As per sources, the Indian officials engaged in heated discussions regarding action from US tech giants, including Google, Facebook, and Twitter. The discussion was based on the removal of content called fake news by these platforms.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting stated that the inaction of these platforms towards such content is what forced the Indian Government to levy restrictions and ordering of takedowns. Some sources also stated that the officials strongly criticized these companies for not taking appropriate actions.
Reports are that the virtual meeting was quite tense and heated. This reflected the possibility of new lows between the Indian Government led by Mr. Modi and the tech giants. As of now, no ultimatum was issued to these tech giants in the meeting, reported sources.
This meeting is a follow-up to the Ministry’s emergency power usage to order the restriction of some YouTube channels and accounts on Facebook and Twitter. Officials in the meeting wanted the tech companies to work on content moderation. They stated that some channels on YouTube were circulating fake and anti-India information. This content was believed to be spread by Pakistan-based accounts.
The meeting also had India-based content sharing platforms like Koo and ShareChat in the attendees. There is no official statement from the I & B Ministry yet. However, reports are on that some senior tech executives addressed these issues. They stated that these platforms take adequate measures to restrict misinformation from being circulated. These executives also added that these platforms act on content requests that are legally valid.
Sources reported that the officials from the government stated that big tech companies and social media platforms not scrutinizing such content is a disappointment. They also added that the government is forced to order such takedowns opened ways for criticism and damaging public impressions.
According to some sources, the executives from Google suggested the officials to not make the takedown decisions public. They added that this could be a win-win situation for both. The social media firms can work with the government to restrict the fake content, reported the sources.
However, the government officials rejected this proposal, stating that publicizing the orders also publicizes that these companies aren’t doing the necessary to handle fake news by themselves. The Indian Government ordered the takedown of certain channels in January, stating that this measure is taken to preserve India’s information environment.
As per the government’s takedown announcement last month, the fake news was based on sensitive elements like the Indian Army, local state elections, and the country’s foreign relations. Mr. Apar Gupta, the executive director at Internet Freedom Foundation stated that the government didn’t publicize the detailed orders related to takedowns.
He added that the base for this order is yet to be disclosed. Meanwhile, reports from Twitter suggest that number of requests for content removal from the Indian Government is among the highest margin. Meta (formerly known as Facebook), Koo, and ShareChat refused to comment on the same.