The Department of Information and Technology (IT) and the Home Department are preparing a framework for Karnataka government’s proposed fact-checking body, which will fight misinformation and fake news on social media and other platforms.
“The first draft of the proposal was submitted to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah who gave a few suggestions to strengthen the body,” said Minister for IT & BT and Panchayat Raj and Rural Development Priyank Kharge. Now, the team is working on tightening the guidelines. After inception, the body may operate under the Home Department.
Recently, Editors Guild of India (EGI) had expressed concerns over the proposed fact-check unit of the Karnataka government. The EGI issued a statement: “We urge all governments to ensure such units are independent of executive control, and their scope and powers are specified so as to not trample upon press freedom.”
The EGI had also filed a petition in Bombay High Court challenging amendment to the IT rules, 2023, that allow setting up of a fact-checking unit under which executives will have sole authority to determine what is fake or not, and with powers to order to take down content. The EGI wants such bodies to be independent, and not under the clutch of governments.
Mr. Kharge tried to ally the fears in a tweet saying it would be an independent body, and would not curb freedom of expression.
The Minister told The Hindu that a comprehensive and tightly-knit framework is being prepared by IT and Home Departments, which will be again submitted to the Chief Minister and Home Minister. “It will not be an ad hoc body,” he said. The fact-check unit will take all technological support, including Artificial Intelligence.
On concerns of EGI, he said the unit is set up with the sole purpose of fighting misinformation, and it will not be misused. “For instance, if anyone defames a minister on social media or other platforms, then that minister is free to file a defamation case, and it is a separate matter. This cannot be linked to the fact check unit. On the other hand, genuine criticism of the policies by individuals or press will not be silenced in the name of fact-check. The body will work under the framework of the Constitution and law of the land,” he said.