DEALING WITH FAKE NEWS: HOW COUNTRIES ARE MOVING?

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention, the Information & Broadcasting Ministry has withdrawn the proposed guidelines on fake news and accreditation of journalists. The ministry had proposed new rules yesterday that saw massive outrage.

The proposed move sought to put in place provisions to suspend journalists even mere on the complaints of a fake news and the irony was, the journalists had to remain so till any conclusion of the news alleged to be fake. And a third time publication of fake news invited permanent cancellation of accreditation as well. The bill certainly contained provisions against journalists that could have been misused.

But if we go by the facts, we know that accredited journalists and mainstream media institutions are not at core of fake news prevalence but it is largely driven by tech giants like Facebook, Google, their associated networks and other such sites. The new rules never talked about it and about the non-journalists who really spin and twist news items on these platforms that have raised many international controversies like spread of fake news in the US presidential election or France’s allegations that Russia tried to affect the French elections through internet last year.

The threat has been so critical that many countries have started making laws against fake news and the collaborators behind them, especially after the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica leakage controversy in the US presidential polls that has set the world on storm.

GERMANY: Germany enacted a law last year for social media outfits that asks them to remove fake news from their platforms within 24 hours. A delay is fined with upto $61.5m.

IRELAND: In December, the country introduced a bill to handled fake news. The Online Advertising and Social Media (Transparency) Bill 2017 is aimed at ensuring integrity of online media and targets the prevailing undemocratic practices happening there.

UNITED KINGDOM: UK is planning to treat entities like Facebook and Google as publishers and not just as information sources so that the regulations around them can be tightened. Though UK still has no specific law to deal with fake news, its Prime Minister Theresa May has warned the biggies of the social media to face fines if they fail and a legal solution may well be in offing.

FRANCE: On January 3 this year, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that he was going to introduce a new law to curb fake news through social media content as much of it was affecting the flow of societies and democracies. His pre-election campaign was also largely affected by it.

ITALY: Italy is running programmes to make its citizens aware of conspiracy theories and fake news online. The same has also part of the high-school curriculum in the country. And the country is taking help of sites like Facebook as well in this effort.

EUROPEAN COUNCIL: The Cambridge Analytica led Facebook controversy has forced the European Council to take precautionary measures. Warning that issues like profile leaks from Facebook can ‘subvert our democratic systems’ and the election to the European elections can really be a target of a massive Eurosceptic disinformation run, the council is working on to legislate a law.

UNITED STATES: Fake news has been made a globally known term by US President Donald Trump as he terms most of controversial coverage about him in US media as fake news. And this time around also, the country is in the middle of the storm with the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica controversy.

The US Congress has summoned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for clarification and as the US, for long, has dealt with the phenomenon, with provisions of its Federal Communication Commission for fake news on television and radio broadcasts, the related social media releases may soon be defined as well if they indeed cause much public harm.

INDONESIA: In January, Indonesia launched a cyber security agency to aim religious extremism and fake news on online platforms. The country took the step as more than half of its population is now internet users and the government needed a measure to ensure cyber security.

MALAYSIA: Yesterday, Malaysia’s parliament passed a law to deal with fake news. The bill though criticised by many has a fine of $128,000 and prison term of upto six years. It covers digital publications and social media outfits and targets collaborators who use wholly or partly false data to publish stories.

MALAYSIA: Malaysia’s parliament on April 2 passed a law prohibiting fake news that critics fear will be abused to silence dissent ahead of a general election. Despite warnings such a law would lead Malaysia closer to dictatorship, the bill was approved 123 to 64 after a heated debate. The bill originally proposed a 10-year jail term and a fine of up to 500,000 ringgit ($128,000) for offenders, but the approved legislation sets the maximum prison sentence at six years.

SINGAPORE: Singapore conducted a survey where more than 90% of its residents opinionated for stronger laws to tackle fake news and the country is expected to come up with the one soon, in 2018, as informed by K Shanmugam, its Law Minister. Singapore is a country of high internet density and its people are from various races and religions, so the country needs a stronger law even more, Mr Shanmugam said.

Now, let’s see what India really does on this fake news spread where a guideline to control accredited journalists and mainstream media cannot really work.

©SantoshChaubey

WOULD TWITTER REMAIN SAME, OLD, FREE TWITTER?

Selling Twitter makes business sense for its promoters. The San Francisco based company was formed in March 2006 and went public in November 2013. But Twitter is yet to make profit. According to a Reuters report, the total accumulated loss of the company since its inception comes around $ 2.3 billion and Twitter has not showed any profit since it went public.

But Twitter is just not any other social media or information technology Company. It has become a powerhouse of news, views and information. Any big news is usually broken on Twitter first, be it Osama bin Laden’s death or Prince William’s engagement or many other such developments. Even back home in India, the whole nation was waiting for Nawaz Sharif’s UNGA diatribe and India’s first official response on it came through Twitter only. Narendra Modi had announced his sudden Lahore stopover on Twitter only. There are countless such examples – India or elsewhere.

The another aspect of Twitter that is goldmine of news and views is that people, especially those who matter, tell their anger, frustration, irritation, joy, happiness, sorrow and what not through Twitter. Sometimes a controversial tweet becomes the biggest trending news of the day. Sometimes a tweet becomes the most direct message to tell your problems and grievances that potentially reach across the spectrum.

In that sense, Twitter has become more like a mainstream media outfit – with the obvious benefits of social media – there are no restrictions, no gatekeeping, no censorship – and these are really free. Yes, there are exceptions and government poaching but then where aren’t they? The good thing about Twitter is that it has fought such censorship attempts vehemently.

If we see Twitter sale in that context – the natural question that comes to us is – “would Twitter remain the same, old, free Twitter after it is sold to some big behemoth with multiple business interests across the countries?”

Don’t we know how big businesses lobby with governments and do compromises to keep their operations growing?

©SantoshChaubey