Why New Policy and Localisation is not easy

Despite Krishnaswamy’s questionable methods, Amazon was quick to snap him up in April 2020. His position at Google was filled by Aman Jain, one of Krishnaswamy’s juniors, though it is believed that Google is looking for a more experienced candidate, according to the second former Google executive.

Interestingly, Rahul Jain, who served at Google-owned YouTube as policy head, also joined Krishnaswamy’s team at Amazon. Course corrections Big tech’s public policy masterminds, though, have an unenviable task ahead of them. On the one hand, they now exist in a time of far greater scrutiny and accountability.

Organizing Issues for new Policy

On the other, the last two years have seen an uptick in policy and regulatory action, making public policy teams truly earn their wage. The number of government takedown requests, for instance, has surged. India now ranks second after Russia in terms of take down requests.

In the first half of 2021 alone, Google received 1,322 such requests from the government—the highest ever. India even accounts for nearly 25% of all Facebook’s content removal requests since the company began reporting these statistics. In the past, this wasn’t as big of an issue as the country’s intermediary liability rules—which determines whether platforms are liable for the posts of their users—were not strictly enforced.

The new intermediary guidelines, however, are far more of a headache for big tech firms. The rules provide for grievance redressal for users, potentially opening companies up to a flood of complaints that they will have to tackle head on. Regulators, too, are flexing their muscles.

Localisation of Laws is not easy

India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India, for instance, has barred the likes of American Express and Mastercard from onboarding new users over non-compliance with data localisation laws. Calls for India’s competition regulator to crack down on e-commerce platforms as well as startups like Oyo, Swiggy, and Zomato have only grown louder. In this regulatory climate, it’s little wonder that big tech firms are bulking up their public policy teams.

Indeed, once India’s data protection legislation becomes a reality and a new data protection authority is set up, there will be a fresh set of hirings across these companies. Already, reports have emerged that big tech firms are preparing to take legal action against the government if the current version of the data protection bill is signed into law. In the meantime, however, their public policy teams will already be burning the midnight oil to avoid such a situation altogether.

It’s a very demanding job, said the executive close to Amazon, with workers barely getting a proper weekend. Bigger teams won’t solve this either, with the work set to expand in tandem. Clarification: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Google India helped develop the PM’s personal app. This has been corrected to reflect that Google helped develop the PMO’s app. We regret the error.