Centre notifies Fact-Check Unit to review online content

  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has assigned the Press Information Bureau’s Fact Check Unit to identify falsehoods about Central government departments on social media platforms ahead of the election.


  • According to the IT Rules of 2021, social media platforms may lose legal protection from being held liable for user-posted content if they continue to promote disinformation detected by Fact Check Unit.

Background of this news-

  • The Union government delayed notifying the Fact Check Unit due to ongoing litigation in the Bombay High Court opposing the provision.
  • However, this month, the court opted not to extend the temporary halt that barred the government from enforcing the guidelines.

Key aspects as per IT Rules, 2021- 

  • Mandates: In essence, the IT Rules (2021) require social media companies to be more cautious about the content they host. Legally, intermediaries must make reasonable measures to prevent users from uploading such content.
  • Appoint a Grievance Officer: Social media sites are required to establish a grievance redressal process and immediately remove illegal and unsuitable content within stipulated deadlines. 
  • Ensuring Users’ Online Safety and Dignity: Intermediaries are obligated to remove or disable access within 24 hours of receiving complaints about content that exposes individuals’ private areas, depicts them in full or partial nudity, shows them engaged in sexual acts, or involves impersonation, including morphed images
  • Informing people about privacy policies is critical. The privacy policies of social media platforms should include measures to educate users about not sharing copyrighted material or any content that could be considered defamatory, racially or ethnically offensive, promoting paedophilia, threatening the unity, integrity, defence, security, or sovereignty of India or its friendly relations with foreign states, or breaking any existing laws.

Fake news on social media can have various harmful effects for governments:

  • Undermining faith: Fake news can destroy public faith in government institutions and politicians. When incorrect information spreads extensively, it can raise suspicions and doubts about the government’s integrity.
  • Misinformation has the ability to destabilise democracy by distorting popular perceptions of government policies and actions, leading to unrest, protests, and even bloodshed. This can destabilise democratic processes and weaken government operations.
  • Manipulating Public Opinion- Fake news can be carefully utilised to influence public opinion in favour or against a specific government or political party. Individuals or groups can have an impact on elections and policymaking by propagating false narratives.
  • False information on social media can cause confusion and opposition to government programmes and activities. This can inhibit the successful execution of programmes and reforms.
  • Wasting Resources- Governments may be required to commit resources to handle the consequences of fake news, such as conducting investigations, issuing clarifications, or opposing misinformation operations. This takes resources away from other vital tasks.
  • Fake news can aggravate social and political tensions in a country by disseminating controversial narratives or encouraging hatred and enmity towards specific groups or communities. This can further polarise society and impede efforts to promote unity and cohesiveness. 

Measures to Tackle Fake News on Social Media:

  • It include mandatory fact-checking. Implement a mandate for social media sites to fact-check content before it is distributed.
  • Enhanced User Education: To assist users in distinguishing between credible and false information, promote media literacy and critical thinking abilities.
  • Strengthened Regulation: Enforce tougher restrictions on social media platforms to combat misinformation and hold them accountable for content moderation.
  • Collaborative Verification: Encourage collaboration between governments, fact-checking organisations, and social media platforms to ensure the accuracy of information.
  • Transparent Algorithms: Ensure transparency in the algorithms employed by social media platforms to prioritise content, hence decreasing the spread of misinformation.
  • Establish systems for the timely elimination of bogus news and penalise users or companies that spread it.
  • Public Awareness Campaigns: Launch campaigns to raise awareness about the negative impacts of fake news and encourage responsible sharing.

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