Home » SC notice to Twitter, Centre, a plea seeks mechanism to check fake news

SC notice to Twitter, Centre, a plea seeks mechanism to check fake news

by Raju Vernekar
0 comment 2 minutes read

IT Correspondent
New Delhi, Feb 12:

The Supreme Court on Friday issued notices to the Centre and several social media platforms, including Twitter, on a plea seeking directions for devising a mechanism to check fake news and instigative messages being circulated via social media.
The petition by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Vinit Goenka to regulate content on social media platforms has also sought a crackdown on “anti-India and venomous messages” sent through social media aimed at provoking violence in various parts of the country. The court has tagged Goenka’s matter with a bunch of similar petitions already pending before the apex court.
Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told Parliament on Thursday that social media companies need to follow India’s laws or face strict action and that the government is working on new rules to make companies such as Twitter and Facebook more responsive to directions and accountable to Indian laws. Here is what has prompted the warning and the proposed rules:
Prasad’s comments follow days of tensions between the government and Twitter over taking down more than 1,300 accounts or posts in connection with the farmers’ protest and the violence on January 26. The social media company only partially complied with the order, saying that the directions were not consistent with Indian law. He said when a company becomes a platform, you make the rules to assess what is wrong and what is right. He said that does not mean that the laws of India will not apply to them.
In the meanwhile, the Government is in the process of amending rules under the Information Technology Act, to make social media platforms more responsive and accountable to Indian laws. The rules will also make digital media platforms adhere to a Code of Ethics. As intermediaries, the companies are not liable to face action for posts made by users. The current guidelines state that if the government asks the intermediary to take down posts, then they have to oblige.
New guidelines
The new guidelines are likely to strengthen the procedures so that companies cannot say they are an intermediary and escape responsibility. The intermediary guidelines, initially floated in 2018, are expected to introduce a slew of changes.  They are expected to allow the government to trace “unlawful content”, proactively identify and remove or disable public access to “unlawful information or content”.
The guidelines are likely to make it mandatory for any intermediary with more than five million users in India to mandatorily be a company incorporated in India. Social media companies such as “Twitter” and “Face book” function as media companies, essentially making money off ads, but do not take accountability for content. Experts have said that the nature of the laws will give the government broad powers and there is little transparency around online content takedowns, which leaves room for various interpretation.

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