New Delhi: The central government has asked social media companies to exclude news articles from their platforms that have been deemed “fake” by the Press Information Bureau (PIB).
The PIB is a nodal body under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for news updates, which also has a fact-checking unit for news items across platforms.
This draft proposal implies that the PIB’s fact-check unit would be the ultimate authority to differentiate between what is “fake” and what is not.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) on Tuesday released a
modification to the draft Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and
Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 it had previously released for public
The addition, made in the “due diligence section” for social media intermediaries, says that an intermediary shall not be allowed to publish information that “deceives or misleads the addressee about the origin of the message or knowingly and intentionally communicates any misinformation” that has been ”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 authourised by the Central Government for fact-checking.”
This new draft proposal came alongside changes in policies for online gaming intermediaries.
In December 2022, the PIB fact-check unit issued multiple takedown orders for digital news platforms that allegedly spread false information about “national security” or Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“The PIB Fact Check Unit (FCU) of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting busted
six YouTube channels which were working in a coordinated manner and spreading
false information in India,” a government release said at the time, adding,
“The Fact Check Unit released six separate Twitter threads having over 100
fact-checks to counter the fake news spread by these channels.”
Tanmay Singh, a senior advocate associated with the Internet Freedom Foundation, told
ThePrint how this change would “directly impact the fundamental right to speech
and expression of news publishers”.
“They will operate as content take-down and censorship by agencies which are not currently statutorily empowered to take-down online content or news,” Singh explained.
“Nor can this power be created by executive orders or Rules framed by MeitY. Further, the proposed amendments create an entirely new procedure for internet censorship than what is statutorily prescribed under Section 69A of the IT Act, which empowers MeitY to order the takedown of content in certain enumerated and specific conditions,” Singh added.
Singh further said that Section 69A empowers MeitY only during a handful of situations that pertain to defence and public order.
“The Proposed Amendments introduce a new category, i.e. anything that is identified as fake or false by the fact-checking unit at the Press Information Bureau,” Singh said. “This is not consistent with constitutional or democratic principle and requires a parliamentary enactment to expand the scope of Section 69A of the IT Act.”
Also read: India considers banning news identified as ‘fake’ by govt on social media