Kaam Ki Baat

Amid removal of fake news, the Editors Guild of India urges to expunge IT rules

Fake news: In response to requests received from stakeholders, the Ministry has decided to extend the last date

The Ministry today extended the deadline for remarks on the controversial proposed amendment to the IT (Internal) Rules that seeks to direct social media platforms to remove news or information identified as “fake” by the Press Information Bureau‘s Fact Checking Unit. Days after leading media organizations, including the Press Association and The Editors Guild of India, wrote to Electronics and Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, urging him to “expunge” the amendments to IT Rules, the Ministry today extended the deadline

“In response to requests received from stakeholders, the Ministry has decided to extend the last date for receipt of comments on the said amendment till 20.2.2023,” a ministry notification said. The previous deadline was January 25.

It is noted that the deadline for comments on the proposed amendment related to online gaming still needs to be extended.

Huge opposition to the proposed amendment has resulted in requests for starting negotiations with press organisations, media companies, and other stakeholders on the regulatory framework for digital media to preserve press freedom.

“This new procedure basically serves to make it easier to muzzle the free press and will give sweeping powers to the PIB, or any ‘other agency authorised by the Central Government for fact checking’, to force online intermediaries to take down content that the government may find problematic,” the editors guild had said in a letter yesterday.

Despite the lack of procedures, the Guild highlighted that the amendment was still illegal because the PIB lacked constitutional authority to regulate the press in any way.

Similar concerns about a government organisation having the authority to define what constitutes “fake news” were expressed by The Press Association, a group representing government-accredited media.

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“The Press Council is already deciding on many complaints on fake news… Bestowing this power to determine and take action on fake news by a pure government body like the Press Information Bureau will dilute and diminish the power and independence of the Council, which has been functioning smoothly since 1966,” the PA had said in a statement.

An organisation of digital media companies called DigiPub has already filed demands to have the IT Rules amendment revoked.

“The government is not the only stakeholder in a thriving democracy. The media (electronic, print and digital), information activists, civil society, etc., are equally invested in a democracy’s well-being and in uploading constitutionally protected freedoms of speech and expression. Therefore, the government should not have appropriate powers to legitimise what information/news is real or fake,” it said.

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