Indian government creates body with power to order social media content takedowns

PLUS: China’s digital currency surges; Infosys tax portals wobble again; Singapore crypto protections; and more

Asia In Brief India's government has given itself the power to compel social networks to take down content.

Amendments to the nation's Information Technology Rules gazetted [PDF] last Friday allow the creation of Grievance Appellate Committees (GACs) that citizens can petition if social networks and other online services don't act on their takedown requests.

India's minister of state for electronics and information technology, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, said the GACs are needed because India's previous attempt at regulating social media – requiring the networks to appoint a grievance officer – has not delivered.

"The accountability structure that was put in place in the last set of rules has not worked adequately," Chandrasekhar admitted.

"Therefore we have created appellate committees so that those citizens who are dissatisfied with the grievance addressal mechanism of a platform have the ability to appeal."

But India's Internet Freedom Foundation characterized the Committees as "a government censorship body for social media that will make bureaucrats arbiters of our online free speech."

"Given that the GAC would hear appeals against the decisions of social media platforms to remove content or not, it will incentivize platforms to remove/suppress/label any speech unpalatable to the government, or those exerting political pressure," the Foundation argued.

India's government flagged the creation of the GACs in June 2022.

– Simon Sharwood

Singapore has crypto regulations up its sleeve

The Monetary Authority of Singapore has proposed measures to protect consumers who engage in cryptocurrency trading, including stablecoins – a type of cryptocurrency whose value is allegedly tied to an existing fiat currency.

Although the city-state would prefer consumers avoid retail digital payment tokens (DPT), it has acknowledged it's not likely to stop them and has taken an "if you can't beat them, regulate them" approach.

"Regulations go hand-in-hand with innovation in financial services," argued MAS deputy managing director Ho Hern Shin.

The proposed regulations broadly put more responsibility on the DPT providers when it comes to consumer access, business conduct and risk of failing technology. They require that providers disclose risks, don't allow users to trade in credit, mitigate conflicts of interest and segregate assets, and that systems are easily recoverable.

But even though MAS is putting out these regulations, it still wants to put the onus on the people for any losses.

"Notwithstanding these regulatory measures, consumers must continue to exercise utmost caution when trading in DPTs and must take responsibility for such trading. Regulations cannot protect consumers from losses arising from the inherently speculative and highly risky nature of DPT trading," said the regulating body.

MAS also explained stablecoins "have the potential to be a medium of exchange to facilitate transactions in the digital asset ecosystem, provided they are well-regulated and securely backed." Which is why the org wants special regulations for them – or at least single currency stablecoin (SCS) where the value in circulation exceeds S$5 million ($3.5 million).

The proposed measures require issuers to hold reserve equivalent assets in cash, use only certain currencies as the reference fiat currency, be clear about redemption rights via published white papers, and keep at least half the amount of annual operating expenses at hand in case of company collapse – or S$1 million ($700,000), whichever is higher.

Banks in Singapore will also be let in on the SCS trade.

"Banks in Singapore will be allowed to issue SCS as well, and no additional reserve backing, and prudential requirements will apply when the SCS is issued as a tokenized form of bank liabilities given the existing rigorous capital and liquidity frameworks applied to banks," said the org.

The first step for the proposals is a feedback gathering stage. Any passed regulations will harbor a six to nine month transition period so affected parties can adjust.

China's outpaced other CBDC with its digital yuan, reveals pilot study

China's digital currency, the e-CNY, was the most-used token in a cross-border central bank digital currency (CBDC) trial, according to a report published by the Bank of International Settlements (BIS).

The six-week pilot used a custom-designed native blockchain platform called the mBridge ledger. Other participating countries included Hong Kong, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates.

The pilot, which is considered the largest cross-border CBDC to date, culminated in 160 payments and transactions totalling over $22 million. China accounted for 142 out of 305 total transactions.

"Project mBridge tests the hypothesis that an efficient, low-cost, real-time and scalable cross-border multi-CBDC arrangement can provide a network of direct central bank and commercial participant connectivity and greatly increase the potential for international trade flows and cross-border business at large," explained [PDF] the report's authors.

The project seeks to build a "minimum viable product" that will ultimately provide a production-ready system.

India extends tax filing deadline after portal problems

India's government last week announced a seven-day extension of the deadline to file some tax information, due to problems with the portal on which citizens upload their data.

India's Tax Office previously acknowleged [PDF] "difficulties faced by the taxpayers and other stakeholders in electronic filing of various reports" and extended the deadline for other filings by a week.

The extensions are an embarrassment to Infosys, which has built much of the digital infrastructure at India's Income Tax Department. The main portal Infosys built proved buggy, unreliable, and was delivered late. The government excoriated the company for its failings. Even a year after the portal went live, problems were still present.

Two weeks ago the GST filing portal build by Infosys experienced a day of significant outages.

– Simon Sharwood

With imperfect timing, Kioxia opens new memory fab

Japanese memory maker Kioxia has opened another fabrication plant.

Fab7, at the Yokkaichi Plant in Mie Prefecture, Japan, can produce sixth-generation, 162-layer flash memory and future advanced 3D flash memory. The plant is expected to start shipping product in early 2023.

But the facility is unlikely to operate at full capacity for some time. Global demand for semiconductors has dipped amid a softening global economic outlook that has seen rival SK hynix report nasty buyer behavior and warn a resurgence may be months away.

Kioxia's announcement of the facility appears to acknowledge those difficulties, stating "Production capacity at Fab7 will ramp up in stages over time, in line with market trends."

Once operating at full capacity, investment in the facility will top ¥1 trillion ($6.7 billion) with some of that contributed by Japan's government as it seeks to win a chunk of what it hopes will once again be a buoyant semiconductor market.

– Simon Sharwood

In other news

The Register's regional coverage from last week included news that India's four major IT outsourcers revealed strong growth and a healthy pipeline, but also looming economic slowdowns.

India and its politicians expressed wishes for the country's relations with the UK as Infosys founder's son-in-law Rishi Sunak becomes prime minister.

SK hynix posted grim quarterly results but predicts improvement in 2023 when the company will start to mass produce 238-layer memory.

Japanese politicians continue to push reluctant residents to sign up for a digital ID called My Number Card as the country prepares to phase out national health insurance cards.

IBM India has weighed in on moonlighting via an email to staff warning advising them to seek approval before engaging in "any activities outside of the company, including work with any non-profit or philanthropic activity."

Microsoft's Chinese website surprisingly includes a free PC Manager that, while useful, includes a lot of nagware to use its Edge browser.

China's big three mobile carriers collectively accrued over a billion subscriptions to 5G services.

Australian health insurer Medibank revealed that all of its four million customers are at risk of having their medical records exposed in a recent data breach.

India's Competition Commission announced it will fine Google ₹936.44 crore ($114 million) for anti-competitive practices related to its Play store. The regulatory org has also demanded Play open up to third party payments.

Samsung's heir Lee Kae-yong was appointed chair of the chaebol despite a questionable CV that features bribery, drug use, and odd financial paperwork. ®

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