NEW DELHI: A parliamentary panel on Wednesday asked the government to explore legal provisions to counter the challenge of ‘fake news’ and suggested embracing latest technologies such as artificial intelligence to check the ‘menace’ in real-time.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Communications and Information Technology, headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, observed that ‘fake news’ has become a ‘disturbing trend in India.’
‘The committee is concerned that the menace of false/fake news has become a disturbing trend in India, where the contributors of content are not only owners of websites, but also individual subscribers, on whom exercising control is posing a very big challenge,’ the panel said in its 27th report on ‘Ethical Standards in Media Coverage’, which has been presented in Parliament.
It said the committee endorses the views of the CEO of Prasar Bharati that ‘the regulatory mechanisms should look at embracing latest technologies such as artificial intelligence to check fake news and to be able to intervene in near real-time’.
There is a need to take suitable steps accordingly and also to factor in the existing expertise in the domain of news fact check through non-government agencies such as ‘AltNews’, ‘check4spam’, ‘SMHoaxslayer’ etc, the panel said.
Observing that countries like Australia and Malaysia have anti-fake news laws, the committee suggested the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) to develop some legal provisions to counter ‘as big a challenge as fake news.’ The panel appreciated the establishment of fact check units in 17 regional offices of the Press Information Bureau (PIB), and asked the ministry to open more such units ‘to remain vigilant for viral videos/news which could create public disorder’.
The panel report noted that there already exist laws and rules under the Indian Penal Code, the Information Technology Act, 2000, and the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011, to tackle and penalise persons spreading ‘fake news’.
Fact check unit was established in the PIB in December 2019 and these units are now there in its 17 regional offices.
‘Further, a fact check unit (FCU) has been established in the PIB in December 2019 and such FCUs have also been set up in 17 regional offices of PIB. This cell is mandated to counter misinformation on government policies and schemes either suo motu or under a reference via various input methods like WhatsApp Hotline number, e-mail, Twitter and PIB’s website,’ the panel noted.
The mechanism depends on various feeder units like ministries, departments, public sector undertakings for verification of information and is connected to them via PIB officers in the ministries.