The government expects social media platforms with large user base to “behave in a responsible manner” and take steps to ensure that consumers have confidence in them, Ajay Prakash Sawhney, Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, told reporters here on Tuesday.
Sawhney’s comments come at a time when several platforms including messaging app WhatsApp and its parent company Facebook are being flagged by the Centre.
“We are always in touch and anytime we have a concern we are flagging it, to them. We expect all platforms to behave in a responsible manner especially those platforms with large user base,” he said. “We believe all major platforms have large presence here… and they will take whatever steps necessary to ensure that users have complete confidence in their platform.”
The government has stepped up its efforts to control the content being circulated on various social platforms that has created law and order issues in the past, particularly those arising out of spread of fake news through apps such as WhatsApp.
Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad last month told the Parliament that it was critical for social media service providers to ensure the lawful provision of their services and platforms in India to continue receiving access to Indian users. The government is also planning to further strengthen the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines), 2011 under IT Act to address new forms of challenges on social media platforms.
In response to a notice by the government, WhatsApp has informed the IT ministry that it is building a local team as part of steps to check fake news circulation but has not met the key demand of identifying message originators. According to an IT Ministry official, WhatsApp has outlined initiatives being taken to curb fake news circulation including education and advocacy efforts. It is also building an India-based team, the official said but noted that the measures do not meet the government’s expectations on ‘traceability’ and attribution of such messages. Sawhney said that the IT Ministry was “looking into” WhatsApp’s response.