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India will fact-check online posts about government matters

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In India, a government-run agency will now monitor and undertake fact-checking for government related matters on social media even as tech giants expressed grave concerns about it last year.

The Ministry of Electronics and IT on Wednesday wrote in a gazette notification that it is cementing into law its proposal from last year about making the fact checking unit of Press Information Bureau the dedicated arbiter of truth for New Delhi matters.

“In exercise of the powers conferred by sub-clause (v) of clause (b) of sub-rule (1) of rule 3 of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, the Central Government hereby notifies the Fact Check Unit under the Press Information Bureau of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting as the fact check unit of the Central Government for the purposes of the said sub-clause, in respect of any business of the Central Government,” the gazette notification said.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcast established the fact checking unit of Press Information Bureau in 2019 with the aim to dispel misinformation about government matters. The unit, however, has been criticized for falsely labelling information critical to the government as misleading.

Relying on a government agency such as the Press Information Bureau as the sole source to fact-check government business without giving it a clear definition or providing clear checks and balances “may lead to misuse during implementation of the law, which will profoundly infringe on press freedom,” Asia Internet Coalition, an industry group that represents Meta, Amazon, Google and Apple cautioned last year.

This is a developing story. More to follow.

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