Criticism of government’s attempt to combat fake news is premature and misguided

Source- The post is based on the article “Criticism of government’s attempt to combat fake news is premature and misguided” published in “The Indian Express” on 3rd June 2023.

Syllabus: GS3- Role of Media and Social Networking Sites in Internal Security Challenges

Relevance- Issues related to fake news

News– On April 6, MeitY announced the IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023.

What are provisions contained in these rules?

The rules introduce “fact-checking units” to tackle the menace of fake news. These fact-check units have been tasked with the duty of identifying false, fake or misleading information pertaining to the central government’s business.

What are dangers associated with false news?

In the last half-decade, governments across the have begun to recognise the threat posed by fake or false information.

The hazards of fake information were released during the Covid-19 crisis. The pace at which false information began to spread was unprecedented.

Fake or misleading news can spread like wildfire on social media. Scholars at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology even found that falsified content spreads six times faster than factual content on online platforms.

People are more likely to spread fake and misleading news than verified truthful information.

A study conducted by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions found that India was a hot-bed for Covid-related fake news. Such misleading information ranged from the vaccine drive to the symptoms and aftermath of the virus itself.

What are issues related to deep fakes?

It is important for governments to prepare themselves for the dangerous interplay of fake news and AI-related technologies such as deepfakes in the digital world.

In February, deep fakes of news anchors praising China’s role in geopolitical relations were spread across Twitter and Facebook by pro-China accounts. Deepfakes of the Ukrainian President announcing a surrender were also circulated across platforms last year.

This convincing ability of deep fakes, and the inability of people to separate them from truthful content, makes them prone to being used to spread false information.

Why does the government need to act against false news?

Falsified information can have detrimental impact on the government’s ability to manage emergencies.

For instance, carrying out essential vaccination initiatives. Any roadblock in the easy and quick implementation of such initiatives could be life-threatening.

Further, such falsified information purpose is to create a state of alarm amongst the public. This can have dangerous law and order consequences.

Why criticism against the rules having a “chilling effect” on the public is wholly unsubstantiated?

The fact-checking units are still to be notified by the government. Even the Bombay High Court, orally remarked that at this stage they are presently “inoperable” due to non-notification of the fact-checking units.

It is only upon the notification of the units that further nuances will be known. Thus, any arguments against the rules right now would be premature.

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