Koo issues advisory to check fake news ahead of Assembly poll results

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Koo issues advisory to check fake news ahead of Assembly poll results

  • Ahead of results of the assembly polls in five states, Koo has issued an advisory to sensitise users to harness social media in a responsible manner and also curb spread of misinformation and fake news.
  • In a statement, the micro-blogging site said it has released community guidelines for its users in the 10 languages that are operational on the platform.

About Fake News

  • Fake news, often known as hoax news, is false propaganda distributed under the pretext of legitimate news.
  • It is purposefully designed to mislead readers.
  • Fake news can be spread via any medium, including print, electronic, and social media.
  • Fake news may cover a wide range of topics - provocative material with a commercial motive, misinformation spread by nation-states, site with a strong political bent, the social networking platform itself, parody or satire.
  • In the mainstream media, there are certain checks and balances in place to combat fake news, but there is none on social media.

Fake News - Effects

  • Fake news is a potential tragedy in a country like India, where millions of people use social media.
  • It can be used to sway public opinion, achieve popularity, or defame or degrade the image or character of specific persons or opponents.
  • Political misinformation tactics in the Indian election system might exacerbate existing socioeconomic divisions, undermine citizen faith in the electoral system, and endanger essential democratic values by polarising public opinion and affecting political institutions.
  • It wreaks havoc on social and communal cohesion by promoting extremist doctrines, particularly in sensitive areas such as youth radicalization, instigating violence and hate among communities, and swaying public opinion.

Challenges associated in dealing with Fake News

  • No universally accepted definition: The phrase ""fake news"" is ambiguous, and no definitive definition of what defines fake news exists.
  • Lack of Regulation: The mainstream media's self-regulation has mostly failed. Any attempt by the government to regulate fake news is likely to be interpreted as an attack on media freedom, which serves as the fourth pillar of democracy.
  • Difficult to achieve balance: Legitimate investigative and source-based journalism, as well as freedom of expression as protected by Article 19 of the Constitution, should not be hampered by measures to combat false news. Also, differentiating between news stories that are deliberately fabricated and news reports that are published in the idea that they are accurate.
  • Tracking false news on social media is nearly hard due to the large number of internet users (over 35 crore in India) and social media users (over 20 crore WhatsApp users alone).

Legal remedies available to tackle this menace

  • The Indian Broadcast Foundation (IBF) was established in 1999 to investigate complaints about content broadcast by 24*7 stations.
  • Press Council of India: It is a statutory authority that monitors fake news and was established by an Act of Parliament. It has the power to issue a warning, admonition, or reprimand to the newspaper or news agency.
  • IPC Sections 153A and 295: This section allows for legal action to be taken against someone who creates or spreads fake news that might be classified as hate speech.
  • Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC): You can make a complaint with the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council over unacceptable TV content or fake news.
  • Defamation Suit: Defamation is a criminal offence under IPC Section 499. Criminal defamation is punishable under Section 500.
  • The Information Technology (IT) Act requires intermediaries, such as Google, to delete any objectionable content in response to takedown notifications issued by law enforcement authorities.
  • False news regarding judicial processes would fall under the purview of contempt of court legislation, while false stories about Parliament and other legislative bodies would constitute a violation of privilege.
  • Article 51A (h) of the Indian Constitution gives a long-term solution: ""It shall be the duty of every citizen to nurture the scientific temper, humanism, and the spirit of inquiry and change.""

Way forward

  • The government should release a draft policy requesting input from stakeholders on concerns of false news regulation.
  • Any future 'fake news' guidelines should focus on 'fake news,' rather than attempting to control media in the name of 'fake news.'
  • The PCI must be reformed and empowered in order to find a balance between media and speech freedom on the one hand, and the right to know on the other.
  • People must be made aware of the dangers of fake news and how it spreads.
  • To promote authentic news, official accounts of government agencies should be active on social media.