SC Issues Notice To Twitter, Centre on PIL Over Checking Fake News

This comes at a time when the Centre has been threatening Twitter with penal action and FIRs since the last 2 weeks.

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India
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The Supreme Court issued notices on Friday, 12 February, to the Centre and Twitter over a public interest litigation by BJP leader Vinit Goenka, seeking direction for a mechanism to check fake news, 'seditious' & 'anti-India' hate messages on social media platforms.

The bench, headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, directed clubbing other petitions involving social media regulation, and named Union of India, Law Ministry, Information and Broadcasting Ministry as well as Twitter in the notices issued.

The petition, filed by senior Advocate Ashwani Kumar Dubey in May last year on behalf of the BJP leader asks "to check Twitter content and advertisements spreading hatred through fake news and instigative messages through bogus accounts.”

The petition mentioned, “Fake news is the root cause of many riots, including the one in Delhi in 2020, and bogus accounts are used to promote casteism and communalism which endangers fraternity and unity of the country,” quoted ANI.

The petition added that there are hundreds of fake Twitter accounts based on profiles of eminent people and there is content on the platform that is allegedly spreading “hatred amongst the communities, (are) seditious, instigative, separatist, hate-filled, divisive, against the society at large and against the spirit of the Union of India,” quoted ANI.

The plea further stated that several fake Twitter handles and Facebook accounts use real photos of constitutional authorities and eminent citizens.”Therefore, common man relies upon the messages published from these Twitter handles and Facebook accounts. It is submitted that presently total number of Twitter handles in India is around 35 million and total number of Facebook accounts is 350 million and experts says that around 10 percent Twitter handles (3.5 million) and 10 percent Facebook accounts (35 million) are duplicate/bogus/fake”.

‘KYC of All Social Handles Must be Conducted’

The plea has also sought directions from the apex court to ensure that the KYC of all social media handles in India must be conducted for making social media traceable.

“The logic and algorithms that Twitter uses should be shared and vetted by Indian government authorities or competent authority for screening anti-India tweets… KYC of all social media handles in India must be conducted for making social media safe and accountable and traceable,” the plea stated.

Centre vs Twitter

This comes at a time when the government has been threatening the microblogging platform with penal action and FIRs since the past two weeks, breeding apprehensions of a suspension in the manner in which Chinese apps were blocked.

Controversies related to the farmers’ protests that erupted on Twitter on 26 January came to a head with the Union Electronics & IT Ministry (MeitY) meeting with Twitter’s top US-based officials and reprimanding the platform for its ‘unwillingness and grudging’ attitude towards adhering to blocking orders.

Twitter, however, continued to push back against a wholesale blocking of accounts saying, “We will continue to advocate for the right of free expression on behalf of the people we serve.”

Explaining in its blog that it does not believe that the actions it has been directed to take by the government are consistent with Indian law, Twitter said it has ‘not taken any action on accounts that consist of news media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians.’

(With inputs from ANI)

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