Karnataka announces framework for fact-check unit, says it won’t ‘curtail freedom of speech’

Organisations can face legal action under the IPC, IT Act and Disaster Management Act.

WrittenBy:NL Team
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The Karnataka government yesterday announced the framework for its proposed fact-check unit to crack down on fake news on social media. 

According to state minister for information technology and biotechnology Priyank Kharge, the government will initiate legal action in cases of misinformation, disinformation and malinformation. This action will be initiated under the Indian Penal Code, the Disaster Management Act, and the Information Technology Act.

“We are not here to control or regulate anybody,” The New Indian Express quoted Kharge as saying. “We have no intention to curtail freedom of speech of any individuals or press...It is essential to reduce the effect of fake news and misinformation on society.”

The report noted that the fact-check unit would comprise an oversight committee, a single point of contact for review, and nodal officers. The committee will include the head of the department of IT/BT and science and technology, the ADGP (intelligence/CID), the additional advocate general, and representatives from civil society, among others.

The public can also submit content to be checked by the fact-check unit.

The News Minute reported that Kharge defined misinformation as fake news “where no harm was meant” and disinformation as deliberately deceptive fake news. 

On the other hand, malinformation is “genuine information shared to cause harm” – Kharge offered up the example of Sudhir Chaudhary “twisting information to cause harm”. The Karnataka police had filed an FIR against the Aaj Tak anchor this week for spreading “deliberate and malicious” misinformation about a subsidy scheme for minorities.

In August, the Editors Guild had issued a statement expressing its concern over Karnataka’s proposed fact-check unit. 

“While admittedly there is a problem of misinformation and fake news, especially in the online space, efforts to check such content have to be by independent bodies that are not under the sole purview of the government, lest they become tools to clamp down on voices of dissent,” the statement said.

Earlier this year, the central government too had also announced an amendment to the IT Rules by which content deemed fake by the government must be taken down by social media companies and other intermediaries. Read about the controversy here.

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