SC notice to Centre, social media firms on mechanism to check fake news

Petition filed by BJP leader seeks to regulate content on social media and wants a crackdown on ‘anti-India and venomous messages’

Big Tech is no monolith. Facebook is fighting Apple, as the latest operating system for iPhones and other i-gadgets allows the gadget’s owner to block any installed app tracking the owner’s online behaviour.

The Supreme Court has issued notices to the central government and social media companies, including Twitter, on a plea seeking directions for devising a mechanism to check fake news being circulated online.

The petition was filed by BJP leader Vinit Goenka. It seeks to regulate content on social media and wants a crackdown on “anti-India and venomous messages” aimed at provoking tensions among people.

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The court has tagged Goenka’s matter with a bunch of similar petitions already pending before it.

Goenka’s petition comes at a time when the government and Twitter are already at odds over 1,300 accounts or posts that the Centre claims spread “misinformation” in connection with the farmers’ protest and the violence on January 26.

The government asked the microblogging site to take these down. Twitter, however, did not take action on some of the accounts belonging to media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians to keep with their “principles of defending protected speech and freedom of expression”.

On Thursday, Ravi Shankar Prasad, the minister of electronics and IT, warned that social media companies will need to follow India’s laws or face action. He added that the government is working on new rules to make companies such as Twitter and Facebook more responsive to directions and accountable to Indian laws.

Prasad claimed the government was in the favour of freedom of speech and expression but against abuse of social media platforms.

“We respect social media. We also respect criticism. But we will not tolerate the misuse of social media for fake news. Today, from here in Parliament, I politely remind the companies, whether it is Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or WhatsApp or anyone, they are free to work in India, do business, but they need to respect the Indian Constitution, they need to respect the Indian law,” he told the Rajya Sabha.

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