India is considering a new IT Act to replace the current one that was passed over 20 years ago. The new legislation, dubbed the Digital India Act, will tackle “deliberate” misinformation and doxxing, and is expected to have provisions to ensure social media platforms’ algorithmic accountability, data privacy, and net neutrality.
Speaking to India Express, a government official said that the new legislation would focus on offenses in the online world that have significantly “diversified” since the last amendment to the IT Act in 2008.
“For instance, currently under Indian laws, online misinformation is not illegal,” the official said.
“The Indian Penal Code (IPC) looks at misinformation from the lens of defamation. Beyond that, there is no adjudication on deliberate attempts at misinformation and the ministry is having a discussion to include it as an offense under the new Act, the official said. “Deliberate online misinformation has to be separated from defamation, which is a very different kind of an offense.”
The new legislation is also expected to hold social media platforms accountable for their algorithms, which some feel amplify misinformation campaigns.
“Today, people who use social media have become sophisticated, as have the platforms themselves. Often, their algorithms are designed in a way that they amplify certain types of content that end up helping people who want to deliberately spread misinformation. That has to be tackled,” the official said. “There is clear evidence globally of concerted efforts at running misinformation campaigns on social media with an aim to influence elections, for instance.”
The official also confirmed the new legislation will address doxxing, which refers to the publishing of another person’s personal information on social media and other platforms with malicious intent. “From the common trend of trolling on social media, we are now seeing increasing instances of people getting doxxed and the new Act will cover it,” the official said.