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Parliamentary panel asks govt to define fake news, seeks response on fact checking

New Delhi: A high-level Parliamentary panel has asked the government to broadly define the term “fake news” and has also sought its response on the need for various fact-checking units (FCUs) in the country.

Noting that “fake news” is becoming a disturbing trend in the country, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Communication and Information Technology has disapproved of the government’s silence on the matter.

The comments from the panel have come just days after the government decided to extend the timeline for consultations of its plan to take down information which is marked as “fake” by the FCUs of the Press Information Bureau (PIB) of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

The extension came amid protests from all quarters against the move.

The Parliamentary panel’s observations have been made in its action taken report on “Ethical Standards in Media Coverage”, submitted in Parliament by the panel last week during the Budget session.

In the light of false or fake news becoming a disturbing trend in India, the committee has also sought to know from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, whether it intends to have such FCUs for countering misinformation in general.

The panel has also expressed its disappointment over the ministry’s silence on its earlier recommendation of using latest technologies like Artificial Intelligence, considering existing expertise in non-government agencies and to study the anti-fake news laws of countries like Australia, Malaysia and other democracies for developing some legal provisions.

It noted that “the ministry’s reply is silent on all these aspects and they submitted merely the statutory and institutional mechanisms for preventing spread of fake news existing for print media, TV channels and digital news publishers”.

However in the light of rapid spread of fake news due to latest technologies and its impact on the citizens, the committee has recommended that “there is always a scope for learning from the expertise of non-government organisations in the field and for studying anti-fake news laws of other countries so as to have some legal provisions for curbing fake news in the country”.

It has thus asked the Ministry to provide action taken in this direction along with the initiatives taken for utilising latest technologies such as Artificial Intelligence for intervening and checking fake news in near real time.