Facebook and Twitter to be held accountable for fake news stated by the Government in 2022
The decision is a part of the proposed amendments to the rules under the Information Technology Act. The Act states that the administration’s prerogative can spell out compliances that are not specified under the parent law.
The authority is currently deciding to hold intermediary applications such as Twitter and Facebook accountable for fake news and the transmission of unlawful/harmful information related to the issue as revealed to the newspaper sources.
The discussion is part of the proposed amendments to the rules under the Information Technology Act, which gives the administration the prerogative to pass on verdicts that are not under the parent law.
An official familiar with the matter has claimed that the proposal of holding Facebook and Twitter accountable is part of the amendment that is still under consultation. The initiative was taken because the Government wants the intermediaries to be a lot more proactive in addressing fake news. The responsibility is to them to check the authenticity of the facts and expeditiously address them, whether it is reported or not. To assist them in the task, they can even employ fact checkers if they want to.
While the draft does not characterize fake news in particular, the officials quoted two sentences that would effectively handle the problem of fake news. One of the quotes says that an intermediary cannot deceive or mislead the messages about the origin of the message and knowingly communicate any message that is patently false or misleading but reasonably be perceived as a fact. Additionally, the other clause states that any information that is patently false and untrue and is published in any form with the intent to mislead or harass a person, entity, or agency for financial gain or in cases of injury to any person.
How will the new amendments implemented by the country control the circulation of fake news?
The draft includes several amendments and is regarded as the draft amendment to the IT rules, 2021. The draft was circulated for public feedback in June, but the draft will be even applicable to the fake news was clarified by the officials to the public.
Soon after the draft was circulated to the public, it created a myriad of discontentment among the public. According to some activists and companies, the draft has caused grievances as the social media content will be moderated by the Government. They believe that the implementation of the draft will give the administration an undue advantage in police speech.
The administration has asserted that through the implementation of the policy, the administration wants to ensure an open, trusted, and accountable internet.
Some experts have said that the decision is strictly needed, especially when there is a lack of accountability in the large technology firms that function as media companies but without the lack of required checks on the facts.
MS Nappinal, Supreme Court advocate and the founder of Super Saathi, has stated that laws and regulations to check fake news and disinformation are certainly needed. Still, the same has to balance with the safe harbour rights laid down on the intermediaries through the parent act with speedy takedown compliance.
It is necessary to clarify whether a platform knowingly or unknowingly misleads the information in any event which is not protected under the exemption of Section 79 of the IT Act.
Another expert has shared that it might be onerous to implement the policy because it opens all the content to moderation.
Prateek Waghre, the policy director at the Internet Freedom foundation, have said that they always deal with content that can neither be defied as fake nor news. But the term has lost its validity because it is being used to dismiss any opposing opinions. He further added that these results in selective enforcement, as the case was evident in many disinformation laws in many parts of the world.
In India, the Government monitors the content that poses a threat to the national security and integrity of India or is a threat to public order with the help of section 69A of the IT act. The ministry of electronics and information technology which is responsible for passing the laws informed the Parliament that over 6000 posts would be removed from the internet in 2021. The number surged to 10000 in the previous year.
In addition, the country runs a fact-checking mechanism under its Press Information Bureau in India.
Fake news or disinformation can be seen as a significant national security threat worldwide. They are harmful to the country internally or externally and both. Fake propaganda and misinformation have the power to polarise public opinion and instigate public violence and extremism. Various incidents have been recorded to show how fake news is capable of causing a threat to national security. An absolute ban on media is a violation of the Freedom of the Press.
As a result, government measures are proposed to minimize the circulation of fake news and disinformation.
Edited by Prakriti Arora