What's the article about?
- It talks about the recently proposed draft amendments to IT rules to deal with the menace of fake news.
- GS2: Indian Constitution- Significant Provisions and Basic Structure; Governance;
- GS3: Internal security;
- The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has proposed amendment to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (IT Rules, 2021).
- These amendments seek to introduce a new category for the take down of social media content and news media content, i.e. any information that has been identified as ‘fake’ or ‘false’ by the Press Information Bureau (PIB), or any other agency of the Union Government, to which the news story relates.
- This will heavily impact the freedom of speech, expression and information online, and will make the Union Government the final arbiter of what news may be published and what must be removed.
What is the Press Information Bureau (PIB)?
- Misinformation and disinformation are serious threats in modern democratic societies, of course.
- Therefore, even though the government must take such measures to halt or restrict the spread of false information, it must also make sure that the procedure is sincere and does not violate the spirit of the right to free speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19 of the Constitution.
- The above mentioned amendment does not provide any forum for appeal or redressal.
- Also the draft rules fail the smell test on several counts as follows:
- First, the PIB is a government agency, and it is not the government’s role to play editor.
- Second, following from the Supreme Court’s verdict in Shreya Singhal v Union of India (2015) — in which the two-judge bench struck down Section 66A of the IT Act as being unconstitutional — errors of fact are not grounds for “reasonable restrictions”.
- In that verdict, the SC had laid down that take-down orders can only be issued on the grounds laid out in Article 19(2) of the Constitution, which does not refer to the truth or falsity of statements.
- Third, the PIB’s record thus far in “flagging” misinformation has been far from perfect.
- There have been several instances that the PIB flagged as “fake news” where it later turned out to be mistaken.
- The nation's economy, stability, and peace are all seriously threatened by misinformation and disinformation.
- But at the same time, the government shouldn't make use of this justification to give itself unrestricted authority to regulate online content. To combat this false news threat, genuine, pro-democracy actions must be taken.