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Exclusive-In heated meeting, India seeks tougher action from US tech giants on fake news

NEW DELHI : Indian officers have held heated discussions with Google, Twitter and Facebook for not proactively eradicating what they described as fake news on their platforms, sources advised Reuters, the federal government’s newest altercation with Big Tech.

The officers, from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B), strongly criticised the businesses and stated their inaction on fake news was forcing the Indian authorities to order content material takedowns, which in flip drew worldwide criticism that authorities have been suppressing free expression, two sources stated.

The sources, who have been accustomed to the proceedings on the digital assembly on Monday, described the dialog as tense and heated, signalling a brand new low in ties between American tech giants and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration.

The officers didn’t situation any ultimatum to the businesses on the assembly, the sources stated. The authorities has been tightening tech sector laws however needs firms to do extra on content material moderation.

The assembly was a follow-up to the I&B ministry’s use of “emergency powers” in December and January to order the blocking of 55 channels on Google’s YouTube platform, and a few Twitter and Facebook accounts

The authorities had stated the channels have been selling “fake news” or “anti-India” content material and that the disinformation was being unfold by accounts based mostly in neighbouring Pakistan.

The I&B ministry didn’t reply to a request for remark on the assembly, which was additionally attended by Indian content-sharing platforms ShareChat and Koo, which have hundreds of thousands of customers within the nation.

Facebook, now generally known as Meta, Twitter and ShareChat declined remark.

Without commenting on the assembly, Alphabet Inc’s Google stated in a press release it critiques authorities’s requests and “where appropriate, we restrict or remove content in keeping with local laws.” Koo stated it complies with native legal guidelines and has sturdy content material moderation practices in place.

In its transparency reviews, Twitter has stated the Indian authorities makes among the many highest variety of requests to take away content material from its platform. Technology web site Comparitech in October stated India made 97,631 content material elimination requests in 2020, the second-highest on this planet after Russia, principally to Facebook and Google.

STRAINED TIES

During the assembly, senior tech executives advised the officers that they take ample measures to take away or curb the unfold of misinformation on their platforms, and act on legally-valid content material elimination requests, stated the sources.

The officers advised Google to assessment its inside pointers to take away fake content material routinely, stated the sources.

The officers additionally stated the federal government was disillusioned that large social media platforms, together with Facebook and Twitter, weren’t detecting and eradicating such content material on their very own.

Instead, the federal government was pressured to order takedowns, opening it to criticism and damaging its public picture, the officers stated throughout the assembly, based on the sources.

Executives from Google advised the I&B officers that one solution to resolve that was for the ministry to keep away from making takedown selections public. The companies might work with the federal government and act on the alleged fake content material, which could possibly be a win-win for each side, Google stated, based on one of many sources.

The concept was summarily rejected by the federal government officers, who stated the takedowns additionally publicise how the businesses weren’t doing sufficient to deal with fake news on their very own, the particular person stated.

While ordering takedowns of sure on-line accounts in January, the federal government stated it was doing so to “secure the overall information environment in India”, including that such fake content material was on “sensitive subjects” such because the Indian Army, India’s overseas relations and native state elections.

Digital rights advocates say such authorities orders curb free speech and set a worrying precedent.

“Detailed takedown orders are not made public by the government,” stated Apar Gupta, the chief director at Internet Freedom Foundation, including that the premise for the action was not defined.

This allowed authorities to censor content material even when it doesn’t violate public order or the safety of the state, he stated.

(Reporting by Aditya Kalra in New Delhi; Additional reporting by Elizabeth Culliford in New York; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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