In News: Government stated that in 2021-22, the Government blocked 94 YouTube channels, 19 social media accounts and 747 uniform resource locators (URLs) engaged in anti-India activities.
- These actions have been taken under the Section 69A Information Technology Act 2000.
Statutory and institutional mechanisms to fight fake news
The Government has the statutory and institutional mechanisms in place to combat fake news.
- For print media, Press Council of India (PCI), a statutory autonomous body set up under the Press Council Act, 1978.
- PCI has framed “Norms of Journalistic Conduct” for adherence by the media, which includes specific norms to refrain print media from publication/ dissemination of fake/false news.
- For electronic media (television), all TV channels are required to adhere to the programme code under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995.
- For digital news, the government has notified the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 under the Information Technology Act, 2000.
Information Technology Act, 2000
- The Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, governs all activities related to the use of computer resources.
- It covers all ‘intermediaries’ who play a role in the use of computer resources and electronic records.
Section 69A of the IT Act:
- It confers on the Central and State governments the power to issue directions to intercept, monitor or decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource.
The grounds on which these powers may be exercised are:
- In the interest of the sovereignty or integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the state.
- Friendly relations with foreign states.
- Public order, or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to these.
- For investigating any offence.
Process of Blocking Internet Websites:
- Section 69A, for similar reasons and grounds (as stated above), enables the Centre to ask any agency of the government, or any intermediary, to block access to the public of any information generated, transmitted, received or stored or hosted on any computer resource.
- Any such request for blocking access must be based on reasons given in writing.
- Fake news is news, stories or hoaxes created to deliberately misinform or deceive readers.
- Usually, these stories are created to influence people’s views, push a political agenda or cause confusion and can often be a profitable business for online publishers.
Causes of Spread of Fake News
Erosion of Media Ethics:
- News media is no longer seen as an arbitrator of the ‘real news’.
- Media is alleged to be echo-chamber of the dominant political class.
- Thus News Media have lost credibility due to motivated reporting, which has become a source of fake news.
- The advent of social media has decentralized the creation and propagation of fake news.
- The vastness of the internet and social media users makes tracing the origin of fake news almost impossible.
Polarization of society:
- Increasing divide in the society on ideological lines has made the job of spreading fake news easier.
Lack of legislation:
- There is no specific law to deal with fake news in India.
Difficult to achieve balance:
- The efforts to control fake news should not threaten to cramp legitimate investigative and source-based journalism or freedom of expression as guaranteed in Article 19 of the Constitution.
Remedies available to tackle this menace
- The Press Council of India: It is created by an Act of Parliament, is a statutory body and keeps vigil on fake news. It can warn, admonish or censure the newspaper, the news agency.
- IPC Sections 153A and 295: Under this action can be initiated against someone creating or spreading fake news if it can be termed as hate speech.
- Indian Broadcast Foundation (IBF): This body was created in 1999 to look into the complaints against content aired by 24×7 channels.
- The Information Technology (IT) Act – Section 69A – It imposes an obligation on intermediaries such as search engine giant to remove any objectionable content pursuant to takedown notices by law enforcement agencies.
- Bring out policy – The government should bring out a policy with the inputs from various stakeholders of controlling fake news.
- Regulatory mechanism – The PCI needs to be reformed and empowered in a way so as to enable it to strike a balance between the freedom of media and speech on the one hand, and the right to know on the other.
- Educating the end-users to be more discerning consumers of news by informing them of verification tools so that they can ascertain the accuracy of a news item before sharing it.
- De-anonymizing all social media accounts for tracking the ‘source’ of fake news.
Source: Financial Express