The Government of India has issued an advisory to all social media platforms with an active user base in the country to take responsibility of misinformation related to coronavirus on their feeds, and take suitable actions to curb the same. According to the advisory, which was viewed by News18, social media platforms are recognised as intermediaries according to the Information Technology Act of India, and as a result, has a direct responsibility to curate the content on their platform as and when it breaches acceptable safety of masses.
The advisory to social media platforms says, "Social media platforms are intermediaries as defined under section 2(1)(w) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and are required to follow due diligence as prescribed in the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011 notified under section 79 of the IT Act. They must inform their users not to host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, update or share any information that may affect public order and unlawful in any way."
As a result, all social media companies have been asked to initiate active awareness campaigns so as to educate users about the downsides of sharing content without verifying their factual accuracy, and are also expected to take immediate action to remove posts that are inaccurate, as soon as they are spotted. This will likely require active investment of manpower and technologies from the companies' end, and as a result, it now remains to be seen how social media companies react to the statement.
Misinformation has been a majorly disruptive cause of panic and stress among users globally. In a bid to take on this, WhatsApp announced a partnership earlier today with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to launch an official helpline through which it should be easier for users to access factual information, instead of reading and sharing misleading information that may cause distress in the long run.