The proposed registration mandates seek ‘greater responsibility’ from online fact-checking platforms
In the first phase, fact-checking units of legacy and reputed media companies will be allowed to register with the authorities
The under-consideration provisions are part of the overarching Digital India Bill, which aims to replace the decade-old Information Technology Act, 2000
The union government is reportedly mulling a provision under the proposed Digital India Act that could enforce a licensing regime for online fact-checkers.
A senior government official told The Indian Express that the platforms may have to apply for a registration certificate to operate as the centre looks to seek ‘greater responsibility’ from such online platforms.
The plan will be executed in a phased manner, where fact-checking verticals of ‘legacy and reputed’ media companies will be allowed to register in the first phase.
“The Ministry is in the final stages of drafting the bill. For fact-checkers, there is a consideration that they should be registered with the government… There is also a plan to not register ‘non-legacy’ fact-checking bodies,” the official said.
The report notes that the overarching Bill will classify various types of online intermediaries, adding that the new diktat for online fact-checking portals would be distinct from the government’s fact-checking body that would flag information related to the centre.
Centre’s Ambitious Digital India Bill
At the heart of the matter is the Digital India Bill, which will be a key component of the centre’s umbrella ‘legal framework’ to regulate the digital landscape. The Bill has been envisaged to replace the decade-old Information Technology Act and will introduce many changes to the current rules governing the internet space.
As per the report, a draft version of the Bill could see the light of the day as soon as June-end or early July. The proposed rules are expected to add a host of new definitions as penal offences, including deliberate misinformation, doxxing, impersonation, identity theft, catfishing, and cyberbullying of children.
Not just this, concerns of user harm related to emerging technologies such as generative AI platforms could also be mentioned in the bill. In addition, safe harbour provisions related to online intermediaries could also be revamped in the proposed rules.
With a regulatory overhaul in full pace, this is not the first time that the centre has looked to regulate online fact-checking platforms. Earlier this year in April, the union government amended IT Rules and announced the formation of a state-backed fact-checking unit to flag alleged fake news and misleading online content related to the centre.
While the move invited criticism from civil society members, the amendments also entrusted digital intermediaries with many responsibilities to actively crack down on fake news online or risk losing the safe harbour status. Besides, the central authorities are also locked in a legal tussle with comedian Kunal Kamra in the Bombay High Court over the recently notified rules.