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18th November Current Affairs

Contents

  1. SC asks Centre about combating Fake News
  2. Facial recognition: Criticisms
  3. India slams UNSC on slow pace of reforms
  4. SC: Lack of consent won’t vitiate CBI probe
  5. Study highlights online education woes

SC ASKS CENTRE ABOUT FAKE NEWS

Focus: GS-II Polity and Governance

Why in news?

  • The Supreme Court asked the Centre to explain its “mechanism” against fake news and bigotry on air, and to create one if it did not already exist.
  • Inability on the government’s part may well see the job go to an “outside agency,” the court said.
  • The Court said that it was disappointed on the affidavit filed by the government on the Tablighi Jamat Case.
  • The SC wanted to know how the Cable TV Network (Regulation) Act of 1995 was being used to curb Fake News.
  • The Tablighi Jamat case is based on petitions against the communal colour given by certain sections of the electronic media to the holding of a Tablighi Jamaat event in the National Capital during the lockdown.

What is Fake News?

  • Fake news is news, stories or hoaxes created to deliberately misinform or deceive readers.
  • Usually, these stories are created to either influence people’s views, push a political agenda or cause confusion and can often be a profitable business for online publishers.
  • Combating fake news is a growing narrative of the technology platforms like Facebook, Google, the news media, the government and an informed citizenry.
  • Fake news affects free speech and informed choices of the subjects of the country, leading to the hijacking of democracy.
  • The advent of social media has decentralized the creation and propagation of fake news.

The Concern behind Fake News

  • The spread of manipulated content and fake news is increasing in India and is leading to an increased potential of violence and hatred that will affect the delicate social fabric in our country.
  • The potential reach of Fake news has been magnified with new online platforms, social media sites and mobile applications.

What drives this trend of Increased spread of Fake News?

  1. Lack of regulation – The online platforms, unlike the mainstream media, do not fall under comprehensive regulation. A number of online news/information portals are being set up due to the lack of proper entry barriers. The lack of binding rules and the ability to keep owners and editors private, offers a larger scope for wrongdoing in case of online platforms.
  2. Communal polarisation – The growing polarisation of society on ideological lines has made the job of spreading fake news easier. The spread of fake news consequently deepens communal hatred, entering a vicious cycle.
  3. Reach – The online and mobile platforms serve like nodal agencies distributing unverified information; hence, communal violence is no longer a localized affair.
  4. Gains – Spreading false news is becoming a way to make advertising money through click baits. In India, numerous sites are being set up to commercialize fake news with click bait headlines.

How to deal with fake news?

  • The current response to fake news primarily revolves around three prongs — rebuttal, removal of the fake news item and educating the public.
  • Rebuttal: It is a form of fact-checking wherein the fake news is debunked by pointing out errors like mismatch, malicious editing and misattribution.
  • Removal of Fake news: Technical companies like Facebook and YouTube uses algorithms to proactively remove fake news from their platforms.
  • Educating the end-users to be more discerning consumers of news by informing them of verification tools so that they can ascertain the accuracy of a news item before sharing it.
  • Another method that is propagated by the government, concerns tracking the ‘source’ of fake news. For this government proposes to de-anonymise all social media accounts.
  • However, this provision is criticized on account of the invasion of privacy, curbing of free speech, and creation of surveillance state.
  • It is impossible to completely ‘remove’ fake news even after rebuttal, given the decentralised nature of dissemination.
  • It may be possible to rebut fake news but the ‘fake news factory’ inspired by political agenda, will keep churning out similar stories to advance its chosen narrative.
  • The very act of rebuttal reinforces the fake narrative that is being pushed. Since the act of rebuttal gets confined within the original framework of the fake news.

The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995

  • The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, is an Act to regulate the operation of cable television networks in the country.
  • Due to the lack of licensing mechanism for cable operators; this resulted in large number of cable operators, broadcasting programmes without any regulation.
  • The Act aimed at regulating content and operation of cable networks. This was due to the availability of signals from foreign television networks via satellite communication.
  • The access to foreign television networks was considered to be a “cultural invasion” as these channels portrayed western culture.
  • It also wanted to lay down the “responsibilities and obligations in respect of the quality of service both technically as well content wise, use of materials protected under the copyright law, exhibition of uncertified films, and protection of subscribers from anti-national broadcasts from sources inimical to national interests”.

