The forecast after a fake news campaign in Tamil Nadu

Source– The post is based on the article “The forecast after a fake news campaign in Tamil Nadu” published in “The Hindu” on 18th March 2023.

Syllabus: GS3 – Internal security Issues associated with fake news

Relevance– Issues related to freedom of speech

News– Recently, a malicious online disinformation campaign that migrant workers from Bihar are facing violence, led to law-and-order issues in Tamil Nadu.

What are the efforts by various countries to tackle disinformation?

The European Union has put out the Code of Practice on Disinformation 2022. The Code includes transparency in political advertising, empowerment of fact checkers and researchers, tools to flag disinformation, and measures to reduce manipulative behaviour.

The United Kingdom has proposed enacting an Online Safety Bill. It expects social media platforms to actively monitor problematic content.

What are steps taken by the government to tackle disinformation?

Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 is an important tool in the hands of the government. It gives power to the Union Government to block access to any information online that it considers necessary in the interest of the sovereignty and the integrity of India, the security of the state or public order.

The Union brought out the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 to regulate content by online publishers of news and social media intermediaries.

The recent draft amendments to the IT Rules, 2021 empower the Press Information Bureau to flag inaccurate and fake news related to government bodies on social media platforms.

What are issues with government measures to tackle disinformation in India?

There has been little or no serious discussion on the menace and the extent of disinformation in India.

The government in India has only employed knee jerk measures such as Internet shutdowns without following the doctrine of proportionality. This response is over simplistic, non­transparent and autocratic.

The government has not introduced a robust framework to tackle the root causes of disinformation. Rather, the Union has granted itself greater powers to strike down any content that is not pleasant for the government.

The focus has been more on containing criticism against the Union Government and its leaders, instead of blocking fake news.

What is the way forward to tackle disinformation in India?

A more studied, comprehensive and calculated set of legislative actions is required. The objective should be to balance between free speech under Article 19 of the Constitution of India, and protecting citizens from malicious disinformation.

In Tehseen S. Poonawalla vs Union Of Indian case of 2018, the Supreme Court of India had

held that it is the duty of the Union and State governments to take steps to curb dissemination.

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