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

Indian officers have held heated discussions with Google, Twitter and Fb for not proactively eradicating what they described as faux information on their platforms, sources advised Reuters, the federal government’s newest altercation with Huge Tech.

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

The sources, who had 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 problem any ultimatum to the businesses on the assembly, they knowledgeable.

The federal government has been tightening tech sector laws, however desires corporations 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 Fb accounts.

The federal government had stated that the channels had been selling “faux information” or “anti-India” content material and that the disinformation was being unfold by accounts primarily based in neighbouring Pakistan.

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

Fb, now often called Meta, Twitter and ShareChat declined to remark.

With out commenting on the assembly, Alphabet Inc’s Google stated in an announcement it opinions authorities’s requests and “the place acceptable, we prohibit or take away content material in step with native legal guidelines.”

Koo stated it complies with native legal guidelines and has robust 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.

Expertise web site Comparitech in October stated that India made 97,631 content material removing requests in 2020, the second-highest on the earth after Russia, principally to Fb and Google.


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

In accordance with them, the officers advised Google to assessment its inner pointers to take away faux content material robotically.

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

As a substitute, the federal government was compelled to order takedowns, opening it to criticism and damaging its public picture, the officers stated in the course of the assembly, the sources knowledgeable.

Executives from Google advised the I&B officers that one strategy to resolve that was for the ministry to keep away from making takedown choices public.

The corporations may work with the federal government and act on the alleged faux content material, which could possibly be a win-win for each side, Google stated, in line with 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 sort out faux information on their very own, the particular person added.

Whereas ordering takedowns of sure on-line accounts in January, the federal government stated it was doing so to “safe the general info setting in India”, including that such faux content material was on “delicate topics” such because the Indian Military, India’s international relations and native state elections.

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

“Detailed takedown orders usually are not made public by the federal government,” stated Apar Gupta, the chief director at Web Freedom Basis, including that the premise for the motion 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.

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