A top government committee has recommended ‘criminal proceedings’ against India heads of global internet and social media giants in case their platforms are found spreading fake news and other ‘sinister’ campaigns that lead to lynching and riots in the country.
The inter-ministerial committee headed by home secretary Rajiv Gauba recently submitted its report to home minister Rajnath Singh — who heads a group of ministers (GoM) looking into cases of lynching across various states — and the role of fake news and internet platforms in the episodes.
Members of the committee were of the view that all possible steps need to be initiated to ensure that social media platforms do not become a means for spreading rumours and messages that lead to social disharmony, ET quoted an anonymous official in know of the development.
A final view on the committee’s report will be taken by Singh-lead GoM, which will then submit its report to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The committee has also sought the appointment of the superintendent of police (SP) in each district as the nodal officer to deal with cases of lynching while suggesting that criminal action be initiated collectively against the group/mob engaging in the lynching.
It is understood that the committee had consulted with cross-section stakeholders over the issue, and feels that social media companies and ubiquitous instant messengers need to take responsibility for not tracing, and thereafter blocking, malicious content.
In June, Gauba had taken up the issue to the representatives from Google, Facebook, and Twitter, and had urged them to take appropriate measures to filter fake and explosive content.
Ministry officials during the meeting is believed to have stated that if social networks are used to peddle information that contravenes Sections 69 and 79 of the IT Act, it has to be addressed in a time bound manner.
Govt To Introduce Fresh Guidelines To Make Social Media More Responsive To Fake News
The central government is understood to be drafting new guidelines to make the intermediaries — social media platforms — more responsive to blocking fake news, as part of Section 79 of IT Act, that will bind social media companies to respond to complaints about fake news content within a few hours.
Section 79 (2) of IT Act says —
“The intermediary observes due diligence while discharging his duties under this Act and also observes such other guidelines as the Central Government may prescribe in this behalf allows the central government to issue certain explanatory guidelines under the Act.”
Inc42 had earlier reported that the move is being taken after three people got killed by mobs in Assam owing to fake news of child trafficking spread over WhatsApp. Similarly, another fake news of cow smuggling on social media in Alwar ultimately led to the killing of a man in June, this year.
WhatsApp has already taken some initiatives introducing ‘forwarded’ label and restricting an individual to only a certain number of forwards. Although the messaging platform has now said it cannot build a software to trace the origin of a message on its platform, it has announced to roll out radio campaign across Indian states to raise awareness against fake news and how such information, users receive, can be verified before he/she circulates it.
The government’s push to curb fake news circulating on social media platforms comes in the wake of more than 31 killings across India this year in mob lynchings. Along with Assam, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tripura, and West Bengal are also amongst the most-affected states with fake news proliferating on social media.[The development was reported by ET]