The Tamil Nadu government has issued orders to form a Fact Check Unit (FCU), with 80 staff members, to deal with “misinformation and disinformation pertaining to the State government” emanating from “all media platforms”.
According to a Government Order (GO) issued last month, the unit can take suo motu cognisance of any information related to the government for fact-checking or act on complaints from “various sources”. It will have a Central Task Force (CTF) in Chennai and information analysts in all districts.
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On researching the complaints through “fact-checking tools” and “authentic government source of information,” the CTF will divide the complaints into “actionable pool” or “non-actionable pool”. It will consult the advisory team from the government’s Legal and Police Departments and forward them to the authorities concerned for initiating “legal action”.
The FCU will also disseminate the fact-checked information through platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter) and YouTube, the order said.
The GO was issued by the Tamil Development and Information (Advertisement) Department. It indicated that an initial non-recurrent expenditure of ₹1.42 crore and a recurring expenditure of ₹3.55 crore per annum would be incurred by the Information and Public Relations Department. However, the administrative control of the FCU will be with the Special Programme Implementation Department, for which Udhayanidhi Stalin is the Minister.
The FCU will be headed by a Mission Director, who will work under the direct control of the Minister and Secretary of the Department of Special Programme Implementation. While the government has made no formal announcement yet on the selection of Mission Director, Iyan Karthikeyan, who was managing the online media platform Youturn, announced on X that he has been appointed to the post.
His organisation had previously done fact-checking, particularly on misinformation and disinformation that reportedly emanated from the BJP and its ecosystem.
The GO further said the decision to constitute the FCU was based on a proposal sent by the Director of Information and Public Relations. Though it said the FCU would act on complaints “irrespective of platforms”, the Director’s proposal quoted in the order raised concerns about the challenges of fake news posed by the social media platforms.
The GO did not explicitly mention whether the FCU’s scope will also include digital and mainstream media.
The proposal referred to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, recently notified by the Union government, to “reaffirm its commitment to protect the safety and trust of the digital news”.
Incidentally, these rules attracted criticisms for the possibility that they may curtail the freedom of speech.