Proposed IT Rule changes in India jeopardise freedom of expression and press, warn rights groups.

Civil society organisations have called on the Indian government to revoke new amendments to the Information Technology Rules, as they may threaten the freedom of the press and threaten free expression.

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Seventeen civil society organisations urged the Indian government in an open letter to withdraw a new amendment to the Information Technology (IT) Rules that could censor journalism and seriously threaten free expression. This latest amendment to the IT Rules, which came into force on 6 April 2023, requires intermediaries, including social media platforms and Internet Service Providers, to remove any content related to central government business that is deemed fake, false or misleading by a central government fact-checking unit.

The amendment reinforces existing concerns about provisions that give the government unchecked censorship powers to the detriment of human rights, stated Namrata Maheshwari, Asia Pacific Policy Counsel at Access Now, and added that ‘fake, false and misleading are subjective terms with no legal definition’, as they can be the basis for arbitrary demands for the removal of content online.