You can't handle the truth! Indian government suggests its own fact checkers judge what's right on social media
Classy: slips obviously conflicted idea in alongside changed gaming rules on last day of consultation period
India's government has proposed to make itself the arbiter of what is true and what is not on social media.
The plan emerged in draft amendments to India's IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 – a sweeping law that requires social media services to take down certain content, identify users, and appoint officers to handle citizen grievances.
The government recently proposed amendments to the law that would require games developers to self-regulate so their wares don't cause financial harm to users.
The amendments published yesterday detail that regime. But they also include a change to content takedown rules for social media that would require them to remove content "identified as fake or false by the fact check unit at the Press Information Bureau of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting or other agency authorised by the Central Government for fact checking or, in respect of any business of the Central Government."
In other words, if the government doesn't like content, it could force social media operators to take it down. And if they don't, their Indian operations would be imperiled.
Which is obviously problematic, because India's government can appoint officers to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The Register has also reported the odd case of a government spokesperson seemingly having a role in initiating a police visit to Twitter's Indian HQ.
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India's Internet Freedom Foundation has taken issue with the amendments for two reasons.
One is that having the government decide truth is an obvious conflict of interest.
The other is that the amendments were dropped on the same day that public consultation on a previous version of the law were to end – meaning many stakeholders may already have had their say before the new amendments dropped.
Additionally, this could also severely impact trust in any upcoming public consultations in 2023. Continuing piecemeal amendments as we wait for a ‘Digital India Bill’ without the articulation of clear vision or plan are matters of great concern.— Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) (@internetfreedom) January 17, 2023
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has extended the consultation period – by just a week, despite copious amendments to the bill.
Thus is India governed. ®