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Exclusive: MIB looks for AI/ML solutions for flagging ‘false information’ on Indian government

The ministry has also singled out digital news publishers for automated detection, in its latest blow to press freedom.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) is looking for a tech-based solution to ‘identify’ news items and videos on the internet that are ‘inimical to the sovereignty of India’, the ministry said in its ‘problem statement’ for a contest where students will participate to work on such ‘problems’. It is also looking for an artificial intelligence/machine learning-based solution for flagging alleged ‘false information related to the Union government‘.

The Policy Planning Cell of the MIB which has floated this request for Smart India Hackathon 2022, said that news such as the ones mentioned below should be identified and flagged on websites and social media —

  • ‘Wrong depiction’ of India’s territorial boundaries
  • Promotion of separatism
  • “False claims regarding operations of Indian armed forces”
  • “Disinformation regarding India originating from foreign hostile sources”

Apart from that, the solution “may also identify and flag content which has the possibility to disturb public order and flag it on an emergency basis“, the ministry said.

The multiple problem statements floated by MIB indicate that it will be particularly looking at the content of digital news media organisations. Such organisations often publish reports which are not aligned with the interests of the Union government. Since the MIB has not specified what constitutes ‘false information related to Union government’, this could pose threats to the freedom of the press and freedom of speech, which is already shrinking in the country.

After the solution identifies such news, Ministry will take action

The Policy Planning Cell of MIB cited Part III of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 which pertains to news and current affairs publishers as well as OTT platforms.

“The Rules empower the Ministry to take such action against news and online curated content on the internet which is inimical to the sovereignty of India,” the ministry said.

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After the solution identifies such content, “with reasonable accuracy”, according to the ministry, it will be reviewed by the Ministry for taking action under the IT Rules 2021.

‘False information related to Union govt’ will be vetted against info from govt

In a separate ‘problem statement’ that the MIB’s Policy Planning Cell floated for identifying ‘false information related to the Union government on online platforms including social media platforms’, the ministry said that the solution can vet the false information against “authentic information available through official sources such as documents press releases”.

As part of the solution, the ministry suggested that an information database be developed which would have —

  • All laws
  • Official documents
  • Press releases
  • Information disseminated by government organisations on social media
  • Real-time government-related information

Parallelly, the ministry said a mechanism should be developed for tracking ‘false information going viral on social and online media, or which are being published by digital news media organisations.

“An AI/ML based system may compare the mismatches between the official information, and the information being disseminated on social media. These mismatches may be flagged by the system, which upon vetting by a dedicated team of officials, may be flagged to senior levels in the concerned Ministries/Departments/Organizations of the Government of India for corrective action as may be deemed fit.” — MIB problem statement

MIB looking for another solution for identification of India-based news websites, YouTube news channels

In another problem statement, MIB said that it was looking for a solution that identifies and analyses the nature of the content on various websites and social media handles of news publishers operating in India.

“The solution is required to be effective across major Indian languages, and may also be capable of identifying and recording the contact details of such publishers, wherever available,” the ministry said.

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Among other subjects, I cover the increasing usage of emerging technologies, especially for surveillance in India

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