Government holds heated meet with Twitter, Facebook, Google: Report
In the latest altercation between the government and tech giants, officials had heated discussions with Facebook, Google, and Twitter over their failure to proactively remove "fake news" from their platforms, reports citing Reuters sources claimed. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) officials slammed the organizations, saying their inaction on fake news was forcing the government to order its removal, said the sources.
- The development comes weeks after the Modi government directed the social media platforms to block some accounts for spreading fake news and anti-India news.
- All these accounts were being operated from Pakistan and were identified to be part of four coordinated disinformation networks.
- The content removal sparked international criticism, with some accusing officials of restricting free speech in the country.
Senior tech executives informed authorities that they take necessary precautions to remove or limit the spread of disinformation on their platforms and comply with legally-valid content removal requests, said sources. The officials instructed Google to reassess its internal guidelines to automatically delete fake information. The government was also disappointed because the social media companies were not deleting such content on their own.
One approach to address this, according to Google executives, is for the ministry to avoid making takedown judgments public. According to one of the sources, Google stated that the companies could engage with the government to combat alleged fake information, which would be a win-win situation for all parties. The proposal was dismissed by government officials, said the source.
Last month, the government ordered the removal of several online accounts, claiming that it was doing so to protect India's overall information environment. It used "emergency powers" to order the shutdown of many YouTube channels, as well as Twitter and Facebook accounts. The government claimed that such fake content was on "sensitive subjects" including the Indian Army, India's foreign relations and local state elections.
According to Twitter's transparency reports, the Indian government makes among the most requests to delete information from its platform. India made 97,631 material removal requests in 2020, the second-highest in the world after Russia, according to technology website Comparitech.