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  India   All India  25 Dec 2018  Govt mulls law to force firms trace fake news

Govt mulls law to force firms trace fake news

Published : Dec 25, 2018, 1:18 am IST
Updated : Dec 25, 2018, 1:18 am IST

The ministry is seeking feedback from the public on the draft amendments by January 15 before taking a final decision.

(Representational image)
 (Representational image)

New Delhi: Barely a week after 10 Central agencies were authorised to intercept data on any computer, a move that triggered a political storm with the Opposition accusing the Centre of trying to create a “surveillance state,” the Narendra Modi government has come out with a proposal to amend the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000.

Under the amended law, social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram, WeChat and Twitter, among others, will have to help investigative agencies trace the “originator” of fake news on their platforms.

The proposal envisages that the social media sites will have to develop tools to prevent posting of “unlawful information” on their platform. The move has evoked strong criticism from social activists who say that “freedom of speech” will be hampered in the online space. It is alleged that the move to trace people  will force messaging apps to stop encrypting messages, endangering privacy of their users and increasing the possibility of hackers snooping on them. Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), formed by a group of volunteers to defend online freedom, said that these amendments “rather than checking misinformation will introduce a China model of censorship” in the country.

However, the Centre said that it is committed to freedom of speech and expression and privacy of its citizens as enshrined in the Constitution. “Government does not regulate content appearing on social network platform,” said ministry of electronics and IT. It said that instances of misuse of social media by criminals and anti-national elements have brought new challenges to the Law Enforcement Agencies (LEA).  

The ministry is seeking feedback from the public on the draft amendments by January 15 before taking a final decision.

IFF said that many platforms (like WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram) retain minimal user data for electronic information exchange and also deploy end-to-end encryption to provide reliability, security and privacy to users. These, it said are used by millions of Indians to prevent identity theft, code injection attacks.

The Centre had been asking WhatsApp to help identify originator of fake news after a number of lynching incidents in the country due to spread of fake news on its platform. However, the social media company had resisted the demand.

The draft amendments said that social media companies will have to introduce automated tools “for proactively identifying and removing public access to unlawful information or content.”

Tags: twitter, facebook, whatsapp, fake news