Yikes! Indian Govt Wants Social Media Companies To Abide By Its ‘Fact-Checking’
the Indian government wants social media companies to rely on fact-checking done by government agencies. Yikes!
The plan surfaced in draft amendments to IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 that requires social media companies to remove content on the government’s request, identify users, and appoint grievance officers to address complaints.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) asks social media giants like Meta and Twitter to take due diligence on content users “host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, store, update or share” while ensuring that the content is not “patently false and untrue or misleading in nature.”
Setting a dangerous precedent
The new proposal urges social media companies to rely on fact-checking undertaken by the Press Information Bureau, a nodal agency of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The proposal essentially wants all fact-checking to emanate from government sources, setting a dangerous precedent for free speech on social media platforms. This move, if implemented, could further alienate social media companies that have earlier pushed back against the country’s IT rules (that are now undergoing changes).
The draft states that social media companies would have to remove content “identified as fake or false by the fact check unit at the Press Information Bureau of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting or other agency authorized by the Central Government for fact checking or, in respect of any business of the Central Government.”
Also read: Explained: Why India Imposed Consecutive Hefty Fines On Google And What’s Next
This is especially worrisome because the Press Information Bureau has notoriously found to be pushing misleading information. In a country that guarantees a free press, making the government the sole arbiter of truth sends the wrong message to its own citizens and the world alike.
India has been trying to exercise more control over Big Tech giants, most of which are American or European. This is not different from the treatment they’re getting in their home countries, but no democratic country has shown interest in becoming the sole carrier of truth.
The Internet Freedom Foundation has expressed concerns with the amendments. Of course, giving the government sole rights to the “truth” is dangerous and upsetting. In addition, the amendments were made public on the same day that public feedback on a previous version of the law were to end.
The updated(?) amendments also propose changes to rule 3(1)(b)(v) under Part II (due diligence requirements for intermediaries). The updated sub-clause may make it necessary for intermediaries to take down content that has been ‘fact-checked’ by the Union government. 2/4 pic.twitter.com/CdoDVmwF14
— Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) (@internetfreedom) January 17, 2023
So read: Internet Freedom In India Improved Slightly After Four Years Of Decline
The ministry has now extended the consultation period till January 25, 2023. Regardless, the updated document makes it necessary for social media companies to remove content that has been “fact-checked” by the government.
Do you think the government should dictate public discourse on “fact-checking” in a democracy? Let us know in the comments below. For more in the world of technology other sciencekeep reading Indiatimes.com.
Chaudhuri, P. (2020, June 19). PIB ‘Fact Check’ blunders again: Incorrectly declares UP STF advisory on Chinese apps as “fake news.” old news https://www.altnews.in/pib-fact-check-blunders-again-incorrectly-declares-up-stf-advisory-on-chinese-apps-as-fake-news/
Tiwari, A. (2020, May 26). The embarrassment that is PIB Fact Check: Who fact-checks this ‘fact checker’? Newslaundry. https://www.newslaundry.com/2020/05/26/the-embarrassment-that-is-pib-fact-check-who-fact-checks-this-fact-checker
TechCrunch. (January, 2022). India proposes social media firms rely on fact checking by gov’t agencies. https://techcrunch.com/2023/01/17/india-proposes-social-media-firms-rely-on-fact-checking-by-government-agencies/
Sharwood, S. (2023, January 18). You can’t handle the truth! Indian government suggests its own fact checkers to judge what’s right on social media. https://www.theregister.com/2023/01/18/india_it_rules_amendments/
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