"With no definition of what constitutes 'fake' or 'false' information, the Central Government will have unrestricted and unlimited power to declare speech that it finds uncomfortable, critical of its actions, or inimical to its own interests, as fake and hence prohibited. This we have witnessed in the past when PIB flagged several media reports as fake only later to be turned out as true and genuine," the Article 21 Trust, a human rights group, stated on April 12 in a blog post titled "A new assault on free speech" criticizing the fact-check amendment to the IT Rules, 2021. The amendment in question was notified last week by the IT Ministry and allows the government’s fact-check unit to flag any government-related content as false or fake, or misleading, and requires intermediaries, including social media platforms, to not host any such flagged content. Intermediaries in non-compliance can lose their safe harbor provisions. The amendment has already been challenged in the Bombay High Court by political satirist Kunal Kamra and the court has given the IT Ministry a week to explain why the amendment should not be stayed. What are the concerns raised by Article 21 Trust? No clarity on PIB's fact-check process: While PIB hasn't yet been named as the official fact-check unit, it is likely to soon be given that it is currently the only fact-check unit of the government. When that happens, there is "no clarity on what mechanism PIB follows to carry out its fact-check work, and what are the…
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