Centre proposes new online fake news rules
New DelhiThe Union ministry of electronics and information technology proposed more amendments to the contentious IT rules, 2021, inserting a clause that will need intermediaries — social media companies like Twitter and Facebook — to ensure users do not post content that has been “fact checked” by the government Press Information Bureau
The Union ministry of electronics and information technology proposed more amendments to the contentious IT rules, 2021, inserting a clause that will need intermediaries — social media companies like Twitter and Facebook — to ensure users do not post content that has been “fact checked” by the government Press Information Bureau.
The rule builds on prior obligations for intermediaries to ensure users do not “host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, store, update or share any information” that “deceives or misleads the addressee about the origin of the message or knowingly and intentionally communicates any misinformation or information which is patently false and untrue or misleading in nature” by adding the words: “is identified as fake or false by the fact check unit at the Press Information Bureau of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting or other agency authorised by the central government…”
The changes came as the government extended the last date to submit feedback to the amended IT rules that were aimed at bringing online gaming under its ambit.
The revised document was uploaded on the website hours after minister of state Rajeev Chandrashekar held a detailed consultation with several stakeholders from the gaming sector. The deadline to submit feedback has now been extended to January 25.
“A “fact check” by the Press Information Bureau is not a legal order and hence is not actionable as per Shreya Singhal. MEITY continues to flout legality by seeking to expand the IT Rules,” Internet Freedom Foundation trustee Apar Gupta said. “It is also concerning that the proposal allows central government ministry’s to “fact check” news reports on them and cause their takedown. It is not a remote possibility for it to cause censorship of critical reports.”
Earlier, the ministry met stakeholders from across the industry and civil society to discuss plans to bring online gaming under the IT Rules, with many seeking clarity on definitions, reduction of compliance burden on operators, redressal mechanism for operators, and introduction of a broad code of conduct for self regulatory organisations.
The stakeholders also raised the issue of e-KYC requirements proposed to be brought in under the new rules, that mandate all gaming platforms that participate in financial transactions, in cash or kind, to verify the identity of the person. The draft rules suggest a gaming provider do this via mechanisms laid down by the Reserve Bank of India.
“On e-KYC, I don’t know what the problem is. We are following the government principle, which is that all financial transactions have to be verified,” Union minister of state for electronics and information technology, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who spearheaded the discussion, said.
He added that as far as compliance is concerned, the government wants to keep it non-intensive. “We don’t want government to be prescriptive, we will establish guardrails,” he said.
The IT ministry proposed that online gaming companies or intermediaries — a platform that provides several such games — register with a self-regulatory body. “Before hosting or publishing or advertising an online game for a consideration, ascertain from the online gaming intermediary and verify from the concerned self-regulatory body…” the rules, first uploaded for public feedback on January 2, states.
Addressing the industry’s demand against a single self-regulatory mechanism, Chandrasekhar added that the government did not want to “create chaos” with multiple self-regulatory organisations (SROs) initially.
“We don’t want chaos with multiple SROs, it is not instinctively our desire to have in the early stages a large number of SROs we want to be very careful,” he said.
Kazim Rizvi, founder of tech policy think tank The Dialogue, said it was a constructive consultation where the minister invited online gaming platforms, industry bodies, lawyers and think-tanks to present their inputs. “The multi-stakeholder approach adopted by the Ministry aided in an open discussion on different aspects of the rules, which were positively noted by the hon’ble Minister,” he said. “From our perspective, we feel there is a need for further clarity on the definition of ‘online gaming intermediary’. The rules presently state that an online gaming intermediary is an intermediary that offers one or more than one online game. ‘Offer’ is too broad a term, and may cover a host of non-gaming intermediaries, such as marketplaces that offer games to be downloaded, like app stores, play stores etc. It may also include those computer or mobile phone manufacturers that have pre-installed games on their devices. Therefore, the definition of gaming intermediary needs to be narrowed down to those intermediaries whose primary function is to provide one or more games to the user(s).”