Since the Delhi elections is just round the corner, the IT cells of political parties are all set to spread fake news, hate post, derogatory statements on a particular leader and party and there is no control or monitoring on this. Some IT-cells that are powerful spread content in larger volume as for them, it’s a number game.
Above all, the spiritual leaders too play spoilers. There is one video of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on social media referring to Hindutva where he says, “As young people, you all have to be very active on this digital front. If there is an onslaught on the principle of this religion or this tradition, this civilisation or this culture, befitting response has to come. And that has to come from young people like you all”.
This video of Sri Sri is not well translated by the youth. He may have said it in a broader context, but now unfortunately the same video has provoked many youth to attack other religions randomly.
NCP MLA and state minister of Maharashtra Aditi Tatkare said, “Firstly, the use of social media has been under monetary influence for a while now, but it needs to be even more regular. The cases of hacking personal accounts have also been on rise and the cyber cell and government should be taking action regarding it. Apart from that, the political parties or other institutions which are using the social media should be given some kind of rules and regulations regarding the same. I wouldn’t say that they would stop completely but at least it can be reduced to a certain extent.”
These days there are random flooding of fake news on the social media and un-parliamentary attacks on various people for speaking their mind or taking up their stand. But no one has any control on these fake spreads and rumour mills.
Earlier, the government had asked for public comments on the recommended amendments to the Information Technology (IT) Act that seek to make it mandatory for platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter to trace “originator” of “unlawful” information while also removing such content within 24 hours after being notified. As per the draft, ‘The Information Technology [Intermediaries Guidelines (Amendment) Rules] 2018’ released, the intermediary after being notified by the appropriate authority should remove or disable access to unlawful content within 24 hours in the “interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India.”
Congress spokesperson Atul Londhe said, “If this is creating problem in the society then of course the government should definitely take action against it seriously. Given that it can act according to the Section 66 of the IT act, the government should strictly impose the Act against the people and political parties that are spreading fake news, derogatory statements on a particular leader or party. The fact is that the BJP’s IT cells is mostly responsible for this kind of nonsense.”
The Supreme Court order also gave a green signal to the government to frame guidelines or a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to deal with the objectionable material through social media intermediaries like Google, YouTube, Facebook and WhatsApp. The Centre’s draft SOP include setting up of proactive monitoring tools for auto deletion of unlawful content, deployment of trusted flaggers for identifying and deletion of unlawful content, setting up of a 24/7 mechanism for requisitions of law enforcement agencies and appointment of India-based contact officers.
BJP spokesperson Shaina NC said, “The social media is a double edge source which comes with its own sense of disclaimers. If somebody is putting his views on issues, we can’t hold him for his viewpoints or cannot suggest whether the same is correct or not. But when it comes to news or facts and if there is anything which attacks national security, then the cyber cell and government must be check the points which the social media or political parties are spreading it.”
Following fears of “surveillance and censorship” with the proposed norms, the government clarified that it does not regulate content appearing on social network platforms. Inspite of discussion on such bills there is hardly any implementation.
BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari said, “There are many laws to control fake news and hate post but are we (People) ready to accept those laws? Are we ready to behave properly? These are the questions we need to answer. And if any government is asked to follow any law, then people start talking about the freedom of speech, freedom of expression and many more immediately. But these people do not understand that indirectly they are creating protest and spreading fake news.”
These days political party IT cells are surviving on fake news circulated through WhatsApp and other social media sites. Misuse of social media platforms and spreading of fake news is quite frequent, now its government’s responsibility to strengthen the legal framework and bring the social media posting under strict surveillance.