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Concerned about fake news, social media abuse; people should be accountable: Ravi Shankar Prasad


New Delhi, Feb 06: The government on Thursday expressed serious concern over "public platforms" like YouTube, Google, WhatsApp and others being abused for revenge porn, fake news and content designed to incite violence and cautioned that while digital world cannot be caged, players have to be accountable and responsible.

Minister for Law and IT Ravi Shankar Prasad said the issue of fake news is a worry, and added that there are "serious parliamentary concerns" about internet being abused for child pornography. He also asserted that identification of originator of messages was still a problem with regard to WhatsApp.

Concerned about abuse social media, fake news; cos should be accountable: Ravi Shankar Prasad

"I am a great supporter of creativity and freedom but there are also social obligations...But the digital world has to be responsible, accountable and most importantly sensitive. For the sake of earning money, is it right to show what we are showing - this question has to be asked," the minister said at an IAMAI event.

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Stating that India is emerging as a large digital powerhouse that will yield golden opportunities, he asked companies not to allow their platforms to be abused.

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    "You must remember, India is emerging as a big global power and there are forces that want to create hurdles... that is their outlook but you don't allow your platform to be abused for that, that is my appeal," he said.

    Terming digital universe a "pious and pure world" and one that was empowering, he however noted that issues such as fake news was a "problem".

    "Revenge porn is creeping in India...girlfriend and boyfriend split up... then what happens, platform is being abused," the minister said adding that he had even brought the issue of abuse of YouTube to the notice of Sundar Pichai (CEO of Alphabet).

    "I told Pichai also, when you go to YouTube there are many positive narratives like old songs, speeches, enlightening digital material available...but see some of the other parts...the way YouTube is being abused," he said.

    YouTube, Google, mobile or other related platforms are "public platforms" that are being misused for porn, fake news, or content designed to provoke violence and flare communal tensions, he noted. On WhatsApp he said there is still a problem in identifying the originator of a rogue message.

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    "I have one problem, still going on. Who is the initiator of that sin...and if it comes from abroad, who was the first in India to start it," Prasad said. He said India, unlike China, will keep its doors open to progressive and new technologies.

    On data protection legislation, he said it should move through a democratic process. "India is a democracy and they (China) closed their doors, we won't and we should not.

    "I am appealing to all of you, it is time for you to enjoy the success of Digital India, it will create a golden opportunity for you but also be responsible and accountable," he said addressing India Digital Summit.

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