There are around 350 million Indians on social media, most of whom do nothing more than share terrible Tik Tok videos. The government wants to control 350 million people, without being able to control politically motivated IT cells. Maybe it needs to fix issues in its own house, instead of penalising the rest of us, writes Harini Calamur.
There is a case before the Supreme Court that looks at the issue of fake news, and the proposed solution. Representing the government, Attorney General KK Venugopal is arguing the need to link social media accounts with Aadhar to prevent the spread of fake news. Which tells you two things – the first is that senior law officers of the government (and Opposition) need training in how the internet works. The second is that fake news is a serious-enough problem for the government to try and take some action -- even though the action is not very well thought out.
Fake news is a huge problem, not just in India but elsewhere. It has been considered responsible for bringing Donald Trump to power, ensuring Brexit, infuriating mobs in India to lynch, and start the outbreak of the measles virus by circulating fake news about the efficacy of vaccinations. In short, fake news is not just a moral hazard – people lying – but can lead to devastating consequences for life, limb, property, and democracy. Furthermore, it is not just fake news that governments are worried about. There is the dark web too. The dark web is that part of the web that is not indexed by any search engine, and can only be accessed through special browsers – such as Tor and Onion -- and offers its users complete and utter anonymity. While many activists in nations with repressive regimes are known to use the dark web to escape detection, it is also used by drug runners, paedophiles, human traffickers, arms dealers, and other unsavoury criminals. It is also this, that the system wants to check. Unfortunately for the powers that be, linking Aadhar with email and social networks is not going to solve the dark web problem. That requires a different degree of international collaboration that brings down the black markets, without taking away the safe haven of activists. Incidentally, like the internet, the dark web was created by funding
provided by the US Navy. Its aim was to allow intelligence operatives to exchange information without being traced.