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SC puts on hold Centre’s Fact-Check Unit citing ‘freedom of speech’

SC puts on hold Centre’s Fact-Check Unit citing ‘freedom of speech’

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday put on hold the government’s notification for Fact Check Unit under the Press Information Bureau brought in yesterday to ‘address the challenge of fake news,’ NDTV reported.

The apex court was responding to the petition by Editors Guild of India and stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra as they sought to restrain the government from notifying the Fact Check Unit.

The provision for a Fact Check Unit was among the amendments to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 that the Centre brought in last year.

As per the rules, the unit could flag any post on social media if it finds or being informed about posts that are fake, false and those containing misleading facts about the business of the government.

In the event of flagging such a post, the social media intermediaries can have the option of taking it down or putting a disclaimer and in choosing the second option, the intermediary risks legal action, according to the report.

The petitioners, highlighting the concerns of censorship, said that the new rules would restrain people from expressing freely on social media.

They argued that in order to avoid legal issues, social media intermediaries will remove posts flagged by the Fact Check Unit.

Stand-up comedian Kamra challenged the new IT rules arguing that they violate this right to be a political satirist.

Kamra expressed concern about losing social media access in the event of his content being flagged by the Fact Check Unit.

He reportedly said that the new rule allow the Centre to flag any content critical of it.

However, the Centre countered that new rules were brought in to restrict fake news, adding that the fact-check will be based on evidence and its decisions cab challenged in courts.

While petitioners called the 'business of the Central Government’ a "vague" area, the Centre made it clear that political opinions, satire and comedy are not part of government business.

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TAGS:Supreme CourtFreedom of expressionIndia NewsFact Check Unit
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