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Centre seeks more time from SC to finalise rules to regulate fake news, hate speech on social media

FE Bureau
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The Centre on Monday sought three more months from the Supreme Court to frame and finalise the rules on regulating hate speech, fake news, defamatory posts and anti-national activities on social media platforms. "A further period of three months would be required for finalising and notifying the final revised rules in accordance with law," it said, adding that the process is likely to be completed by January 15. In an affidavit filed before the apex court, the ministry of electronics and information technology said that though "technology has led to economic growth and societal development, on the other hand, there has been an exponential rise in hate speech, fake news, public order, anti-national activities, defamatory postings, and other unlawful activities using internet/social media platforms".

Stating that there was a greater need to protect national security, Pankaj Kumar, additional secretary in the ministry, said that the "internet has emerged as a potent tool to cause unimaginable disruption to the democratic polity." Emphasising on the need to make social media entities such as Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube, the government has favoured making intermediaries "more liable towards the content that is published, transmitted etc, on their platform."

Elaborating on the process that would be taken for finalisation of the guidelines, he said that the guidelines have to be vetted by IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, following which it has to be vetted by the law ministry, which again go back to the IT ministry for approval.

The affidavit said that the 2011 rules need to be revised "for effective regulation of intermediaries keeping in view the ever-growing threats to individual rights and nation's integrity, sovereignty, and security."

Last month, a Bench led by Justice Deepak Gupta gave three weeks to the government to make recommendations that protect the "sovereignty of the State, privacy of an individual and prevention of illegal activities."

The affidavit has come in response to petitions filed by Facebook and WhatsApp including a plea seeking the transfer of cases pending before the HCs of Madras, Bombay and Madhya Pradesh seeking linking of Aadhaar or other government IDs with social media profiles.