/IT Ministry looking for more efforts from social media to check misleading content amid COVID-19

IT Ministry looking for more efforts from social media to check misleading content amid COVID-19

NEW DELHI: The Ministry of Electronics and IT (Meity) expects social media companies to put more efforts in curbing the spread of misleading content that has the potential to cause harm to the society, especially in the present crisis of COVID-19, a senior official said on Wednesday.

Last week, Meity is learnt to have asked social media platforms to remove rogue messages spreading misinformation and weakening the government’s efforts to fight against the coronavirus.

Social media companies have also been asked to save details of uploaders of such malicious content which can be shared with law enforcement agencies when required.

“We have seen the report by Voyager Infosec. We are in touch with social media companies regularly and have asked to remove all the content that can potentially cause damage to the society especially in the present scenario,” the Meity officer, who did not wish to be named, told PTI.

Industry body IAMAI defended the social media by putting the onus on the users for content creation and said any request to take down content will “have to come via proper legal notices”.

The IT ministry has not issued any legal notice to social media companies but is coordinating with them almost every day to act against such content, the officer said.

According to a report by the open-source intelligence and fact-checking IT firm Voyager Infosec, bulk videos are being posted on social media platforms to influence Muslims in India against following safe practices to contain coronavirus infection.

The firm found that videos have been shot in both foreign locations and India and are being primarily posted on Chinese mobile video app TikTok with religious instigations against health advisories and fake information regarding coronavirus.

These videos are further shared on other platforms like Whatsapp, Twitter and Facebook, the report said.

The report submitted to India Cyber Crime Coordination Centre, claims to have analysed over 30,000 videos within a period of five days. It said that most of these videos have been created with professional video editing softwares and originally uploaded accounts are being deleted after circulating them on other social media platforms.

“Social media platforms are acting on objectionable videos and removing content that is reported to them. They are cooperating among themselves but there is a need to do more by way of larger collaboration so that such content can be checked immediately,” the officer said.

When asked why is social media, which has large technical infrastructure, failing to check such videos as reported by Voyager Infosec, the official said the ministry will discuss with all players including the IT intelligence firm for timely action on all the objectionable content.

Industry body IAMAI, whose members include TikTok, YouTube , Facebook, Twitter etc, said that the social media platform members of the association have taken proactive steps to prevent and curtail the spread of misinformation and fake news.

IAMAI said that since the content on these platforms is not created by the platforms, the liability of creating/generating misinformation lies with social media users and not the platform themselves.

“While the platforms have taken positive steps to restrict the spread of fake news, any form of the takedown of content will still have to come via proper legal notices as determined by existing legal provisions. The platforms on their part are often actively engaging with such relevant authorities to facilitate a more cooperative mechanism in this regard,” IAMAI said.

The industry body said that it has communicated to Meity and the Home Ministry with details of measures taken by its social media platform members over misinformation during the present times of crisis.

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