Tech giants urge revision of Sri Lanka’s Online Safety Bill

The Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) a trade association comprising tech giants such as Google, Apple and Meta has expressed deep concerns and called for significant revisions to the draft of Sri Lanka’s Online Safety Bill. The AIC believes that the current version of the proposed legislation not only presents substantial challenges but, if not thoroughly addressed, could seriously hinder the potential growth of Sri Lanka’s digital economy.

In a letter dated January 8th, Jeff Paine, the Managing Director (MD) of the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), wrote to Minister for Public Security, Tiran Alles, expressing these concerns and advocating for important changes to the draft Online Safety Bill (OSB) currently under consideration.

While recognizing the complexity of the legislative process, the AIC emphasized the necessity for more comprehensive consultations to tackle the intricacies of the proposed bill.

While expressing appreciation for the industry’s cooperation with the Government, the AIC highlighted specific areas of concern within the OSB.

Key issues raised in their submission encompassed regulatory independence, extraterritorial application, a broad definition of intermediaries, vague terminology in defining prohibited statements, and deviations from international human rights and best practice standards.

The AIC stressed the economic implications, asserting that the current draft could potentially hinder the growth of Sri Lanka’s digital economy. The AIC emphasized the urgency of reevaluating the bill, underscoring the need for extensive revisions to avoid impractical legislation.

Attached to the letter, the AIC’s submission offered detailed concerns and recommendations, addressing crucial aspects such as criminal liabilities, safe harbor provisions, turnaround times, and user data access. Recognizing the complexity of drafting such legislation, the AIC advocated for a continued collaborative approach to strike a balance between safeguarding users and fostering a conducive environment for digital innovation.

The letter also mentioned the AIC’s prior engagement with local stakeholders in Sri Lanka to develop a comprehensive ‘Code of Practice’ for ‘Online Safety and Responsible Content.’