Indian data protection law under fire for inadequate child online safety measures

The CDF webinar highlighted the need for India-specific solutions for child safety online, given the country’s socio-economic diversity and the challenges posed by engagement-driven algorithms.

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India’s data protection law, the Digital Personal Data Protection Act (DPDPA), must hold platforms accountable for child safety, according to a panel discussion hosted by the Citizen Digital Foundation (CDF). The webinar, ‘With Alice, Down the Rabbit Hole’, explored the challenges of online child safety and age assurance in India, highlighting the significant threat posed by subversive content and online threats to children.

Nidhi Sudhan, the panel moderator, criticised tech companies for paying lip service to child safety while employing engagement-driven algorithms that can be harmful to children. YouTube was highlighted as a major concern, with CDF researcher Aditi Pillai noting the issues with its algorithms. Dhanya Krishnakumar, a journalist and parent, emphasised the difficulty of imposing age verification without causing additional harm, such as peer pressure and cyberbullying, and stressed the need for open discussions to improve digital literacy.

Aparajita Bharti, co-founder of the Quantum Hub and Young Leaders for Active Citizenship (YLAC), argued that India requires a different approach from the West, as many parents lack the resources to ensure online child safety. Arnika Singh, co-founder of Social & Media Matters, pointed out that India’s diversity necessitates context-specific solutions, rather than one-size-fits-all policies.

The panel called for better accountability from tech platforms and more robust measures within the DPDPA. Nivedita Krishnan, director of law firm Pacta, warned that the DPDPA’s requirement for parental consent could unfairly burden parents with accountability for their children’s online activities. Chitra Iyer, co-founder and CEO of consultancy Space2Grow, highlighted the need for platforms to prioritise user safety over profit. Arnika Singh concluded that the DPDPA requires stronger enforcement mechanisms and should consider international models for better regulation.