Karnataka minister Priyank Kharge announces fact-check framework to combat fake news

Karnataka Information Technology Minister Priyank Kharge on Thursday announced a framework for setting up a fact-checking unit to combat fake news.

The government’s fact-checking unit aims to hunt for misinformation, disinformation and malinformation (MDM) in English, Kannada and other regional languages.

The announcement comes after Karnataka Police booked television anchor and right wing journalist Sudhir Chaudhary for allegedly conspiring to disrupt communal harmony through a show he had hosted on the Aaj Tak channel.

The unit will rely on primary sources wherever available; disclose all sources referred; provide all available and unambiguous information where facts are not clear; and provide details of the methodology adopted and transparent corrections when new facts come to light.

“We are not introducing any new law or amending any rules to debunk fake news. We are working in the existing framework of the IT rules to curb misinformation and disinformation. The need to fight misinformation and disinformation has been reiterated by the chief justice of India, Election Commission Chief and even the prime minister himself,” Kharge said.

He went on to say: “We are not here to put people behind bars or to curtail press freedom or to control the narrative. All we want to do is to inform people whether the content is false or true.”

“The platform will serve as a deterrent against misinformation which is of public interest. The fact checking unit will soon be effective,” he added.

Kharge also said that the framework was reviewed by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and technical experts.

The government has proposed a comprehensive approach involving various stakeholders, including the public, fact-checking agencies, state and Union governments, and social media platforms to combat the spread of fake news. This framework emphasizes that any questionable content submitted by the public will be forwarded to fact-checking agencies for initial examination. Subsequently, the content will undergo a thorough analysis and initial review, after which a conclusion will be reached. This conclusion will then undergo scrutiny by the state government before being made available to the public. In cases where the questionable content warrants legal action, the state government will file a formal complaint. If the content violates a social media platform’s public policy and needs to be removed, the government will instruct the platform to take it down.

The fact-checking unit is composed of three main components: an oversight committee, a dedicated point of contact (SPOC) review unit, and nodal officers.

The oversight committee comprises prominent figures such as the heads of the departments of information technology, biotechnology, and science and technology; the ADGP (intelligence) and ADGP (CID); a representative from the department of information and public relations; the managing director of the Karnataka Innovation and Technology Society; the dean specializing in electrical, electronics, and computer science at Bengaluru IISC; an additional advocate-general; the center head of CySecK, a center of excellence in cyber security affiliated with the Karnataka State Council for Science and Technology; and representatives from civil society.

Within the review SPOC unit, a superintendent of police (intelligence) will be appointed by the home department.

The nodal officers consist of three teams: a fact-checking team responsible for conducting fact-checks and managing communications and outreach; an analytics team tasked with monitoring the information ecosystem and providing early intelligence to the fact-checking teams; and a capacity-building team responsible for organizing awareness campaigns and developing applications to enhance the ecosystem.