Thu, 19 Jan 2023 05:16 PM IST
AMID the ongoing amendments to the draft IT rules, the Congress on Thursday lashed out at the government and termed the new rules a "surreptitious assault on free speech" that asks social media companies to take down news articles that have been deemed "fake" by the Press Information Bureau. The "Grand Old Party" has demanded the withdrawal of the rules.
The opposition parties also said that rules will be discussed in great detail in the upcoming Parliament session.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) released a modification to the draft Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. The draft was earlier released for public consultation.
For social media intermediaries, the addition in the "due diligence section" for social media intermediaries states an intermediary shall not be allowed to publish information that "deceives or misleads the addressee about the origin of the message or knowingly and intentionally communicates any misinformation" that has been "identified as fake or false by the fact-check unit at the PIB of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting or other agency authorised by the central government for fact-checking."
Pawan Khera, the head of the media department of the Congress party, slammed the Modi government and alleged that for the Narendra Modi government, IT rules stand for "image tailoring" rules.
"Muzzling the Internet and censoring online content through PIB is the Modi government's definition of 'fact checking,' " he alleged.
"In an unprecedented move, which smacks of the Orwellian 'Big Brother Syndrome' - the Modi government has anointed itself to be the judge, jury and executioner of online content regulation." Khera said the amendment essentially means that PIB's fact-checking unit has become a "judge" in taking down content which might not suit the Modi government's image. He also alleged that "bulldozing" the press is not new for the Modi government. "The popular term 'godi media' is now ingrained in the psyche of most Indians, and now this government wants to make it 'godi social media'," Khera claimed.
He also said that the Congress condemns this "surreptitious assault on free speech and vile censorship." "We demand that the new amendment in the Draft IT Rules be immediately withdrawn and that these rules be discussed thoroughly in the forthcoming session of the Parliament," he said, as quoted by news agency PTI.
(With PTI Inputs)