Mumbai: A day after Mumbai Police exposed fake TRP scam, Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi in separate letters to Union Minister of Home Amit Shah and Union Minister of Law and Justice, Communications Ravi Shankar Prasad has urged to initiate a free, fair and bipartisan investigation into the misuse of social media platforms to spread lies and hate, and to destabilise governments as well as undermine constitutional institutions. She has made a strong case for formulation of appropriate guidelines that hold social media companies accountable.
Chaturvedi said that in context of the suicide of an actor in Mumbai, numerous media accounts were used to spread conspiracy theories and cast aspersions on the efficiency of the Mumbai Police. Their investigation has found that on the social media platforms over 80,000 fake and illegitimate accounts were created with the specific intent to malign the Maharashtra Government and the Mumbai Police especially at a time when all efforts were directed to battle COVID. These fake bots create obstacles in the police’s work by subverting their authority and demoralising the personnel during such trying times.
Chaturvedi referred to the study by University of Michigan on how the conspiracy narrative was pushed around suicide of an actor in Mumbai. ‘’This study shows us how government authority can be destroyed, undermined and destabilised through a malicious social media campaign on these unchecked social media platforms,’’ she said.
According to Shiv Sena MP, the social media platforms across the democracies are being investigated for their roles in rigging elections, of bias towards certain ideologies, of not considering the real life impact of rumour mongering and fake news. ‘’In India there is an urgent need to formulate appropriate guidelines that hold social media companies accountable. Currently, the legal framework under which these companies operate on two pillars. One, these companies claim to be intermediaries under Indian laws meaning they are not liable for the content that they provide to the platform. This ignores the usage of algorithms that add fuel to the fire,’’ she noted.
Chaturvedi said the second pillar is that these companies self-regulate through community guidelines which is meant to absolve them of any public oversight and ignore instances such as those that the article published by the foreign outlet has mentioned. ‘’This is also unacceptable as clearly the enforcement of these guidelines is highly questionable. The government should take urgent action on these matters and initiate a free, fair and bipartisan investigation on the roles of these platforms to destroy basic tenets of democratic framework,’’ she viewed.
‘’When the head of Facebook, Twitter can be called upon by the US Congress to answer questions and are being investigated in an open forum then why is it that the Indian Government is even hesitating to ask them to explain their role in our nation,’’ she asked.