Govt asks social media platforms to locate grievance officers in India

The Union Government on Thursday said all social media platforms should be required to locate their grievance officers in India, and they will act as the point of contact with law enforcement agencies for all fake news related grievances.

Electronics and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told the Rajya Sabha that the government was working at responding to emerging challenges in the social media space. He said the government was “looking at strengthening the implementation aspects of section 79 of the IT Act, 2000.”

Prasad was speaking in the Rajya Sabha during a calling attention motion notice on the subject of "misuse of social media platforms and propagation of fake news causing unrest and violence". The minister said social media service providers, regulated as 'online intermediaries' under Indian laws, should ensure strict compliance of the IT Act, and submit themselves and their service platforms and other applications to the jurisdiction of Indian courts and authorities by having a physical presence in India.

Prasad said social media platforms should provide technological solutions so that verified fake news and provocative messages can be filtered and should also put in place more effective mechanism for receiving grievances. "The duty of such grievance officer should cover not only to receive grievances on real-time basis but also to inform law enforcement agencies," Prasad said.

The minister said the government will strengthen the appropriate legal framework to ensure that social media platforms do not deprive Indian users of the right to bring proceedings in India. He said there was also a need for a countrywide awareness campaign among students, and he would be writing to state chief ministers.

Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said there was an increase in the number of lynching incidents, with 40 people lynched across 13 states this year. Without taking names but referring to the recent incident of a union minister garlanding people accused of lynching, Azad demanded that the government send a stern message by dropping such ministers from the union council of ministers. He said strict action would have a signal effect and lynchings would stop in no time.

Trinamool Congress member Derek O’Brien listed “Postcard News” and a Twitter handle as the most “bilious hatred mongers”, and asked why some of these people attend BJP chief Amit Shah’s meetings with his party’s social media teams. He said digital India has become divisive India. He said “Nation with NaMo”', which is a Facebook site, and not to be confused with the NaMo App, is spreading fake news. The minister said he will look into the member's concerns about 'Nation with NaMo.

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