The I&B ministry has blocked access to 635 URLs since December 2021, union minister Anurag Thakur told Rajya Sabha.
The government’s fact checking body under the Press Information Bureau has taken action in 28,380 instances involving “fake news” on digital platforms between November 2020 and June this year, Minister of Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur said today in response to an unstarred question in the Rajya Sabha.
As per data shared by the I&B ministry, the most such instances of fake news were reported in April and May 2021, when it took action against 5,387 and 1,754 posts, respectively, at the peak of the second wave of Covid-19.
In response to a separate unstarred question, asked by TMC leader Derek O’brien, union minister Thakur said the BJP government has blocked public access to 635 URLs, including 10 websites and five applications, since December 2021 under the IT Rules, 2021. It did not provide details of these URLs.
The ministry’s statement said the PIB undertakes a “rigorous process” of fact-checking involving “multiple layers of cross-checking” while pointing out that “no fact check unit has been notified” by the government under the amended IT Rules.
Last week, while hearing pleas challenging the amended IT Rules, a division bench of the Bombay High Court had said that the amendments – that empower the government to take action against “fake news” about it on social media through a fact check unit – may be “excessive”. The court had also asked who will fact-check the fact checking unit to be set up under the amended Rules. “You cannot bring a hammer to kill an ant.” Read here.
The amendments have been criticised by journalists too, who described them as “censorship”, while standup comedian Kunal Kamra had stated in his plea against the amendment that the rules have a “chilling effect”. Read here and here.
Newslaundry has reported at length on the controversies surrounding the amendment and why it’s a blow for press freedom. Read about it here.