Social media platforms and other intermediaries on the Internet are now required to make sure that “fake news” articles about the Union Government, which have been declared as such by the Press Information Bureau (PIB), are taken down from their platforms when they are alerted to such posts.
What is Fake news?
Fake news is news, stories or hoaxes created to deliberately misinform or deceive readers.
Fake news, defined by the New York Times as “a made-up story with an intention to deceive”.
Usually, these stories are created to influence people’s views, push a political agenda or cause confusion and can often be a profitable business for online publishers.
About the development:
The new amendment of the IT Rules 2021 means that platforms will no longer enjoy legal immunity on content posted by their users; platforms can now be called ‘as a party’ in court proceedings.
The changes were already being notified through the Information Technology (IntermediaryGuidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023, amending the IT Rules, 2021.
Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) sources had mentioned that the fact check unit would reach out to relevant government departments to get their view on whether a piece of news is ‘fake or not’, and take a call accordingly.
Press Information Bureau (PIB):
The Press Information Bureau (PIB) is the nodal agency of the Government of India to disseminate information to the print and electronic media on government policies, programmes, initiatives and achievements.
It functions as an interface between the Government and the media and also serves to provide feedback to the Government on people’s reaction as reflected in the media.
PIB disseminates information through different modes of communication viz. press releases, press notes, feature articles, backgrounders, photographs, database available on Bureau’s website.
Information disseminated by PIB is released in English, Hindi and Urdu and subsequently translated in other Indian languages to reach out to about 8,400 newspapers and media organizations in different parts of country.
The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021:
Intermediaries are entities that store or transmit data on behalf of other persons, and include telecom and internet service providers, online marketplaces, search engines, and social media sites.
The Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act) was amended in 2008 to provide an exemption to intermediaries from liability for any third party information.
Following this, the IT (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules, 2011 were framed under the IT Act to specify the due diligence requirements for intermediaries to claim such exemption.
These rules are made by amending the provisions under IT rules 2011.
The key additions under the 2021 Rules include additional due diligence requirements for certain social media intermediaries, and a framework for regulating the content of online publishers of news and current affairs, and curated audio-visual content.
Other Laws Governing Fake News:
There is no specific law against fake news in India. Free publication of news flows from Article 19 of the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of speech.
Press Council of India, a regulatory body, can warn, admonish or censure the newspaper, the news agency, the editor or the journalist or disapprove the conduct of the editor or the journalist if it finds that a newspaper or a news agency has violated journalistic ethics.
News Broadcasters Association (NBA) represents the private television news and current affairs broadcasters. The self-regulatory body probes complaints against electronic media.
Indian Broadcast Foundation (IBF) also looks into the complaints against contents aired by channels.
Broadcasting Content Complaint Council (BCCC) admits complaints against TV broadcasters for objectionable TV content and fake news.
Indian Penal Code (IPC) has certain sections which could curb fake news: Section 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) and section 295 (injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class) can be invoked to guard against fake news.
Civil or Criminal Case for Defamation is another resort against fake news for individuals and groups hurt by the fake news.