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Introducing the 2021 Facebook India Tech Scholars

Earlier this year, Facebook India launched the Facebook India Tech Scholars (FITS) program to provide a research and mentorship platform to law students who are keen to engage on contemporary questions of technology, law, and policy. Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co. (SAM), India’s foremost full-service law firm, is supporting the program as a knowledge partner.

The FITS program seeks to provide selected scholars a platform to build a body of research on evolving tech law and policy issues, and is designed to provide eight law students (two each from four participating law schools) with the opportunity to work on an independent research project under the guidance of prominent research institutions and think tanks in India, who will participate in the program as mentoring institutions. The final deliverable is a research paper due upon the program’s conclusion.

FITS 2021–2022

Along with the involvement of the mentoring institutions, the FITS program is also guided by an expert advisory committee for the duration of the program.

The inaugural edition of the FITS program will run for a period of nine months, commencing in October 2021 and concluding with the submission of the scholars’ research papers. As this is the first year of the FITS initiative, participation was limited to students from four law schools in India.

Application process

The call for applications was launched in May 2021, and applications were invited from fourth- and fifth-year law students from the following law schools:

  • National Law School of India, Bengaluru (NLSIU)
  • West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata (NUJS)
  • National Law University, Delhi (NLU D)
  • National Law University, Jodhpur (NLU J)

The preliminary screening process by the FITS selection committee (which comprises members from Facebook and SAM) involved a two-step process: (a) an essay-based evaluation and (b) interviews. Short-listed applicants were further evaluated by the advisory committee, culminating in the final selection of eight scholars.

Mentoring institutions

Each mentoring institution will host one or more scholars for the duration of the FITS program. The mentoring institutions’ role will include guiding the scholars as they work toward their final research papers, honing their research and writing skills and providing timely inputs on the final deliverable. We are excited to be joined by four renowned research institutions and think tanks as our mentoring institutions this year:

  • Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, India (CEIP)
  • Centre for Internet & Society (CIS)
  • Observer Research Foundation (ORF)
  • Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC)

Advisory committee

The FITS advisory committee comprises senior legal and tech policy experts, who were instrumental to the selection of the scholars and who will also certify the completion of the FITS program by the scholars, in addition to advising the FITS organization team. Our advisory committee for this year is as follows:

  • Honorable Justice B.N. Srikrishna, Retired Judge of the Supreme Court of India
  • Ms. Pallavi Shroff, Managing Partner, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co.
  • Ms. Rama Vedashree, CEO, Data Security Council of India
  • Dr. P. Vigneswara Ilavarasan, Professor, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi
  • Dr. V. Sridhar, Professor, International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore

Meet our scholars

Asees Kaur, NUJS
Mentoring institution: ORF
Research theme: emerging technologies

Asees is a fourth-year law student and aims to use the FITS platform to make meaningful contributions to the relatively underexplored topic of artificial intelligence and the law. Asees has previously presented recommendations before the Joint Parliamentary Committee, which is currently deliberating India’s Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, and has clerked at the Supreme Court of India.

Jade Lyngdoh, NLU J
Mentoring institution: SFLC
Research theme: intermediary liability & free speech

Jade is a fourth-year law student and aims to explore the convergence of blasphemous and hate speech, and the role played by regional and linguistic backgrounds in such instances. Jade assists the High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom as a research intern and has also undertaken internships with law firms and independent counsel in India.

Karthik Rai, NLSIU
Mentoring institution: ORF
Research theme: data governance

Karthik is a fourth-year law student and aims to study the multitude of concerns associated with data governance such as data protection, portability, and other pressing issues that have political, economic, and legal implications. As part of internships, Karthik has spent time with law firms, think tanks, and independent counsel, and has also published several tech policy–related blogs and articles.

Kartik Agarwal, NLU J
Mentoring institution: CIS
Research theme: intermediary liability & free speech

Kartik is a final-year law student and would like to spend time with the program probing issues related to social media companies and their policies governing freedom of speech and expression on their platforms. Kartik has experience interning with law firms, participating in mooting and debating competitions, and writing on a wide range of topics.

Meghna Bhaskar, NLU D
Mentoring institution: ORF
Research theme: emerging technologies

Meghna is a final-year law student hoping to explore the relationship between intellectual property law and machine learning and artificial intelligence-based works. Meghna has published several blogs and articles on topics relating to tech policy, and has spent time interning with various organizations, including law firms and research initiatives.

Shivangi Mishra, NLSIU
Mentoring institution: CIS
Research theme: data governance

Shivangi is a fourth-year law student and would like to use the FITS program to study cross-jurisdictional approaches to data governance, especially from a socio-legal lens. Shivangi has an extensive research background, having assisted on projects such as the Global Study on Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Regulation and working with academicians whose research is focused on tech policy.

Supriya Shekher, NLU D
Mentoring institution: CEIP
Research theme: data governance

Supriya is a fourth-year law student and seeks to understand the interface between personal data protection and antitrust regimes, including from a comparative perspective as well as between personal data-related rights and community-based rights over data. Supriya has experience interning with independent counsel and assisting with research projects, and has participated in several other cocurricular activities.

Varunavi Bangia, NUJS
Mentoring institution: SFLC
Research theme: data governance

Varunavi is a final-year law student with a growing interest in India’s approach to regulating nonpersonal data even as the regulatory framework around personal data is emerging, and would like to study these issues from a socio-legal perspective. Varunavi’s cocurricular experience includes various internships, publishing written research, and participating in moot court competitions.

Closing remarks from the advisory committee

“We, at Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co., are glad to have partnered with Facebook as their knowledge partner in this new initiative. I am sure this platform will provide a unique experience to the Scholars as they are given the opportunity to interact with and learn from the eminent mentoring institutions. I am also glad to be a part of the advisory committee and am looking forward to the research that will emerge at the conclusion of the program.”

— Ms. Pallavi Shroff, Managing Partner, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co.

“I find the FITS program an excellent initiative to nurture and grow bright young law students from premier academic institutions, in the evolving policy and legal facets of technology. Providing an opportunity to law students to research on policy areas with mentorship from leading think tanks will surely create impact. As an advisory committee member, I was very impressed by the rigorous selection process developed by Facebook with support from their knowledge partner Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co. The final short-listed candidates have differentiated themselves by their nuanced understanding of evolving technology policy themes, and the breadth of research publications and writing they have done, even as students. I wish them the very best in their policy research pursuits.”

— Ms. Rama Vedashree, CEO, Data Security Council of India

“I’m excited to be a member of the Facebook India Tech Scholars initiative. This is critical for India’s tech policy ecosystem to be strengthened and built. I am convinced that, in the future, tech policymaking will be vibrant thanks to these emerging young scholars.”

— Dr. P. Vigneswara Ilavarasan, Professor, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi

“The FITS initiative to engage young law students in contemporary research at the intersection of technology, law, and business will indeed promote the much-needed innovative approach to development of legislation in this fast-evolving tech space.”

— Dr. V. Sridhar, Professor, International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore

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