“Centre Best Suited To Answer On Its Policies”: Minister Defends Fact-Check Unit

'Centre Best Suited To Answer On Its Policies': Minister Defends Fact-Check Unit

New Delhi:

India’s IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw today said that it is essential for the government to set up its own fact-checking unit because it is the best suited to combat misinformation about welfare policies and other schemes. His remarks come just days after the Supreme Court halted the government’s move to establish its own Fact Check Unit.

“Facts are facts. Opinions are opinions. Recently, an opposition party posted that passengers of India Railways have reduced by 80%. You will have to ask the Railways what is the accurate number to tackle this misinformation,” Mr Vaishnaw said at NDTV Indian Of The Year awards today.

“If there is a question related to the central government, who is best placed to answer that fact? The central government. Our proposal was limited to facts and data related to the central government’s work,” Mr Vaishnaw added.

The provision for a Fact Check Unit was part of the amendments to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, brought by the Centre last year.

Under the rules, if this unit comes across or is informed about any posts that are fake, false, and contain misleading facts about the business of the government, it would flag them to social media intermediaries. Once such a post is flagged, the intermediary has the option of taking it down or putting a disclaimer. In taking the second option, the intermediary risks legal action.

But the move had been challenged in the Supreme Court over concerns of censorship. The petitioners, stand-up comic Kunal Kamra and the Editors Guild of India said the new rules would restrict users from expressing themselves freely on social media. They had said the social media intermediaries would readily remove posts flagged by the government’s Fact Check Unit to avoid legal troubles.

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