MHA evaluates steps taken by social media companies to curb rumours and fake news

Government asks social media giants to take concrete steps to curb the menace of fake news and rumour mongering.

The center has sought concrete measures from Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media giants to curb dissemination of news and rumors that lead to unrest, violence and riots on their platform.

According to reports, senior officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) along with Union Home secretary Rajiv Gauba and security agencies reportedly met the representatives of social media platforms on Wednesday to evaluate their steps taken in the direction of ensuring the social media platforms are not misused.

The government officials reportedly asked the social media platforms to put in place a mechanism for the timely sharing of information sought by law enforcement agencies. There have been several incidents lately in which social media platforms are used to provoke violence against a particular group or community. However, social media companies citing privacy issues are reluctant to share information about customer details and message trail.

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The Union Home Secretary reportedly asked social media representatives to nominate India-based grievance redressal officers and to realise a vigilance mechanism for time-bound preventive and other actions for the removal of objectionable content from their platforms. Government officials said that some of the social media representatives are complying with the set norms and are doing everything necessary to curb the menace of fake news, rumours, and misinformation.

It is notable here that earlier this year, there was widespread violence across several cities after the Supreme Court proposed amendments to the SC/ST Act. Many political parties had participated in spreading rumours that the government is abolishing caste-based reservations for SC/ST people.

The menace of sharing the fake news is not just limited to anonymous miscreants, but even known and verified accounts have indulged in spreading the fake news on social media. In April this year, Congress media head Divya Spandana shared a fake image of newspaper to malign the BJP. Notable lawyer Prashant Bhushan has been caught several times for spreading misinformation and lies. In July 2018, Prashant Bhushan was caught lying about Mehul Choksi’s Antiguan Citizenship. While mass sharing of fake videos and rumours can be expected to be curbed with concrete steps, one can only hope the social media companies take some cognisance of fake news spreading done by public figures to score political goals.

It will be interesting to see how public grievance officers of these respective social media companies tackle misinformation and fake news originating from verified accounts. Will there be a discrimination in treating fake news based on the source of its origin or will the social media companies treat all the miscreants impartially, without getting influenced by powerful personalities?

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