Government blocks over 60 social media accounts for allegedly spreading fake anti-Indian news

The government announced on Thursday that it had blocked more than 60 social media accounts, including Youtube Facebook and Instagram channels and pages, in the past two months for spreading fake anti-Indian news. Responding to further questions in the Upper House, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, L Murugan said the government was very concerned about free speech and freedom of expression.

Asked about action taken against those spreading fake news and publishers of anti-national material, he said more than 60 accounts had been blocked, including those on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and instagram.

“These YouTube channels are sponsored by Pakistan,” he said.

Regarding false information spread in newspapers, the Minister said that the Press Council of India is an autonomous statutory body and deals with the code of ethics of journalists.

“Journalists must follow the code of ethics. Wherever they have not followed the code of ethics under Section 14 of the Press Council Act, action must be taken. In more than 150 cases , we have taken action against them,” he said.

Asked about the Techfog app’s roles in spreading fake news, Murugan said the government had set up a fact-checking unit, which responded to more than 30,000 queries.

This unit also checks for viral fake news, he added.

According to an official statement, the ministry on January 21 ordered the blocking of 35 YouTube-based news channels and two websites involved in spreading anti-India fake news in a coordinated manner on digital media. Additionally, two Twitter accounts, two Instagram accounts and one Facebook account were blocked.

Also in December, 20 YouTube channels and two websites were blocked, according to the official statement.

In a written response to the star-studded question, Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Singh Thakur said the government has put in place statutory and institutional mechanisms to tackle fake news.

A “fact-checking unit” was set up under this ministry’s Press Information Office in November 2019, which learns of fake news both suo motu and through queries sent by citizens on its portal or by e-mail and WhatsApp.

“The unit responds to relevant queries with correct information when it relates to central government or forwards it to states/UTs in other cases. The unit also maintains a @PIBFactcheck Twitter account and posts cases of fake news , to be erupted, on the same on a regular basis. GDP’s fact-checking unit has so far responded to 30,533 actionable queries,” he said.

For the print media, the Press Council of India (PCI), an autonomous statutory body established under the Press Council Act 1978, has set “standards of journalistic conduct” which the media must adhere to.

These standards emphasize the principles of accuracy and fairness as well as pre-publication verification.

The PCI has formulated specific standards to prevent print media from publishing/disseminating fake news.

For electronic media (television), all television broadcasters are required to follow the program code under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995.

According to the code, programs must not contain any obscene, defamatory, deliberate, false or suggestive innuendoes and half-truths.

For digital news, the government notified the Information Technology Rules 2021 (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Code of Ethics) on 25 February 2021, under the Technology Act 2000 of information, which provides in particular for a code of ethics to be respected by publishers of digital news. .

“Appropriate action is taken in cases where violations of standards, codes, etc. are found. The government also issues notices from time to time to the media to adhere to established codes,” Thakur said.

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