental for sequestering carbon. If the carbon stored in soil under livestock can be increased by even a small amount, then it can have a big impact on climate mitigation.
- The study also states that although soils from the wild and livestock areas had many similarities, they differed in one key parameter called carbon use efficiency (CUE), which determines the ability of microbes to store carbon in the soil. The soil in the livestock areas had 19% lower CUE.
- In a previous study, the researchers had shown how grazing by herbivores plays a crucial role in stabilising the pool of soil carbon in the same region. In the current study, the researchers studied soils over 16 years in areas grazed by wild herbivores and by livestock respectively, and analysed them for various parameters including microbial composition, soil enzymes, carbon stocks, and the amount of veterinary antibiotics.
What are antibiotics?
- Antibiotics are medicines that fight infections caused by bacteria in humans and animals by either killing the bacteria or making it difficult for the bacteria to grow and multiply.
What are the uses of antibiotics in animals?
- Antibiotics are used in food animals to treat clinical disease, to prevent and control common disease events, and to enhance animal growth. The different applications of antibiotics in food animals have been described as therapeutic use, prophylactic use, and subtherapeutic use.
- The top two antibiotics used in cattle — tetracyclines and macrolides — are mainly given to cattle herds via their feed and drinking water.
- Animals receiving antibiotics in their feed gain 4% to 5% more body weight than animals that do not receive antibiotics.
- Antibiotics are used for treatment of animal disease and/or disease prevention.
- Livestock treated with antibiotics live longer than those who are not treated.
- The shelf life is extended for meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products when treated with antibiotics.
- Widespread antibiotic use has led to multidrug-resistant pathogens. Increased antibiotic use is a matter of concern as antibiotic resistance is considered to be a serious threat to human and animal welfare in the future, and growing levels of antibiotics or antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the environment could increase the numbers of drug-resistant infections in both human and animal.
4 . India – Australia Relationship
Context: After a visit to the cricket stadium in Ahmedabad with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese tweeted about the fierce but friendly sporting rivalry between the two nations.
Historical perspective of India – Australia Relationship
- The India-Australia bilateral relationship has been underpinned by the shared values of pluralistic, Westminster-style democracies, Commonwealth traditions, expanding economic engagement, and increasing high-level interaction.
- Several common traits, including strong, vibrant, secular, and multicultural democracies, a free press, an independent judicial system, and English language, serve as the foundation for closer co-operation and multifaceted interaction between the two countries.
- The end of the Cold War and beginning of India’s economic reforms in 1991 provided the impetus for the development of closer ties between the two nations. The ever-increasing numbers of Indian students travelling to Australia for higher education, and the growing tourism and sporting links, have played a significant role in strengthening bilateral relations.
- With greater convergence of views on issues such as international terrorism, and a shared commitment to a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region, the two democracies have taken their cooperation to plurilateral formats, including the Quad (with the United States and Japan).
- In September 2014, Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott visited India, and in November that year, Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to make an official visit to Australia after Rajiv Gandhi in 1986. He also became the first Indian PM to address a joint sitting of the Parliament of Australia.
- At the India-Australia Leaders’ Virtual Summit in June 2020, Modi and Prime Minister Scott Morrison elevated the bilateral relationship from the Strategic Partnership concluded in 2009 to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP).
- At the 2nd India-Australia Virtual Summit in March 2022, several key announcements were made, including on a Letter of Intent on Migration and Mobility Partnership Arrangement to foster the exchange of skills, and a Letter of Arrangement for Educational Qualifications Recognition to facilitate the mobility of students and professionals
- There has been a series of high-level engagements and exchange of ministerial visits in 2022 and in 2023.
- Both Australia and India facing issues with China. Ties between Australia and China were strained after Canberra in 2018 banned Chinese telecom firm Huawei from the 5G network. India has been facing an aggressive Chinese military along the border. New Delhi and Canberra have been assessing the Chinese challenge since 2013.
- Economic cooperation: The Economic Cooperation Trade Agreement (ECTA) — the first free trade agreement signed by India with a developed country in a decade — entered into force in December 2022, and has resulted in an immediate reduction of duty to zero on 96% of Indian exports to Australia in value (that is 98% of the tariff lines) and zero duty on 85% of Australia’s exports (in value) to India. Bilateral trade was US$ 27.5 billion in 2021; with ECTA, there is potential for it to reach around US$ 50 billion in five years.
- India is one of the top sources of skilled immigrants to Australia. As per the 2021 Census, around 9.76 lakh people in Australia reported their ancestry as Indian origin, making them the second largest group of overseas-born residents in Australia. To celebrate India@75, the Australian government illuminated more than 40 buildings across the country, and Prime Minister Albanese issued a personal video message.
- The Mechanism for Mutual Recognition of Educational Qualifications (MREQ) was signed on March 2 this year. This will facilitate mobility of students between India and Australia. Deakin University and University of Wollongong are planning to open campuses in India. More than 1 lakh Indian students are pursuing higher education degrees in Australian universities, making Indian students the second largest cohort of foreign students in Australia.
- The 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue was held in September 2021, and the Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister of Australia visited in June 2022. The Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) was concluded during the Virtual Summit in June 2020, and the two militaries held several joint exercises in 2022. Australia will host military operations with India, Japan, and the US in the “Malabar” exercises off the coast of Perth in August, and has invited India to join the Talisman Sabre exercises later this year.