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12th October 2023 (9 Topics)

Karnataka’s Information Disorder Tackling Unit

Context:

The Karnataka government has begun working on a unit that will scrutinise complaints and monitor the internet for misinformation and hate speech.

  • It comes against the backdrop of the Union government’s attempts to create its own fact-check unit.

What is Fake News?

  • Fake news refers to intentionally fabricated or misleading information presented as if it were real news.
  • It can be spread through traditional media sources like newspapers or television, but it is more commonly associated with social media platforms and other online sources.

About the Plan:

  • The plan to create such a unit — named the Information Disorder Tackling Unit — was first announced in June 2023.
  • Procedure:
    • Before the fact check is made public, the review a single point of contact (SPOC), appointed by the state government, must first approve initiating a fact check.
  • SPOC will also determine if the content violates a social media platform’s policies, is illegal, or needs to be blocked.
    • They will subsequently either inform the social media company, or lodge a complaint (with the police), or refer the matter to the central government to recommend blocking under Section 69A of the Information technology Act, respectively.
  • Members:
    • The fact check team will consist of independent fact check agencies whose fact checks must be “unbiased and evidence based”.
    • Its remit will be restricted to the jurisdiction of Karnataka.

Concerns:

  • Fact-checking in India can come from public submissions or proactive searches. State-appointed SPOCs must approve the fact-check process.
  • If needed, fact-checkers can request information from state departments. After analysis, an internal review takes place.
  • The final step involves review by the state-appointed SPOC, which may affect editorial independence due to multiple approvals.

Laws related to fake News:

  • The IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023 aim to tackle the dissemination of false or misleading information through the introduction of fact-checking units.
  • In light of the detrimental impact of fake news, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis, governments worldwide have recognized the urgency to combat this menace.
  • India, in particular, has experienced a surge in fake news related to the pandemic, making it crucial for the government to proactively address the issue.

Present Fact-checking Unit Guidelines:

  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) had previously suggested that news that has been deemed "fake" by the PIB's fact-checking team will not be permitted on online intermediaries.
  • The reference to PIB was dropped from the IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules 2023.
  • The social media companies have submitted a proposal to the Center to establish the Misinformation Combat Alliance - a network of fact-checkers that will verify misleading content on their platforms.
  • The alliance will act as a “certification body” that will serve as a means of identifying "trusted" fact-checkers.

Recent proposal:

  • Online fact-checking platforms could be required to obtain a registration from the Centre.
  • The registration plan could be carried out in phases, with fact-checking units of legacy and reputed media companies being allowed to seek registration in the first phase.
  • There is also a plan to not register ‘non-legacy’ fact checking bodies.

The government is also in conversation with the industry to develop a self-regulatory organisation for fact- checking information which does not relate to the government.

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