The Rest of World portal reported that on April 6, the Indian government stated that it would be launching a fact-checking unit which will have the power to flag any content related to the government as “false, misleading or fake”, and remove it from social media platforms.
The government recently changed the technology policies that make it mandatory for social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to take down any posts deemed unreliable by the fact-checking organisation. Also, Internet service providers are required to prevent access to such content by blocking specific URLs.
If these online platforms fail to adhere to the rules, they could lose their “safe harbour” protection from legal action concerning content posted by their users. Rajeev Chandrasekhar, India’s Minister of Information Technology, highlighted this potential consequence.
The authorities have established new regulations that require intermediaries to abstain from posting, distributing or hosting false, inaccurate or deceptive information about the activities of the Central Government. The Central Government has announced the formation of a Fact Check Unit to counter any false or misleading information. In a press release, they noted that it will accurately identify and respond to any such content.
The government’s decision to put in place rules without any right to challenge them has been met with criticism from the press, internet rights advocates, and those in opposition to the governing party. This has raised serious concerns about the implications for freedom of expression in that nation.
On April 11, an India-based comedian Kunal Kamra took the government to court to challenge the amendment. The Bombay High Court has requested that the executive provide explanations and any justifications for this new law.
The Editors Guild of India denounced the amendments, stating that they were “deeply disturbed.” They argued these amendments would give the government too much control and have a negative effect on press freedom in India.
Several political opponents of the government have also voiced out their disagreement with the action, referring to it as a form of “censorship”.