Govt may amend IT law to allow shutdown of apps, sites that spread fake news

The amendment also proposes tech companies to deploy tools to "identify" and curb unlawful content.


The problem of fake news and the consequences of its spread thereof was a prevalent issue in 2018.  Mob lynching caused by the spread of fake news on WhatsApp was one such serious issue. In order to bring in some regulation around the problem, the Indian government was often seen pushing tech companies to contain the issue with repeated warnings of a ban.

Now, once again, the government is reportedly mulling over plans to amend the IT law in order to penalise apps and websites that are unable to monitor the spread of fake news and child pornography content.

(Also read: WhatsApp's fake news issues: Problems and possible solution to fix the platform)

According to a report by The Times of India, the amendments will include a provision of shutting down apps and websites that are found in violation of the law. This means that any apps and website that become a medium for the spread of fake news or child pornography may be taken down by the government.

“We need accountability and power to heavily penalise the companies in case of violations, or refusal to cooperate,” the publication quotes a senior government official as saying.

Govt may amend IT law to allow shutdown of apps, sites that spread fake news

A man poses with a smartphone in front of displayed Whatsapp logo in this illustration September 14, 2017. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic - RC1740C10AC0

This report comes days after the IT ministry met with senior executives of Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and other companies to discuss the proposed changes in the Information Technology (IT) rules. Another report also suggests that the amendment will also require the tech companies to deploy tools to "identify" and curb unlawful content as well as follow stricter due diligence practices.

"The intermediary (social media platform) shall deploy technology-based automated tools or appropriate mechanisms, with appropriate controls for proactively identifying and removing or disabling public access to unlawful information or content," the amendment draft on IT Ministry website reads.

Meanwhile, earlier last month, the government also authorised ten central agencies to intercept data on any computer, a move that had triggered a political storm accusing the centre of trying to create a "surveillance state".

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