Fake news and misinformation on social media platforms are often behind violences and mob killings.
Fake news menace: To fight the spread of misinformation and fake news on social media platforms, the Union Information and Broadcasting ministry has invited agencies to provide solutions and services to deal with the menace. According to a report in The Indian Express, the Ministry through Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Limited (BECIL) floated a tender for the same on May 13.
The tender said the firms should provide solutions and services related to fact verification and disinformation detection on social media platforms. BECIL is a central public sector enterprise (CPSE) under the Ministry of I&B.
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The tender said that firms must be able to “identify key influencers behind disinformation” and their geo-location.
Until now, the government has put the onus of curbing fake news and disinformation on social media intermediaries. Electronics and Information Technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had in August 2018 had asked social media sites to use technology to curb fake news and misinformation.
The spread of fake news and misinformation on social media platforms have become a major cause of concern for the government and the civil society. Such messages and information are often behind violences and mob killings. Prasad had made the comments in 2018 after several mob lynching incidents in the country.
Mobs, according to probe agencies, acted following posts on social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook. WhatsApp has the highest number of users in the country and is widely used by anti-social elements to spread information which are false or provocative in nature.
The instant messaging app has been under fire from the government for failing to control the spread of such messages. The misuse of WhatsApp for spreading violence had come under government scrutiny once again in February this year after police found members of two communities having created several WhatsApp groups to circulate inflammatory texts, audio and video messages to rally crowds.
Other platforms like Facebook and Twitter too have often invited criticism from government agencies for not doing enough to check the spread of fake news or misinformation.
The IE report added that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) was working on the final contours of the Information Technology Intermediary Guidelines and Guidelines for use of Social Media Regulations 2020. A final draft of the rules is yet to be made public.
Even as the government still develops fake news guidelines, the Press Information Bureau has a separate Twitter handle and it does a fact check based on any news or report that comes in traditional media or otherwise any report that goes viral.