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Indian government's tense meeting with tech firms over fake news: Reports

Indian officials reportedly held heated discussions with Google, Twitter and Facebook for not proactively removing what they described as fake news on their platforms.

The government has been tightening tech sector regulations but wants companies to do more on content moderation.
The government has been tightening tech sector regulations but wants companies to do more on content moderation. Photo courtesy: Pxhere

The officials from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) strongly criticised the companies and said their inaction on fake news was forcing the government to order content takedowns which in turn drew international criticism that authorities were suppressing free expression, two sources said.

The conversation was described as tense and heated, signalling a new low in ties between American tech giants and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration.

The government has been tightening tech sector regulations but wants companies to do more on content moderation.

The meeting was a follow-up to the I&B ministry's use of "emergency powers" in December and January to order the blocking of 55 channels on Google's YouTube platform, and some Twitter and Facebook accounts.

The government had said the channels were promoting "fake news" or "anti-India" content and that the disinformation was being spread by accounts based in neighbouring Pakistan.

The I&B ministry did not respond to a request for comment on the meeting, which was also attended by domestic content-sharing platforms ShareChat and Koo, which have millions of users in the country.

Facebook, now known as Meta, Twitter and ShareChat declined comment.

Without commenting on the meeting, Alphabet Inc's Google said in a statement it reviews government's requests and "where appropriate, we restrict or remove content in keeping with local laws." Koo said it complies with local laws and has strong content moderation practices in place.

In its transparency reports, Twitter has said the Indian government makes among the highest number of requests to remove content from its platform. Technology website Comparitech in October said India made 97,631 content removal requests in 2020, the second-highest in the world after Russia, mostly to Facebook and Google.

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CtoI News Desk
CtoI News Desk – CtoI

Singapore-headquartered online media company targeting Indians Diaspora across Singapore, US, UK, India and UAE. Connected to India covers developments around NRIs. Cover arts, political, sports, finance, entrepreneurship, business, movies, dramas, entertainment and other news for Indians living worldwide.

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