Fake News Current Affairs - 2020

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Government to set up FACT Check Module to curb fake news

Union Government has decided to set up FACT Check Module to identify incidences of fake news on social media and digital platforms and take corrective action. It will be set up under Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the government’s public relations arm.

About FACT Check module

It is aimed at protecting and insulating the government and its agencies against fake news on social media and digital platforms. It will largely focus on online and digital content for now and will be later expanded to the electronic media later.

It will be initially manned by information service officers, who are also mandated to create appropriate content to re-balance narrative and promote government’s official position. They will also target content to ensure that government versions are visible and accessible to public

It will work on the four principles of find, assess, create and target (FACT), which involves round-the-clock monitoring of online news sources and publicly available social media posts. It will also identify themes or stories that promote false and misleading information relating to government and its agencies. It will also assess scale of engagement with the risk identified and establish whether it is appropriate to respond to the content.

Background

Government has decided to set up FACT Check module (mechanism) after taking serious note of rising incidences of fake news on social media and digital platforms. This decision was triggered by a spate of “fake” reports online, the latest being one in section of Bangladeshi media that claimed Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated CJI Ranjan Gogoi over Ayodhya verdict. In this case, Government had quickly clarified about this report as “malicious” and “fake”. But this matter led Prime Minister Office (PMO) and I&B ministry to conclude that formal mechanism to tackle such fake news was needed urgently.

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Singapore Criminalises Publication of Fake News

Singapore has passed a law (The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill) which criminalises publication of fake news in country and allows government to block and order removal of such content.

Key Features of Law

  • It bans falsehoods (fake news) that are detrimental to Singapore or may likely influence elections.
  • Mandate: It requires service providers to immediately remove such content and allows government to block it.
  • Penalty: Offenders could face a jail term of up to 10 years and heavy fines.

Criticism:

  • It gives government too much power to determine what could be false and broadly defined public interest.
  • The order to remove or correct fake news is mostly directed at technology companies rather than on individuals who break a law without intent.
  • As per many Human Rights Watch it is a “disaster for online expression by ordinary Singaporeans” and a powerful step against independence of online news portals.

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