Thursday, the government solicited public feedback on a potential adjustment to the new IT guidelines regarding the removal of content flagged by its media arm PIB as incorrect or misleading.
On Wednesday, the Editors Guild of India urged the government to ‘expunge’ the proposed amendment to the IT Rules and requested social media companies to remove news stories considered “false” by the Press Information Bureau (PIB).
Minister of State for Electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar stated that the proposed revisions to the IT Rules are in accordance with the government’s commitment to an accessible, trustworthy, and accountable internet.
“We have distributed modifications for stakeholder consultation. As is the government’s practise, these amendments will be subject to open consultations – to reflect, discuss, and deliberate on these amendments or any other such effective means by which we can prevent misinformation / patently false information from being circulated on the Internet by State/Non-State actors, said Chandrasekhar. The comment deadline for the draught is January 25.
Tuesday, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) published a revision to the draught Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 that it had previously made available for public comment.
Added a short remark to the due diligence section on the removal of content identified as fraudulent, fake, or deceptive by the PIB or any government-authorized body while the consultation is substantially ongoing for the formulation of rules for online gambling.
Under the proposed amendment, intermediaries’ due diligence shall include efforts to not upload, publish, transmit, or share information identified as fake or false by the Fact Check Unit of the Press Information Bureau, which takes cognizance of fake information both suo motu and in response to queries sent by citizens on its portal or via e-mail or WhatsApp and responds with correct information when the same pertains to the government.
“The determination of fake news cannot be solely in the hands of the government and will result in press censorship,” the Guild said in a statement expressing “deep concern” over the proposed amendment to the Information Technology (IT) Rules, stating that the determination of fake news cannot be in the hands of the government alone.
Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), a non-profit focused on digital rights, stated that the introduction of a new category for the takedown of social media and news media content will have a significant impact on the freedom of speech, expression, and information online, and will make the federal government the final arbiter of what news may be published and what must be removed.
“Such improvisation in consultation processes undermines public confidence in the process at a time when the Union Government withholds consultation responses from the public sphere.” “As we await a ‘Digital India Bill’ for which no clear, specific, and detailed vision has been articulated, the fragmentary nature of consultation processes is another cause for concern,” stated IFF.