Government to sensitise schoolkids to combat fake news
The government will also use its network of common services centres (CSCs) in 2.5 lakh gram panchayats to reach out to rural masses, considered relatively more susceptible to fake news.
The government has put in place plans to counter the menace of fake news by educating schoolchildren about the misuse of social media besides enforcing legal provisions to fix responsibilities of popular platforms such as WhatsApp, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.
The government will also use its network of common services centres (CSCs) in 250,000 gram panchayats to reach out to rural masses, considered relatively more susceptible to fake news, two officials with direct knowledge of the matter said, requesting anonymity.
The government is working on the two initiatives simultaneously so that both can be launched soon, they said.
“Making citizens aware about fake news is the best way to counter it,” said an official from the ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) who asked not to be named. “The idea is that children, who are tech savvy, can play a major role in that as they have significant influence in their families.”
To be sure, the new initiatives are part of an ongoing awareness campaign by MeitY, which has adopted a two-pronged approach: Enforce the law to check propagation of false news through social media platforms and create awareness among people.
There have been several cases of lynching across the country that could be attributed to the spread of fake news through social media and instant messaging services such as WhatsApp. The home ministry had taken it up and issued a series of advisories.
An advisory on untoward incidents in the name of protection of cows was issued on August 9, 2016. Another advisory was issued on July 4 last year to check incidents of lynching by mobs in certain states that resulted due to rumours of child lifting and kidnapping of children.
MeitY issued a notice to WhatsApp on July 3, 2018 and the company took several steps to address the issue of fake news propagation through the platform. The government issued another notice on July 19, 2018 to the company asking it for “more effective solutions” that can bring in “accountability and facilitate enforcement” of law, the official said.
Union minister for law and justice and information technology Ravi Shankar Prasad apprised Parliament in July last year of his ministry’s plans to create greater awareness about the dangers of fake news, said one of the officials working for MeitY, who did not wish to be named.
These initiatives will be in addition to the enforcement of legal provisions to make social media platforms more accountable, the official said, adding that citizens must be enabled to identify fake news and prevent its recycling. The government will involve various stakeholders such as state governments, educational institutions, industry chambers and professional associations to make the campaign successful.
MeitY already has a programme, Information Security Education & Awareness (ISEA), dedicated to general awareness against propagating rumours and fake news, which can also be used in this effort, the official said.
The ministry is considering moving amendments to existing laws including regulations related to data protection, he added.