What's New :
23rd March 2024 (10 Topics)

Free Speech Check Unit

Context:

The Ministry of IT and Electronics introduced amendments to the 2021 IT Rules to establish a Fact Checking Unit (FCU) with the authority to censor online content related to government businesses deemed fake or misleading.

Concerns Regarding FCU's Authority:

  • Concerns: The creation of the FCU as a statutory body under the Press Information Bureau (PIB) raised concerns about government overreach and censorship.
  • Assurance: However, there was assurance that the power would not be misused by the government was contradicted by the move to notify the FCU despite ongoing challenges to the constitutionality of the amended Rules.
  • Undermined rights: The FCU's power to judge and censor online content without clear definitions of terms like "fake" and "misleading" undermines freedom of expression and democratic principles.

Need for Judicial Oversight:

  • Power check: While fake news poses legitimate concerns, determining liability and truthfulness should not be solely entrusted to a government body like the FCU.
  • Already established provisions: The judiciary and existing legal frameworks, including criminal and civil laws, provide mechanisms to address harmful fake news without infringing on free speech.
  • No requirement of reasoning: The FCU's lack of requirement to provide detailed reasoning for its decisions raises fears of potential suppression of dissent and legitimate journalism.
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