Minister’s Warning In Gemini AI Row


New Delhi:

Union IT Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar on Monday said Google had left itself open to possible criminal prosecution, after the global internet giant’s artificial intelligence tool – Gemini – provided an objectionable response to a question about Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Platforms like Google are significant powers on the internet (and) for them to do something wrong and then simply say, ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘I apologise’ is certainly not what the law expects them to do,” he told NDTV this morning.

He further questioned the release of an “untested platform (referring to the Gemini chatbot)… without any disclosures or disclaimers”, and said, “… then there will be consequences. To simply then say ‘… sorry, it was untested’ is not consistent with our expectations of compliance with the law.”

“Why is there a belief amongst these big platforms that they can take something from the lab… and launch it without guardrails or protective framework. This is unconscionable and unacceptable… given not just the law but even  a sense of responsibility and discipline,” he said in an exclusive interview.

Mr Chandrasekhar emphasised the government’s “sincere (and) serious responsibility” to internet users in India, and said tech companies could not “get away by talking their way out of a problem”.

However, he stopped short of saying the government does, in fact, plan to prosecute Google.

The Union Minister cited the new IT Rules and said tech companies “should not allow their platforms to be used in a manner that outputs unlawful content or violates the law of the land”.

He did not, though, say if the government will actually take legal action.

“I think it is not so much for the government to prosecute as much as the users who have the cause of action… who are prejudiced by a platform that spews out unlawful content,” he told NDTV.

“I have heard… there are many people who are quite agitated by the conduct of this and other platforms. My response to them is, ‘the government may, or may not, do some things because we have limited powers under the law… it is for individuals, or groups, to hold them to account.”

Mr Chandrasekhar’s sharp words come amid a growing row between the government and Google after Gemini – a generative artificial intelligence chatbot earlier called Bard – after the tool’s controversial response to a question on the Prime Minister and his policies.

Gemini reportedly based its answer on factors like the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s “nationalist ideology” and what its critics say is quashing of dissent and violence against minorities.

Under-fire, Google last month conceded Gemini “may not always be reliable in responding to certain prompts related to current events and political topics”, and said it was working to address the issue.

READ | Google Pauses AI Tool Over Images Of Woman Nazi Soldiers

It isn’t just the Modi question that has the chatbot roiled in controversy. Google CEO Sundar Pichai said last week some of its text and image responses were “biased” and “completely unacceptable”.

READ | Gemini AI Gaffes “Completely Unacceptable”: Google’s Sundar Pichai

This was after Gemini, asked to show the founding fathers of the United States, generated photos of people of colour, including a man of apparent Sikh heritage, in a significant historical faux pas.

“We’re aware Gemini is offering inaccuracies in some historical image generation depictions… we are working to improve these kinds of depictions immediately,” the company said on X.

“Gemini’s AI image generation does generate a wide range of people. And that’s generally a good thing because people around the world use it. But it’s missing the mark here.”

In response to all of these concerns, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology is expected to issue a notice to Google; in earlier comments, Mr Chandrashekhar said Gemini’s responses were “direct violations of the IT Act and also of several provisions of the Criminal Code”.

Meanwhile, the MEITY, in an advisory issued last week, must have approval before launching test versions of software using generative AI, or any algorithms in the beta stage of development.

“My responsibility is to the Indian people… to make sure the internet in India is safe and trusted. We are the largest connected nation in the world with 900 million users… This has been told to Google and every other platform. Some take this advice seriously. Others believe they are above the laws…”

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