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Concerns regarding the Fact-Check Unit (FCU)

Why is it in the news?

  • The Bombay High Court is deliberating the constitutionality of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023, which allow the government’s Fact-Check Unit (FCU) to identify and demand the removal of “fake or false or misleading” online content related to the Central Government’s business.

More about the news

  • Petitioners, argue that the FCU’s powers could lead to government-led online censorship and violate freedom of speech.
  • However, the government contends that the FCU’s role is advisory, and intermediaries can choose to remove flagged content or leave it up with a disclaimer.

 Concerns by High Court

  • Concerns raised by the High Court include the lack of guidelines and guardrails in the amendment, potential curbing of fair criticism, and the subjective nature of terms like “fake, false, and misleading.”
  • The Court questions why the Rules apply only to digital media and not print, raising concerns about the inconsistency of regulation for the same content.
  • The Court expresses concern about the potential “chilling effect” on users if they have no recourse in the event of content removal by intermediaries based on FCU flags.

Way Forward

  • Combat misinformation with technology solutions like algorithms and fact-checking websites.
  • Implement self-regulatory measures, such as content monitoring and collaboration with fact-checkers.
  • Raise public awareness about censorship dangers and promote free speech through social media campaigns, workshops, and public discussions.
Information Technology Amendment Rules, 2023

Obligatory for Intermediaries

  • It prohibits harmful unapproved online games and their advertisements.
  • Restricts the sharing of false information about the Indian government, confirmed by a fact-checking unit.

 Self-Regulatory Bodies

  • Platforms providing online gaming must register with a Self-Regulatory Body (SRB).
  • SRB determines permissibility of online games, ensuring no gambling or betting elements.
  • Compliance with legal requirements, standards, and safety precautions, including parental controls.

 Losing Safe Harbour

  • Intermediaries must remove information marked as fake by the fact-check unit, or risk losing safe harbour protection. Social media sites should take down such posts, and internet service providers block URLs of such content.

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