During the recent discussions on the amendments of the Intermediary Guidelines proposed by the Governments, there was a discussion on one of the proposals which required proactive measures by the Social Media to curb spread of fake news. Many were complaining that “Proactive monitoring” of accounts is not feasible.
The news that is just now breaking that suggests that Face Book has removed 687 pages supposedly connected with the Congress party for “Inappropriate Behaviour” indicates that the company has run some sort of analytics and found out that the owners of these pages were running their accounts in impersonated names and all of them were connected to the IT Cell of Indian National Congress and were using the pages to canvass for Congress.
Face Book has therefore accepted that today’s AI environment can be harnessed to at least identify some types of fake news and take proactive action. I am sure that more is possible.
Recently Naavi had raised this issue in his article in India Legal Magazine.
In this article, I had argued that Social Media companies are actually not interested in removing fake news because they are commercially beneficial to them. We have seen this tendency in ISPs who support pornography and spamming since they constitute a substantial part of data exchange on the Internet. Similarly WhatsApp can do a lot to reduce the duplication of data exchange if they really want, but obviously this does not make commercial sense. What has happened now with Face Book is therefore a positive development and must be appreciated.
A couple of month’s back, in a round table in Bangalore, Naavi had pointed out to Professor Rajiv Gowda the spokesperson of Congress, (who was one of the participants,) that it was the political parties which were mainly responsible for the fake news. This stand has been vindicated in the current news break.
Congress as a party has been in the forefront of creating fake news and fake allegations on its political opponents and has corrupted the social media irretrievably. Naturally, it would be worried about this embarrassment and would like to create a balancing embarrassment to the BJP also. Perhaps the party will do its own research and come up with a list of pages belonging to BJP and request Face Book to remove them.
It would be good if the users themselves identify such fake pages and report to Face Book so that they can verify and remove them. This would be like “Content Rating” and “Content Filtering with Crowd sourcing of objections”. This would be a good development.
It must however be noted that Face Book has said that the removal of the pages is not because of the content but because of the attempt to hide identity. This issue is therefore not an issue of “Freedom of Expression” and hence Prashant Bhushan and his friends cannot run to the Supreme Court with their PILs.
It would however be interesting to see how these PIL experts would react to this latest set back.