The mandate of the Press Information Bureau’s fact-check unit is to examine the veracity of only the contents related to the Central government ministries and organisations, and will remain so even when it is empowered to get any fake content removed from the social media platforms, according to government officials.
A draft amendment to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, provides that the platforms will have to remove the content “identified as fake or false” by the fact-check unit or other agency authorised by the Central government for fact checking.
When asked about the proposed rule, an official said: “The unit does not have the authority to fact-check any other content, including those related to State governments, agencies or private entities.”
“The unit flags the social media accounts, operating on platforms like YouTube and Twitter, which indulge in spreading false information linked to the ministries, departments and organisations under the Central government. Subsequently, as and when the instances are reported, the Information & Broadcasting Ministry takes them up for further action to ensure that the contents are taken down,” said the official.
Through the proposed amendment, the official said, the process will be brought under the purview of the IT Rules and it would be mandatory for the platforms to remove, or disallow the posting of, any content that has been identified as false by the unit.
After the amendment gets the approval of the competent authority, a mechanism for expeditious action against the content adjudged by the unit as fake will be developed, the official said. A nodal official may be posted for communications with the social media platforms. “Once a false content is flagged by the unit in the public domain, the platforms concerned may also take notice of it and act on it proactively,” said the official.
It is learnt that the I&B Ministry officials recently held a meeting with YouTube representatives on various issues related to the removal of content spreading false information pertaining to the Central government bodies.
The fact-check unit has detected about 1,000 instances of “fake news” since its establishment in November 2019.
In response to a query in the Rajya Sabha, the government had earlier said: “This unit takes cognisance of fake news both suo motu and by way of queries sent by citizens on its portal or through e-mail and WhatsApp. The unit responds to the relevant queries with correct information when the same pertains to Central government or forwards them to States/ UTs in other cases.”