Fake news: How new rules are tak­ing so­cial me­dia gi­ants to task


Gulf News - - Front Page -

As In­dia gears up for the gen­eral elec­tions, own­ers of so­cial me­dia plat­forms won­der how to curb the spread of mis­in­for­ma­tion and fake news in a coun­try where deep mo­bile pen­e­tra­tion has made Face­book, its mes­sag­ing ser­vice What­sApp, and Twit­ter avail­able at the fin­ger­tips of mil­lions.

De­spite their sin­cere ef­forts that be­gan in the later half of 2018 — in­clud­ing ad cam­paigns and col­lab­o­ra­tions with fact-check­ing agen­cies — the In­dian gov­ern­ment has now for­mu­lated new IT guide­lines that state so­cial me­dia plat­forms have to re­move within 24 hours any un­law­ful con­tent that can af­fect the “sovereignty and in­tegrity of In­dia”.

Lu­cra­tive mar­ket

In­dia is a lu­cra­tive mar­ket for so­cial me­dia firms and has the po­ten­tial to grow big­ger, with over 400 mil­lion smart­phones and over 700 fea­ture phone users, the lat­ter be­ing tar­geted by mo­bile man­u­fac­tur­ers with fea­ture-packed, en­try-level de­vices that would help them get full ac­cess to so­cial me­dia apps.

For Twit­ter CEO Jack Dorsey, In­dia is ex­tremely im­por­tant.

“We love the con­ver­sa­tional na­ture of the so­ci­ety and cul­ture. We’re re­ally ex­cited to make Twit­ter vi­able to more and more peo­ple in the coun­try,”

Dorsey said dur­ing his In­dia visit in Novem­ber last year.

Face­book, with close to 300 mil­lion users and over 200 mil­lion users for its What­sApp ser­vice in In­dia, is also bullish on the fu­ture growth prospects.

Ac­cord­ing to ex­perts, so­cial me­dia plat­forms must look at In­dia from a fresh per­spec­tive when it comes to hon­our­ing the law of the land.

“For the so­cial me­dia play­ers, In­dia is a huge mar­ket and they want to grow... On the other hand, they have con­sis­tently failed to stop the spread of fake news and pro­pa­ganda on their plat­forms,” Pavan Dug­gal, a lead­ing cy­ber law ex­pert, said.

The pro­posed rules, said Dug­gal, are in the right di­rec­tion to pro­tect the sovereignty and in­tegrity of the coun­try.

Risks to free speech

Pras­anth Su­gathan, a tech­nol­ogy lawyer and Le­gal Di­rec­tor at Soft­ware Free­dom Law Cen­tre (SFLC), how­ever feels the new rules have gone be­yond the pro­vi­sions of the par­ent act.

“The draft in­ter­me­di­ary rules have im­pli­ca­tions for free speech rights of users with re­quire­ments for au­to­mated con­tent re­moval and an ar­ray of am­bigu­ous terms used to cat­e­gorise con­tent deemed un­law­ful.”

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