06 Dec 2019
Facebook/Twitter likely to be forced to begin user-verification in India
The latest draft of India's Personal Data Protection Bill has proposed a major change for social media giants - user verification.
Two government sources recently told Reuters that the privacy bill, which has just been cleared by the Cabinet, mentions making it mandatory for social media services to introduce an option that could be used by people to verify their identities.
Identity verification to curb the spread of fake news
India has been marred by the mess of fake news, and while social media companies have taken steps to combat the problem, it hasn't come to a complete halt.
This is why the government has proposed the idea of identity verification, which will require all leading social media platforms to verify user identities and display that verification publicly, like blue ticks for high-profile accounts.
This would create technical, policy issues for social media platforms
The regulation would force social media platforms to offer users a way to prove their identities, but going for that verification would be completely optional for the users, the sources said.
Either way, the move is bound to create major technical and policy issues for the companies that have been resisting this idea, saying that users in many countries fail to provide sufficient documentation.
Major step to tackle online disinformation
If the Bill gets implemented and social media companies are forced to introduce this option, it will be a major move against fake news and disinformation, which has led to more than 30 deaths in India since 2017.
"The idea was to reduce the spread of fake news and online trolling," one of the sources said while explaining the goal behind the move.
However, identity verification will not remove fake accounts
Identity verification will give people a way to assess the authenticity of a sender and decide whether the information shared by them is credible enough to be forwarded.
It will promote responsible sharing, reducing the impact and spread of fake news. However, even if it is implemented properly, it will only curb fake news, not eliminate the fake accounts that often lead to it.
PDP Bill to be tabled in Parliament soon
The Personal Data Protection Bill, which is expected to change how big tech giants handle Indians' data, will be tabled in the Parliament soon. However, its passage isn't fully confirmed as it may be referred to a parliamentary expert committee for further review.