According to reports, the revised version of The Personal Data Protection bill may require social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok to offer an identity-verification option. This is a potentially precedent-setting effort to rein in the spread of “fake news”, two sources from the government told Reuters.
The requirement would likely raise a host of technical and policy issues for companies including Facebook and its WhatsApp and Instagram units, Twitter and Chinese app TikTok, all of which have millions of users in India.
Companies would have to offer a mechanism for users to prove their identities and display that verification publicly, akin to the blue check-mark that Twitter has used to confirm the authenticity of some high-profile accounts, including those belonging to celebrities and politicians.
The government was earlier said to be mulling bringing Aadhaar into the equation by linking the 12-digit unique ID to social media accounts. But that speculation was denied later.
The Personal Data Protection Bill, whose first draft was made public last year, is keenly awaited by top technology companies and industry stakeholders as it could alter the way all major internet companies process, store and transfer Indian consumers’ data.
The identity verification requirement, introduced in the latest draft of the bill, would be one of the most ambitious efforts globally to battle disinformation and fake news, which is often spread by pseudonymous or fake accounts.
Although certain companies are making efforts to curb fake news, Facebook and other such companies have resisted the idea that they should verify their identities because of the fact that there are many people in different countries who cannot provide sufficient documentation.
However, a voluntary verification scheme would give users more confidence in the validity of information on the verified accounts, though it would not eliminate fake accounts.