India might soon force social media platforms to perform user verification

The Government of India has proposed a new privacy bill to curb the spread of misinformation and fake news. The new bill aims to push social media websites for user verification to ensure a decrease in fake accounts and fake news.

The problem of fake news has been one that the government has been facing for quite some time now. According to the government sources close to Reuters, the Personal Data Protection bill will force the social media giants like Facebook and Twitter to devise a way to verify users on their platforms. Not only that, but the government also want social media websites to display the identification publicly. “The idea was to reduce the spread of fake news and online trolling,” said one of the sources, a federal IT ministry official.

The privacy bill has been cleared by the cabinet and will soon be presented at the parliament. However, one of the sources told Reuters that the passage won’t be imminent as the bill could be referred to the parliamentary expert committee or a panel for further review.

While the verification process won’t be mandatory, it would allow the general public to distinguish verified accounts from unverified ones. The end goal here is to make sure users know that the information is being shared by an unverified account and thus can’t be trusted.

That being said, earlier this year WhatsApp added a Forward label to ensure users know that the message has been forwarded. This was a preventive measure to make sure users don’t blindly forward messages. While the feature looked strong on paper, it didn’t really help as users are still blindly forwarding messages to everyone without taking a moment to decide if the news is fake or not. The same could be true for the proposed verified system as users will still be able to forward and share stories from unverified accounts and that won’t serve the purpose.