The fact-checking unit planned by the Karnataka government is anticipated to become operational in January 2024, according to Information Technology Minister Priyank Kharge, as reported by The Indian Express on Monday.
The information technology and biotechnology department, overseeing the unit, has communicated with the home department to assign an officer of the additional director-general of police rank to lead it, Kharge stated. Once the appointment is finalised, the fact-checking unit is set to commence trials, with an estimated month before full operational status.
Following Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s June announcement, the Karnataka Innovation and Technology Society initiated an expression of interest in October to enlist agencies for its “Information Disorder Tackling Unit”.
Seven companies responded, and five were selected: Gauri Media, Logically Infomedia Pvt Ltd, Trylika Technology Ltd, Newsplus Communications, and OW Dataleads — all specialising in fact-checking. Logically and Trylika bring expertise in data analytics as well.
Addressing concerns about the unit’s constitutional validity, Kharge clarified that it operates within existing laws and is establishing a framework accordingly. The government outlined the unit to consist of "impartial fact-checking organisations chosen by the state government to detect and address false information."
An analytics squad equipped with advanced technologies like data analytics and artificial intelligence would actively monitor the misinformation ecosystem. Additionally, a capacity development team would lead public awareness campaigns on the consequences of misinformation.
In August, Siddaramaiah gave a nod for the formation of the fact-checking unit, emphasising the necessity of combating fake news due to its impact on democracy and societal polarisation. The government was also contemplating legislation to curb the spread of false news.
Despite the government's intentions, the Editors Guild of India expressed reservations about the fact-checking unit, asserting that such entities should remain independent of executive control.
The guild urged the government to clearly define the scope, powers, and governing mechanism of the proposed unit to prevent it from becoming a tool to stifle dissenting voices.
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