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Guidelines to take down ‘fake news’

Context:

  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology recently amended the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.
  • The amendment empowers the Union Government to designate an official fact checker for misinformation and ‘fake news’.
  • It also tries to regulate the online real money gaming industry, which comprises apps like fantasy sports sites, rummy and poker.

What does the amendment say on fake news?

  • The fact check unit of the Press Information Bureau (PIB), will be notified as the official fact checker for the Union Government.
  • As such, whenever any news is notified as fake, social media companies will lose their “safe harbour” for such content, opening them up to lawsuits or other legal action.
  • Social media companies have traditionally enjoyed legal immunity for content posted by users, as the Information Technology Act, 2000 treats them as intermediaries.
  • Under the IT Rules they lose this status if, among other things, they don’t have a grievance officer for India, or don’t address user complaints on time.
  • Additionally now, with this amendment, they will lose their safe harbour immunity for posts that have been flagged by the government as misinformation.

Section 69A in The Information Technology Act, 2000: 

69A Power to issue directions for blocking for public access of any information through any computer resource. –

  1. Where the Central Government or any of its officer specially authorised by it in this behalf is satisfied that it is necessary or expedient so to do, in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above, it may subject to the provisions of sub-section
  2. for reasons to be recorded in writing, by order, direct any agency of the Government or intermediary to block for access by the public or cause to be blocked for access by the public any information generated, transmitted, received, stored or hosted in any computer resource.

Syllabus: Prelims + Mains; GS II – Polity and Governance

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