Govt Should Look for More Effective Ways to Curb Fake News: COAI

DoT has invited views from the industry on technical measures that can be adopted to block mobile apps like Whastapp, Facebook, Telegram, etc

The telecom operators body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) said the government should look for “more effective” steps to curb fake news and maintain public order, instead of blocking mobile applications which is very difficult and may hamper routine actions of innocent people.

COAI Director General Rajan S. Mathews’ comments came after reports that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had asked telecom companies for ways to block social media platforms like Whatsapp, Facebook, Telegram, and Instagram in case of a threat to national security and public order.

“It is a difficult proposition. If it becomes law and if it becomes order from the government, obviously we are required to comply,” COAI Director General Rajan S Mathews told reporters on the sidelines of a LirneAsia event.

“We think that… the application-level shutdown is extremely difficult, if not near impossible. So, we should look at more effective ways of trying to address the issue,” he added.

He was of the opinion that blocking social media applications would also hamper individuals harbouring no wrong intent.

Mathews said that the COAI had conveyed to the DoT that blocking certain apps can cause “consequential damages” as people rely on such apps for “banking, accessing train and airline tickets” among others.

“It’s a very blunt instrument and if it’s going to be used, please understand there is going to be collateral damage and it may not always work 100%,” Mathews said.

He, however, said that if for security concerns the government asks operators to block applications, then they would have to follow the regulations on account of national interests involved.

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