The Center informs the Bombay High Court of the potential harm fake news might do to democracy


According to Bar and Bench on Friday, the Centre informed the Bombay High Court in opposition to a petition contesting changes to the Information Technology Rules, 2021 that false and misleading information might impair political democracy. Against the Centre’s plan to change the Information Technology Rules, 2021 to provide a government-notified fact-checking unit to label articles relating to the Union government as “fake news,” stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra filed a lawsuit in the High Court.

Online gaming and news about the Union government became subject to regulation on April 6 after the Center notified changes to the 2021 Information Technology Rules. According to the regulations, any information “in respect of any business of the Central government” shall be flagged as “fake, false, or misleading” by the Union Ministry of Information Technology and forwarded to a fact-checking organization. A division bench of Justices Gautam S. Patel and Neela K. Gokhale requested a response from the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on April 11. The Center stated in its affidavit to the High Court that inaccurate information may harm the nation’s social fabric, economy, and political democracy in a variety of ways.

The government said that it might “foment separatist movements, heighten social and political unrest, and erode public confidence in democratic institutions.” Misleading information on social media platforms distorts citizens’ views of reality and casts doubt on the motives and intentions of the democratically elected government in areas of public concern.

The ministry added that much of the news in India posted on social media platforms is created by regular individuals who lack the tools to independently check facts. The affidavit stated that while the average user would not have the time or resources to check the content, anti-social and anti-India people and organizations have been leveraging this aspect of social media to knowingly publish and spread fake information. However, a number of civil society organizations have voiced worry over potential abuse of the clause relating to the fact-checking unit that has been authorized by the government.

The Editors Guild of India had previously criticized the revision on April 7 and claimed that by doing so, the government had given itself complete authority to judge what was false or not. It had requested the Center to remove the modifications because they will have “deeply adverse implications” for journalistic freedom in the nation.

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