IT ministry to Twitter, Facebook, Google: Help tackle fake news on Covid-19

A medic conducts screening of a patient as part of a precautionary measure for novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, at a government run hospital in New Delhi | PTI photo
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on Friday wrote to social media platforms to curb fake news concerning the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. 

Social media firms are categorised as intermediaries under the Information Technology Act. In the communication, MeitY has asked social media platforms to "inform their users not to host, display, upload, modify publish, transmit, update or share any information that may affect public order and (is) unlawful in any way".                                                     

Fake news about "cures" and "prevention" from the novel coronavirus have been doing the rounds since some time now. There is no known cure or vaccine available, and social media platforms have been running awareness campaigns by promoting constant handwashing, use of sanitisers and so on. However, there is a whole host of misinformation that is also being propagated, even though most platforms have announced strict measures against such content. 

In the letter, MeitY has further urged intermediaries to "initiate awareness campaign on their platform for users not to upload/circulate any false news/misinformation concering coronavirus which are likely to create panic among public and disturb the public order and social tranquility". 

The ministry has further asked the intermediaries to "take immediate action to disable/remove such content hosted on their platform on priority basis" as well as "promote dissemination of authentic information related to coronavirus as far as possible". 

Earlier in the day, the Ministry also said it was the postponing a large scale summit on artificial intelligence- the RAISE 2020- ‘Responsible AI for Social Empowerment 2020,’ to October 5-6 from the earlier date of 11-12 April, in New Delhi. 

It is now accepting applications from all over the world until May 15, 2020. Finalists will get a chance to share their work at RAISE 2020, and get live feedback from leading luminaries and attendees at a special Startup Pitchfest. Through multiple events such as the AI Startup Pitchfest, AI Startup Theater and The AI Startup Awards, the event focuses on nurturing talent by exposure, recognition and guidance.

“The registrations are open for all participants and the process will remain the same as before. All AI startups are welcome to participate through the same procedure for the Startup Pitchfest. The step to postpone the Summit is a public health measure for containment and mitigation of the current Covid-19 outbreak,”  said Abhishek Singh, President and CEO, National e-Governance Division (NeGD), MeitY. 

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