The Indian government has proposed that the Press Information Bureau (PIB) and other government agencies determine what information is misleading online. This could escalate troubles for social media firms and other internet companies in the local market.
The proposal by the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) came as part of an amendment to the nation’s IT rules. In the current draft, the ministry asks social media firms and online gaming companies to undertake due diligence on the content users “host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, store, update or share” and ensure that they are not “patently false and untrue or misleading in nature.”
The change proposes that the social media firms and gaming companies use the judgment of the Press Information Bureau or other agency authorized by the Central Government for fact checking.
Apar Gupta, executive director of the Internet Freedom Foundation, a digital rights group, said the Ministry of Electronics and IT continues to “flout legality by seeking to expand the IT Rules.” It was “concerning” that the proposal allows central government ministry’s to “‘fact check’ news reports on them and cause their take down, he added.
The ministry proposed earlier this month that the online gaming industry establish a self-regulatory body to oversee concerns over the rise of addictiveness of their titles. However, the ministry reserves the right to have a decisive say in regulatory matters.
The new proposal may add to the growing pain for many tech giants in India. Asia Internet Coalition, an influential industry group that represents Google, Amazon and Meta (banned and designated as extremist in Russia) among other tech firms, expressed concerns earlier this month about the digital competition law recommended by an Indian parliamentary panel that seeks to regulate their alleged anticompetitive practices.
The Indian panel said last month that its recommendation was systemically important to counter monopoly and warned that tech giants “must not favour its own offers over the offers of its competitors” when acting as mediators to supply and sales markets.