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Fact-check Amendment Doesn’t Give Gov Blocking Powers, Distinct from Section 69A: Gov Affidavit Before Bombay HC

Satire that includes a ‘disclaimer’ on its ‘truth’ isn’t affected by the rule either, the government clarified

The controversial fact-check amendment, which introduces a government-appointed unit to fact-check government-related information online, does not give the government powers to block information, reveals an affidavit filed by the Indian government in satirist Kunal Kamra's ongoing challenge against the law before the Bombay High Court. The specific rule of the IT Rules, 2021, under which the amendment has been brought—Rule 3—only imposes due diligence obligations on intermediaries, which they have to follow to retain safe harbour. On the other hand, the government's blocking powers are separately held under Section 69A of the IT Act, 2000. So, the unit's decision would not "have any effect in the nature of direction to block the said information/content as contemplated under Section 69A,” the government argued.  Shared with MediaNama by multiple sources, the affidavit repeatedly claims that the amendment seeks to only protect the public, and indeed India, from the harms of "fake, false, or misleading" information in the digital age. Petitioners challenging the provision before the Bombay High Court—like Kamra, the Editors Guild of India, and the Association of Indian Magazines—have instead argued that it gives the government unilateral powers to decide the 'truth' online and limit the circulation of inconvenient narratives to boot. This critically impacts free speech online in India, especially during a politically charged election year. The government has since promised to stay the amendment's notification until September 4th. How does the system work then? The Indian government's affidavit clarified that under the IT Rules, 2021, intermediaries, or platforms, are first notified by aggrieved citizens that they're hosting information…

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