New IT rules consider removing social media content deemed ‘fake’ by the government

The government will not allow social media platforms to store any information determined to be false, according to a draft proposal for new IT rules published this week.

It is the latest in a series of measures by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government that are being seen as an attempt to rein in big tech companies.

Any information determined to be “fake or untrue” by the Press Information Bureau (PIB), or by any other agency authorized by the government to fact-check, or “by the department of agency where such business is transacted”, would be prohibited under the draft.

Once information is identified as such, social media platforms or other “online intermediaries” will have to “make reasonable efforts” to ensure that users do not “store, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, store, update or share” such information, it added.

In October, the government announced a panel would be set up to hear user complaints about content moderation decisions by social media companies, which had been required to appoint officials and internal complaint handling executives to coordinate with law enforcement officials.

The government has also repeatedly engaged in controversies with various platforms when it failed to heed requests to take down certain content or accounts for allegedly spreading misinformation.

Last month, the Indian government blocked 104 YouTube channels, 45 videos, four Facebook accounts, three Instagram accounts, five Twitter accounts and six websites have been blocked for spreading misinformation and threatening national security. Union Minister Anurag Thakur later said the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), as required by Part II of the IT Code, has issued guidance to block 1,643 user-generated URLs, including pages web, websites, posts and social media accounts between 2021 and October 2022.

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