There is no Right to Fake News

The Government of India has now come out with a new version of the Information
Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 which was first notified on 25th February 2021. On 28th October 2022, there was an amendment issued vide GSR 794(E). On 6th April 2023, there was another amendment vide GSR 275(E) in which “online gaming” was added to the regulations. Today’s consolidated version has one additional provision regarding “Fake News Verification Authority” to be set up by the Government.

In Part II of the notification, under Rule 3(b) the amended subsection (v) now reads as follows:

……The intermediary shall inform its rules and regulations, privacy policy and user agreement to the user in English or any language specified in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution in the language of his choice and shall make reasonable efforts to cause the user of its computer resource not to host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, store, update or share any information that…..

(v) deceives or misleads the addressee about the origin of the message or knowingly and intentionally communicates any misinformation or information which is patently false and untrue or misleading in nature 1[or is identified as fake or false by the fact check unit at the Press Information Bureau of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting or other agency authorised by the Central Government for fact checking or, in respect of any business of the Central Government, by its department in which such business is transacted under the rules of business made under clause (3) of article 77 of the Constitution];”

What this means is that the Government will create a “Fact Check Unit” which will check and declare if any information is fake or false.

The industry therefore need not depend on the private Fact Checking organizations which are controlled by George Soros.

When in doubt the decision of this Fact Checking Unit will determine whether the information is fake and the Intermediary will be losing his Section 79 protection if such news is published and not removed on receiving the knowledge that a news is fake.

This also means that this unit will monitor the private sector fact checking services and give its stamp of approval. It will remove the uncertainty when two fact checking private sector agencies have a difference of opinion.

As could be expected the opposition political parties and the vested media interests have already started their campaign against the provision that it is curbing the “Freedom of Speech”. It should however be remembered that there is “No Right for Spreading Fake News” and hence the objections of the vested interests need to be ignored.

What these media journalists are either unable to understand or are deliberately misrepresenting is that if any fake news is published, it will only mean that Section 79 protection is not available to them and they have to face the law of the land. They are therefore welcome to continue their fake news publication business and face the law.

Crying that this is curbing their freedom of speech is itself a patently false news and will render these media vehicles susceptible to legal action if the intention is to violate any law.

We await the implementation of this system and a link to the content where PIB will maintain the list of reported fake news along with their views. Alternatively we need to see if PIB will start a help center type of service where a query can be raised by public to be answered by the PIB unit asap.

Copy of the Revised Intermediary Guidelines with amendments is available here


About Vijayashankar Na

Naavi is a veteran Cyber Law specialist in India and is presently working from Bangalore as an Information Assurance Consultant. Pioneered concepts such as ITA 2008 compliance, Naavi is also the founder of Cyber Law College, a virtual Cyber Law Education institution. He now has been focusing on the projects such as Secure Digital India and Cyber Insurance
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