External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday called for a debate on responsibility and accountability of the big tech companies which enjoy huge power and influence as "non-state players", saying these issues cannot be brushed under the carpet on the pretext of "freedom of speech".
Jaishankar's comments came in the midst of growing tensions between Indian authorities and the United States social media giant Twitter on a range of issues including the new IT rules.
In an interactive session with former British prime minister Tony Blair at the India Global Forum, he said that a vigorous debate on big technology firms is going on in India like in various parts of the world, adding nobody denies that they are "forces of progress".
"But, in a democratic society, we have to ask ourselves, big tech is there; it is in my life, very visibly in my life. You have a big presence, (but) where is the responsibility which comes with it," Jaishankar said.
"They have huge power, where is the accountability. This is again not an issue limited to India. They harvest our data as they do across the world. So you have, in a sense, the opposite of the American Revolution, which is to have representation and no taxation," he said.
He was asked about the power of technology and issues relating to it.
"These are very serious questions that need debating. I think they cannot be brushed under the carpet, saying you should not question them because then you are attacking freedom of speech. I think that's a cop-out. Obviously, it serves their interests. So it's a very, very legitimate debate." he said.
The external affairs minister said that there are various aspects to these issues, including political and the influence commanded by the technology giants.
"I think these are issues; because today what big tech has done -- one part is looking at it as a governance issue, as a political issue as a democratic issue I would say," he said.
"The other is to look at the influence they command. International relations have been devised on the basis of State-based players. What happens when you have non-State players who in some ways are bigger than many States," Jaishankar said.
The US digital giant has been at loggerheads with the government over the new social media rules. The government has confronted Twitter over deliberate defiance and failure to comply with the country's new IT rules, despite repeated reminders.
The microblogging platform has lost its legal shield as an intermediary in India, becoming liable for users posting any unlawful content.