The New Delhi-based Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) has recommended the Government of India to re-evaluate and define the problem of fake news and collectively take responsibility for the information crisis looming large over the country.
According to a study report released in New Delhi on February 21, 2019, the goal of this report is to provide information and understanding of the narrative around unverified information and the different aspects that influence, sustain and motivate sharing of the same. The report is an attempt to constructively layout best practices and in-depth understanding of the underlying challenges that information disorder creates.
The exhaustive recommendation section was consolidated by integrating the survey results in the context of stakeholder opinions. The study strongly believed that several aspects of the report could be used as markers to initiate discourse and debate the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders that could change the ecosystem of fake news in India. They hoped that the goal of setting a precedent of research findings that can be applied in real time motivates other institutions, agencies and people to engage in this field of study by looking at it from an intersection of human behaviour and technology point of view and not engage in tunnel vision being a problem of either or.
It may be recalled that IAMAI has recently held a round table conference in Gachibowli in which the Editor of MaaHyderabad Sridhar Dharmasanam too attended as one of the invitees and presented his perspective on the burning global issue.
We hereby present you a few excerpts from the study report that would be submitted to the Government of India, Ministry of Electronics, Information and Communication for consideration.
Excerpts from the Measures & Recommendations of IAMAI Study Report on Fake News:
Government Digital Literacy
It is important to create a standardized and comprehensive definition of digital literacy that can be adopted by all stakeholders – public and private sectors to implement campaigns. It is important to widen the scope to be inclusive of the cognitive perspective of processing digital information and not create a framework based purely on the technical accessibility of services like payments.
The most immediate need in tackling information disorder is to identify and cultivate political and bureaucratic leadership that understands the complexities, consequences and those who can take into account the future of digital engagement in the country. This is central to taking forward any policy, regulation, campaign or laws.
Integrating an exclusive section of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that allows law enforcement to collect, report and follow criminal proceedings that address the aspect of hate-related violence in an isolated manner. Using Internet Shutdowns as an instrument to control polarization or hate is not a solution but an indication that the government is not equipped or does not have the capacities and procedures in place that could implicate bad actors.
Data Protection & Accessibility
It is important to quickly move towards a new framework for data protection and privacy. At a time when agencies are amassing personal data at every point of accessing services and laying digital footprint, data centralization is a huge risk as well as make it vulnerable for manipulation during democratic processes as security breaches.
Technology Platforms Capacity Building
Digital platforms need to invest in large scale capacity building efforts to staff their offices in India, in particular, their country-specific public policy and grievance teams. By appointing an officer for the sake of it but stationing them elsewhere could be a legal move from the platform. However, it is important that a team is functional in India to work swiftly with user complaints, law enforcement and the government if necessary. The location itself makes it inaccessible and defeats the purpose of the appointment.
Social media and digital platforms are no longer private networks of known people but platforms that are allowing broadcasting and sharing of content that is unverified. They have a huge user base for each of them, more than any single newspaper or television channel in India equating them to be a media platform in the real sense.
With such massive influence and power, it is important to be accountable to the consequences that follow. While a majority of our respondents favoured self-regulatory measures, a lot of them felt that examining of individual country’s press laws could be extended to the platforms upon modification, taking into consideration that they are hosting services.
It is the responsibility of the platforms to be open about the processes and procedures containing user data and protection. An engagement process that is insightful and consultative with other stakeholders working to counter information disorder is required. Transparency in interactions with law enforcement and government about strategies and challenges is essential because technology expertise can no longer solve.
Digital platforms must collaborate an ‘ethics of operations’ tie-up with governments, to ensure that the bare minimum compliance with national and regional administrative bodies.
Platforms should consider setting up a localised telephonic helpline that users call, report and pose questions about services, instances of abuse, or to fact check.
Local Language Access & Moderation
A lot of misinformation is created in local languages in India and other linguistically diverse countries. It is important to integrate language access into platform moderation, grievances and user education. is would mean extensive hiring of resources in local languages to moderate or examine content.
Media Organization Architecture & Affiliation
When media groups and publications are directly owned and affiliated with specific political ideologies, they are at risk of reporting information that supports a particular ideology without evidence. While everybody has the right to freedom of expression, there is a certain responsibility that needs to be assumed when working with public information, especially considering the potential of such information to incite hate, violence and polarization when broadcasted on a platform.
With the growing use of digital platforms to reach the audience by media houses, it is critical to hire staff‑ that is well versed and literate about digital technology, challenges and limitations of the platforms that they will be using. Additionally, all staff‑ should be involved and trained in fact-checking exercises to be able to ensure the quality of information over volume. is could even extend to staff‑ filing complaints with platforms for content that they might have come across that have unreliable sources and potential to cause public harm.
Robust Editorial Systems
Recreating robust systems of verification and multiple levels at the desk level before publishing information will go a long way in weeding out inaccurate information. Looking at traditional models of media houses in terms of emphasis on quality control more than volume control is essential.
Encouraging diversity in the media, both in terms of people and opinions. Encourage diverse forms of media ownership and practices, in order to account for the plurality of people, opinions, and location across the country will inculcate healthy competition to report with right sources and verify each other’s information.
Strengthening representational and self-regulatory bodies like editors’ guilds, press councils etc. to actively involve and deliberate challenges of daily news and not limit their participation to attacks of the freedoms of expression and opinion.
Academia, Civil Society & Discourse
Research Commissioning research in the area of information processing at the intersection of human behaviour and technology can be used to develop literature, guidelines that can be piloted on the ground to combat information disorder. To enable behaviour and social sciences to study and give insights into the issue than to purely treat it as a problem that is a product of technology.
Universities think tanks, foundations and agencies working on information and human behaviour should mobilize and allocate funds to provide the support system for reports examining information disorder.
Journalism schools should make training on tools and methods of verifications mandatory. Moreover, they must introduce fact checking networks and resources to students to underscore the importance of the burden of proof and responsibility in the digital context. Fact checking agencies can be integrated into these workshops to allow students in training to understand the process and importance of fact-checking.
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