Context: The government of India plans to register online fact checking platforms of various institutions including big corporates to ensure greater accountability in the digital space. This aspect of registration is expected to be a part of the proposed Digital India Bill and such registration of online fact checking platform could be carried out in different phases.
Classification of Online Fact Checking Platform
- The proposed Digital India Bill is expected to classify various types of online intermediaries, including fact-checking portals – One of the major reasons behind the proposed classification of online intermediaries is that the Centre intends to prescribe specific rules for different types of intermediaries. One of the rules may prescribe for registration of online intermediaries or online fact checking portal.
- The term “intermediary” has been presently defined in The Information Technology Act, 2000 – “intermediary”, with respect to any particular electronic records, means any person who on behalf of another person receives, stores or transmits that record or provides any service with respect to that record and includes telecom service providers, network service providers, internet service providers, web-hosting service providers, search engines, online payment sites, online-auction sites, online-market places and cyber cafes.
- Multiple types of intermediaries in the current digital age comprise e-commerce, digital media, social media, Artificial Intelligence, Over the Top (OTT) Platforms, Online Gaming etc.
Proliferation of Illegal Activities in Digital Space
- With increasing proliferation of technology and expansion of digital space at an exponential rate also increases the risks of cyber-frauds and hence needs better regulation.
- We are witnessing new innovative ways of online financial fraud and criminal and illegal activity also thrives in other areas of digital space.
- New Complex forms of user harms includes –
- Catfishing – creation of fictional or fake identity by taking personal details of other persons
- Doxxing – a form of cyberbullying that uses sensitive or secret information, statements, or records for the harassment, exposure, financial harm, or other exploitation of targeted individuals.
- Cyberstalking – is a technologically-based “attack” on one person who has been targeted specifically for that attack for reasons of anger, revenge or control. Cyberstalking can take many forms, including: harassment, false accusation, defamation, embarrassment or humiliation of the victim.
- Cyber trolling – person who posts or makes inflammatory, insincere, digressive, extraneous, or off-topic messages online
- Gaslighting – manipulating someone using psychological methods leading to question sanity of the person
- Phishing – attackers deceiving people into revealing sensitive information such as credit card numbers, bank information, or passwords etc. or installing malware such as ransomware.
- Increasing proliferation of hate speech, disinformation and fake news is another very important reason to register online fact checking platforms.
What does the Proposed Digital India Law intends to Achieve?
According to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, the proposed Digital India law should evolve through rules that can be updated, and address the tenets of Digital India which includes:
- Open Internet
- Online Safety and Trust
- Accountability and Quality of Service
- Adjudicatory mechanism
- New Technologies
There is also an urgent need for a specialized and dedicated adjudicatory mechanism for online civil and criminal offences. The adjudicatory mechanism should
- be easily accessible
- deliver timely remedies to citizens
- resolve cyber disputes
- develop a unified cyber jurisprudence
- enforce the rule of law online
The proposed Digital India Bill should not only provide a global standard cyber laws to act as a catalyst and enabler for $1 trillion digital economy but should also ensure that the digital space is not misused. Hence, the proposed law should also protect citizens’ rights and address emerging technology risks including technological disruptions.