Amid recent mob lynchings and killings over fake news spread through WhatsApp and Facebook in the various parts of the country, the central government is apparently drafting new guidelines to make the intermediaries — social media platforms — more responsive to blocking fake news.
As per reports, the government is now drafting certain guidelines, as part of Section 79 of IT Act, that will bind social media companies to respond to complaints over fake news content within a few hours. Currently, the response time for intermediaries is 36 hours.
While earlier, the social media were liable to entertain the complaints of either the government or the courts, the current draft guidelines under Section 79 will make social media platforms liable to respond over public complaints as well.
Section 79 (2) of IT Act, which 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.
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.
Inc42 had earlier reported that the government has also set up an internal group of officers to examine the possibility of sending a second notice to WhatsApp. The IT ministry had told this group to identify specific technical measures that WhatsApp can be asked to implement to curb fake news.
Reports have now emerged that the internal group of officers have already prepared the draft guidelines and are now consulting legal experts over the matter.
IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had earlier told Parliament that in order to fight the menace of fake news over social media, the government would strengthen the implementation of Section 79 of the IT Act. Companies will also be required to have grievance officers stationed in India, he had said.
As per the government officials, the new draft guidelines are being made to invoke self-discipline in social media companies making them behave in a responsible manner.
WhatsApp has already taken some initiatives introducing ‘forwarded’ label and restricting an individual to only a certain number of forwards.
IT Secretary Ajay P Sawhney, who on the sidelines of the TRAI conference said, “We are always in touch and anytime we have a concern we are flagging it, to them…we believe all major platforms have large presence here and they will take whatever steps necessary to ensure that users have complete confidence in their platform.”
The government is reportedly also working on barring social media services in cases where “national security or public order” are under threat. It has also sought the views of telecom operators, the Internet Service Providers Association of India (ISPAI), mobile industry body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), and others associations.
[The development was reported by ET.]