April 16, 2023: Civil society, online media organisations and Internet freedom -focussed NGOs have largely disapproved the amendment to the prevalent Information Technology Act and Rules.
These rules called the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2022. April 6 2023 make it obligatory on the intermediaries to not to publish, share or host fake, false or misleading information in respect of any business of the Central Government. These fake, false or misleading information will identified by the notified Fact Check Unit of the Central Government. (PIB release)
The amendment is to Rule 3 sub clause 5: “In respect of any business of the Central Government, is identified as fake or false or misleading by such fact check unit of the Central Government as the Ministry may, by notification published in the Official Gazette, specify”
Early comments in print media:
Deccan Herald editorial April 12 2023: Censorship by other means. Amended IT Rules violate rights and media freedom, they must be withdrawn
The Hindu Editorial April 10, 2023: Draconian rules: On the impact of the IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023 The new amendment rules on intermediary guidelines amount to censorship
Times of India Op ed April 10 2023: 49 words that will change India’s Internet: With the stated aim of fixing accountability, GoI over the course of seven months and two amendments to the IT Rules 2021, dealt a severe blow to freedom of expression and the media’s role as a watchdog in a democracy. It required just 49 words.
The Editors Guild said the new rule gives the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology the power to constitute a “fact checking unit”, which will have sweeping powers to determine what is “fake or false or misleading”, with respect to “any business of the Central Government”. These amendments will have deeply adverse implications for press freedom in the country, the Editors Guild said.( Indian Express report)
The Indian Newspaper Society has urged the Centre to withdraw the IT Rules amendment, stating that it would have the effect of the government or its designated agency enjoying “absolute” and “arbitrary” power to determine what was fake or not in respect of its own work, and order its takedown from Internet platforms.( The Hindu report)
The Internet Freedom Foundatation has published a detailed comment
However, the Minister of State for Electronics and IT, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, has said the work on fact check is still in progress and dismissed the criticism of the change in rules as ‘deliberate misinformation’.