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Monday, April 22 2024
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IT Ministry Notifies Controversial Fact-Checking Unit to Dispute Govt Misinformation

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New Delhi: The government has officially designated the fact-checking arm of the Press Information Bureau as the ‘fact-checking unit’ according to the amended Information Technology Rules of 2023.

Under the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023, this unit has been given the authority to identify and flag information pertaining to the Union government that it considers to be false, fake, or misleading. This move has been criticized by several analysts who view it as a significant blow to press freedom.

This announcement comes just before the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, raising concerns from organizations like the Internet Freedom Foundation, which anticipates that it may lead to censorship and impact free speech online, particularly concerning dissenting opinions.

According to reports by The Hindu, the PIB fact-check unit recently disputed an Al Jazeera article labeling the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 as “anti-Muslim,” deeming it as false. However, critics argue that the rebuttals presented by the unit were addressing claims that were not made in the original article.

Coincidentally, this notification precedes a scheduled Supreme Court session where a series of petitions challenging the 2023 IT Rules and the provision regarding the fact-checking unit are set to be heard.

Earlier this month, the Bombay High Court declined to grant an interim stay on the government’s notification of the fact-checking unit. This decision followed a split verdict by a two-judge bench regarding the validity of the specific rule concerning the said unit.

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