The Government of India is planning to constitute a fact-checking team under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) to verify any published information regarding the government on social media, an Economic Times (ET) report said.
A senior government official told the newspaper that the team will have three members. Two officials will be from the IT ministry, while the third will be an independent member with expertise in law and public policy. The three-member body will be responsible to coordinate with other government departments for fact-checking.
Notably, the government was previously planning to appoint the Press Information Bureau (PIB) as the agency responsible for fact-checking. The decision drew harsh criticism from the supporters of free speech in the country. Speaking on the government's decision, the Editors Guild of India had said that this could lead to "censorship of free speech in the country."
Putting aside the criticism, government officials said that the proposed MeitY-led fact-checking body would verify news items for the facts and information they carry. It will not analyse or screen opinions published by news platforms.
Quoting govt officials aware of the developments, the report added that it would be mandatory for the three-member team to justify their decision as they issue take-down orders publicly. This mechanism will ensure that everybody understands the reason behind any removal orders.
Previously, Kunal Kamra, a comedian, had filed a plea in the Bombay High Court to challenge the proposed changes in the Information Technology Rules of 2022. His petition said the set-up of the fact-checking unit makes it "a judge and prosecutor in its own cause, thus violating one of the most fundamental principles of natural justice."