Social Media

Users of popular social media platforms will soon have to verify their online identity. These include apps like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and even WhatsApp. Such apps and websites will also have to develop an identity verification mechanism. The IT ministry is currently working on new social media guidelines. The new identity verification rule may form a part of the new changes.

The social media identity verification is to control and keep track of detrimental elements being spread across these platforms. These include fake news, racial slurs, provocative slogans, misinformation, malicious content and gender abuse. “The work is in progress, we have sent it to the Law Ministry for vetting,” said a source to Hindustan Times.

The new personal data protection bill forces various social media services including Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp to enable ‘voluntary verification’ of its user accounts. As suggested in the bill, these users who have verified themselves should feature a visible mark of verification that is publicly visible to all users. If implemented, the new system would differ from various other forms of verification that some social media platforms already offer.

Another change that we may see is the definition of “significant data fiduciary”. This will be based on volumes of personal data that users possess. The step is to reduce the spread of even small misinformation that may spread and multiply as fake news. Further, for social media companies that don’t have volumes of personal data, there may be other methods to bring down the spread of fake news.

Other recent bills that targeted social media

Another recent proposal was to link social media accounts with Aadhaar. This was to track down the people who were behind spreading fake news. The proposal was however denied by the nodal agency for UIDAI. Moreover, the agency stated that Aadhaar was a service meant for the distribution of government welfare, and not for catching culprits.

The growth of negativity based on hate-speeches and fake news has been on the rise lately. We do need some form of social media verification to keep such cases at bay. For instance, Facebook reported that they took down 2.19 billion fake accounts in the first quarter of 2019, a significant increase from the 1.2 billion accounts they took down in Q4 2018.