The Indian government has revised its IT law to prohibit social media companies like Facebook and Twitter from sharing false or misleading information about the government's businesses.
The report citing the new IT law by the country's Ministry of Electronics and IT will require social media companies and internet service providers including Jio and Airtel to rely on the Indian government's fact-checking unit to determine the authenticity of any claims they share. It noted that non-compliance with the law could result in the loss of safe harbour protections for the said organisations.
These new IT rules represent a significant shift from the previous rules, which only required intermediaries to make "reasonable efforts" to avoid hosting, publishing, or sharing false information, giving the government more power to scrutinize and control online content. A move which could be a setback for many American media giants that rely on the South Asian market as their largest user base.
The amended IT rules also targeted online games that offer betting services requiring self-regulatory bodies to ban apps that offer wagering to address concerns about online apps involved in criminal activities such as money laundering.
The development has drawn a lot of criticism, with some arguing that the new rules give the government overly broad powers to determine the passage of online content, which could be seen as a form of censorship and could be used to silence opposition voices and stifle free speech.
A digital rights group, the Internet Freedom Foundation, has also criticized the rule, saying that it gives the government too much power to determine the authenticity of online content, and goes against the principles of natural justice.