SC issued a temporary suspension on the establishment of Fact Check Units

SC issued a temporary suspension on the establishment of Fact Check Units

This article covers ‘Daily Current Affairs’ and the topic details of ”SC issued a temporary suspension on the establishment of Fact Check Units”. This topic is relevant in the “Polity and Governance” section of the UPSC CSE exam.


Why in the News?

The Indian Supreme Court has issued a temporary suspension of the central government’s notification regarding the establishment of a Fact Check Unit (FCU). This action follows a petition filed in the Bombay High Court contesting the revised Information Technology (IT) Rules of 2023, which granted the government authority to detect fake news circulating on social media platforms.


About the Fact-Checking Unit and the amended IT Rules

The rise of social media has created a breeding ground for misinformation, and India is taking steps to address this challenge with the introduction of the Fact-Checking Unit (FCU) in 2023. 


Fact-Checking Units:

  • Established in 2023 as part of the Press Information Bureau (PIB), the FCU acts as a government-appointed watchdog specifically tasked with monitoring social media for information related to the central government and its departments.  
  • This unit meticulously examines online content, identifying and flagging posts that it deems to be false or misleading. By acting as the government’s eyes and ears on social media, the FCU aims to combat the spread of disinformation that could potentially erode public trust in the government. 


The amended IT Rules

To effectively combat misinformation, the FCU isn’t operating in a silo. The amended IT Rules, introduced alongside the FCU in 2023, establish a broader framework for tackling fake news.  These rules place new responsibilities on online intermediaries like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, along with internet service providers (ISPs) such as Airtel and Jio. 

  • Proactive Measures:  Online platforms are now obligated to implement measures that prevent the spread of inaccurate information about the government in the first place. This could involve content moderation strategies or flagging mechanisms for users to report suspicious content.
  • Fast Response:  When the FCU identifies demonstrably false information, the IT Rules mandate that these platforms take “reasonable efforts” to remove such content. This creates a system where the FCU acts as the investigator, identifying misinformation, while online platforms function as the enforcers, taking down flagged content. 
  • Safe Harbor protection at risk: The IT Rules come with a potential penalty for non-compliance. Failure to adhere to these regulations could result in online intermediaries losing their “safe harbour” protection.  This legal shield currently safeguards them from lawsuits over content posted by their users. Losing this protection could expose them to significant legal liabilities.


Concerns raised

  • Unclear Standards: The Fact-Checking Unit (FCU) might have too much leeway in deciding what’s “false information” about the government. This raises concerns about biased judgments and targeting specific viewpoints, which might have a negative impact on Freedom of Speech and Expression(Article-19).
  • Silencing the Dissent: Some argue the rules, particularly the amendment to Rule 3(1)(b)(v), violate fundamental rights like free speech and equality enshrined in the Indian Constitution. They fear these rules could be used to silence criticism of the government.
  • Burden on Platforms: Social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube face a heavy task: monitoring and removing content flagged by the FCU. This could lead to excessive censorship.
  • Conflict of Interest: The fact-checking unit’s function presents a notable conflict of interest since it assumes the roles of adjudicator, evaluator, and enforcer simultaneously.


Government’s rationale behind establishing FCU’s


  • Tackling the False Information: This fact-checking entity can play a crucial role in addressing the problem of false news and misinformation circulating on digital platforms, which has the potential to cause harm to society.
  • Enhancing Accountability of Social Media Intermediaries: Designating PIB’s Fact-Check Unit as the government’s official fact-checking body will heighten the accountability of social media intermediaries such as Facebook and Twitter. They will now be obligated to remove content that is false or misleading.
  • Strengthening Cybersecurity Measures: PIB’s Fact-Check Unit has the capacity to bolster cybersecurity efforts by preventing the misuse of online platforms for illicit or harmful purposes. For instance, regulating the dissemination of deepfakes can be part of this endeavour.
  • Curbing Hate Speech and Violence: The Fact-Check Unit aims to ensure adherence to Indian laws such as the IT Act and statutes pertaining to national security. This endeavour helps thwart the exploitation of social media platforms and other digital media channels to propagate hate speech or instigate violence.

Download Yojna daily current affairs eng med 3rd April 2024


Prelims practise question


Q1. Consider the following: 

  1. Service providers
  2. Data centres
  3. Body corporate

For how many of the above is it legally mandatory to report on cyber security incidents?

(a) Only one

(b) Only two

(c) All three

(d) None


Ans: D


Mains practise question


Q1. How does the unregulated dissemination of information on the internet potentially exacerbate social tensions in diverse countries like India, where different cultural, religious, and ethnic groups coexist?


No Comments

Post A Comment