Criminal action recommended against top Indian executives of social media platforms on fake news causing lynchings

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A top governmental panel is believed to have recommended criminal action against the Indian heads of big social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter if their platforms are used to disseminate fake news, leading to lynchings.

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The recommendations were made by an inter-ministerial committee, headed by Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba, reported Times of India. The committee has reportedly submitted its recommendations to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who is also the head of a group of ministers looking into the role of fake news in the cases of lynchings across India.

This is after several instances of mob lynchings were reported in states like Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Karnataka, where enraged groups had attacked innocent individuals on suspicion of being child lifters. The role of WhatsApp had come under intense scrutiny after these incidents since the platform was allegedly used to spread fake news on child-lifting.

However, the recommendations made by the inter-ministerial committee is unlikely to immediately be implemented since they will be first sent to the GoM for consideration before Prime Minister Narendra Modi stamps his approval.

Modi himself has come under sharp criticism for promoting lynch mobs in India by following some of the most vicious social media users on Twitter. These members of troll army are often seen attacking women, journalists and issuing rape and death threats to critics of the the prime minister.

Seldom has Modi condemned their actions in the past. Even amidst calls for him to unfollow them, Modi has chosen to look the other way. It is in this context that experts do not appear to be hopeful of the committee’s latest recommendations getting approved by the prime minister.

The committee, added the ToI report, has also sought the appointment of the superintendent of police in each district as the nodal officer to deal with cases of lynching, while suggesting that criminal action be initiated collectively against the group/mob engaging in lynching.

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