karnataka fact check unit: Karnataka’s fact-checking unit will need Centre’s assistance: State IT minister Priyank Kharge

The Karnataka government ’s proposed fact-checking unit will need assistance from the central government to act on misinformation or disinformation that originates from outside its own or the country’s jurisdiction, the state’s information technology minister Priyank Kharge said.

“If there is misinformation originating outside India in some eastern European country, for example, we have no control over it. We will then write to the central government saying this is what we have been able to evaluate, so please help,” Kharge told ET during a trip to Delhi to promote the Bangalore Tech Summit (from November 29 to December 1).

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The ambit of the proposed Information Disorder Tackling Unit (IDTU) will however, not be limited to fact-check misinformation, disinformation or fake news that is likely to cause disturbance in communal harmony, he said.

Explaining the role of the proposed unit, Kharge said that there were reports that discredited government plans and schemes, and they needed to be fact-checked in order to ensure that the correct information reached the desired beneficiary. He cited the example of the state’s initiative to offer free bus rides for women.

“An incident from Andhra Pradesh where a woman had lost her hand in an accident and was left bleeding on the road was shown to be from Karnataka, claiming that she lost her balance trying to enter a bus that provided free service,” he said.

Misinformation of this kind impacts governance, law and order directly and therefore must either be preemptively checked or controlled after it is out on the internet and social media, Kharge added.

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Work in progress

In October, the state government had floated an expression of interest asking for relevant bids to set up a fact-verification team, an analytics squad and a capacity development team to develop and lead public awareness campaigns.

The proposed factcheck unit will have an observing committee in place with civil society, academia, public policy and media members, apart from government officials, Kharge said.

The observing committee will have the power to decide whether a particular piece of information needs to be fact-checked and may decide to skip some depending on the “impact” of the news, Kharge said, adding that the process would be both analogue and digital.

“The analogue is the traditional way of fact checking, which is collecting, combing and looking at evidence. The other will be using artificial intelligence and machine learning, which will work preemptively,” he said. The state government, however, may not ask social media intermediaries to take down every piece of information that is fact-checked and proven to be false, Kharge said.

“We are not forming any new rule or coming out with a new policy. We are connecting the dots with respect to the guidelines and laws already present and operational,” he concluded.

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