What have you done to curb fake news? Social media to submit daily reports

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In a letter written to TikTok, Helo and Facebook, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has asked for daily reports to be submitted by the platforms detailing the measures they are taking to prevent the spread of misinformation.

The communication, a copy of which was seen by Business Standard, says that while platforms like short video app TikTok and regional social media platform Helo (both owned by Bytedance) are very popular in India, they also have the potential of being misused.

“Such false and misinformation based messages (includes audio and video clips) have the potential for creating panic and other online harms and to a large extent undo the efforts and initiatives of all stakeholders,” MeitY said in the letter. 

Appreciating the efforts already made by the platforms to help control the spread of misinformation on their platforms, the ministry added that they further need to ensure such “rogue messages” do not go viral and are removed from the platforms and shared with the law enforcement agencies. 

“A daily report including all the proactive measures in this regard may be submitted to MeitY,” the letter added. 

It also assured the platforms that the confidentiality of the information and privacy of users shared with the ministry will be protected.

A ministry official said the requirement of daily reports is for a few days, in light of the misinformation being spread related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are actively working with the government to support them in their efforts to fight misinformation and proactively also working to elevate credible information related to COVID19 on our platform," said a TikTok Spokesperson.

The platform has increased moderation efforts and has removed thousands of videos that have contradicted legitimate advice about COVID-19 from credible authorities, as well as content that could cause imminent harm to public health and safety, it said in a blogpost. 

Facebook and WhatsApp have also upped their efforts in working with the Central and State governments to ensure users have access to credible information. 

“We are taking aggressive steps to stop misinformation and harmful content from spreading on our platforms, and connect people to accurate information about COVID-19. We will remove COVID-19 misinformation that could contribute to imminent physical harm including false claims about cures, treatments, the availability of essential services or the location and severity of the outbreak,” said a Facebook spokesperson. 

Facebook has updated its community standards to remove COVID-19 related misinformation that could contribute to imminent physical harm. It now removes posts that make false claims about cures, treatments, the availability of essential services or the location and severity of the outbreak. For example, unfounded claims that medicines and vaccines for COVID-19 are harmful to certain segments of the population will be taken down.

Other claims that don’t directly result in physical harm, like conspiracy theories about the origin of the virus, it is working with its network of fact-checking partners, including eight fact-checking partners in India to debunk these claims. 

Facebook-owned WhatsApp has also tied up with central and State governments on helplines based on chatbots so people have access to authentic information. On Tuesday, it also limited the forwarding of frequently forwarded messages to a single chat to check potentially false and misleading content from going viral. 

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