Reprimanding the global technology giants including Google, Twitter and Facebook for not proactively removing what is described as fake news on their platforms, top Indian officials have now taken up the issue with company hire ups in India.
According to top government sources, officials at the I&B ministry have not just criticised the companies for ‘laxity’ for inaction on ‘fake news’ but told the company officials that the propaganda on the social media platforms was forcing the government to order content takedowns.
The recent content takedown orders by the Union government have drawn international criticism for ‘suppressing free expression’. Meanwhile, sources familiar with the developments at the virtual meeting described the conversation as tense and heated.
The officials have so far not issued any ultimatum to the companies at the meeting. The government has been tightening tech sector regulations but wants companies to do more on content moderation.
The meeting was a follow up to the I&B ministry’s use of ‘emergency powers’ in December and January to order blocking of 55 channels on YouTube, and some Twitter and Facebook accounts. The government had said the channels were promoting ‘fake news’ or ‘anti-India’ content and that the disinformation was being spread by accounts based in Pakistan.
In its transparency reports, Twitter has said the Indian government makes among the highest number of requests to remove content from its platform.
During the meeting, senior tech executives told officials that they take adequate measures to remove or curb the spread of misinformation on their platforms, and act on legally-valid content removal requests, sources said.
Officials said the government was disappointed that social media sites weren’t detecting and removing such content on their own. Instead, the government was forced to order takedowns, opening it to criticism and damaging its public image, officials said, as per sources.
Executives from Google told the I&B officials that one way to resolve that was for the ministry to avoid making takedown decisions public. The idea was summarily rejected by officials.