-Source: The Hindu


FACIAL RECOGNITION: CRITICISMS

Focus: GS-III Science and Technology

Introduction to Face Recognition

  • Humans are able to recognize faces based on a ‘facial vocabulary’ that enables humans to recognize at least 5,000 faces, their peculiarities and profiles without “thinking” about it.
  • Now, technological interventions are trying to replicate this biological process – using algorithms by which millions of faces can be compared and assessed to identify or verify who a person is.
  • Face-recognition technology is becoming commonplace, used in most smartphones for unlocking.
  • Several popular mobile applications, such as Instagram and Snapchat, use the technology to tag individuals and apply filters to photographs.
  • In recent years, three-dimensional facial recognition devices have captured a significant market as retailers deploy them to gauge customers’ facial gestures and expressions to gain insights into their shopping behaviors.

Case in India

  • During the February 2020 Delhi riots, it was declared in the parliament Delhi Police tapped into driving licence and voter identity databases to apprehend 1,900 rioters.
  • However, an affidavit filed by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development to the Delhi High Court claims that the technology used to recognize faces cannot even distinguish between boys and girls.
  • Earlier in 2018, even the Delhi Police admitted in the high court that the accuracy of its facial recognition system was not more than 2 per cent.

How does it work?

  • The first level of facial recognition includes the detection of a human face from an image or video.
  • The second level involves creating a facial signature of individuals by extracting and cataloguing unique features of their face (like length of the jawline, the spacing between the eyes etc.)
  • At the final level, the facial signatures are compared with a database of human images and videos.

Using Facial Recognition for good:

  • The life of the facial recognition software in India began benevolently with the aim to identify missing children.
  • In those circumstances, an accuracy rate of even 1 per cent is admirable; one more child out of every 100 returned to the safety of their families.
  • But the same statistics seem totalitarian and dystopian when they are capable of implicating citizens with criminality.

National Automated Facial Recognition System

  • In 2019 the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) invited bids to create and establish the National Automated Facial Recognition System (NAFRS) (or just AFRS) protocol stating that “this is an effort in the direction of modernizing the police force, information gathering, criminal identification, verification and its dissemination among various police organizations and units across the country.”
  • The National Automated Facial Recognition System will have a searchable visual database of “missing persons, unidentified found persons, arrested foreigners, unidentified dead bodies and criminals based around dynamic police databases”.
  • It will also have individual information, such as name, age, addresses and special physical characteristics.
  • The AFRS is a centralised web application, and is expected to be the foundation for “a national level searchable platform of facial images”.
  • The surveillance tool will be integrated with centrally maintained databases such as the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS), the Inter-operable Criminal Justice System (ICJS), and the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System (NAFIS).

Legal tangles

  • The proposed system has no legal backing, claims Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), a non-profit in Delhi, which has recently issued notices to the Union home ministry and NCRB over the legality of the system.
  • IFF’s notice draws strength from the Supreme Court verdict in the 2017 Justice K S Puttaswamy case which said that privacy constitutes a fundamental right under the Article 21 of Indian Constitution which ensures ‘right to life and personal liberty’.
  • It added that any interference in an individual’s privacy by the state should be done only in a manner that is “fair, just and reasonable”.
  • The Information Technology Act, 2000, which classifies biometric data as a type of sensitive personal data, also has rules for the collection, disclosure and sharing of such information.
  • In the Aadhaar card case, the apex court had also noted that although the disclosure of information in the interest of national security cannot be faulted with, the power to make such decisions should preferably be vested in the hands of a judicial officer and not concentrated with the executive.

Global obsession and fears and use

  • Without legal safeguards, facial recognition technology is set to undermine democratic values.
  • Recently, in the U.S. a man was arrested wrongly after being misidentified by Facial Recognition. This is the biggest fear as most countries including India and the US lack the legal framework that can bring accountability into the system.
  • Almost 85 per cent of countries with facial recognition systems employ it for surveillance, suggests the Artificial Intelligence Global Surveillance Index 2019.
  • The index, released by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, found that facial recognition systems were in place in 75 countries.
  • In 2011, the technology helped confirm the identity of Osama bin Laden when he was killed in a US raid.
  • Corporations are also expanding the scope of facial recognition to study and predict human behavior. By assessing customers’ facial expressions and even bodily responses, retailers aim to gain better insights into consumer behavior and increase their sales.

-Source: The Hindu


INDIA SLAMS UNSC ON SLOW PACE OF REFORMS

Focus: GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

India lashed out again against the slow pace of UN Security Council reforms – calling the current body an “impaired organ” – expressed deep frustration with the change process that has been on for years without any progress, and raised the possibility of exploring alternative routes.

Recently in News: G4 Countries call for UNSC Reform

  • India has joined hands with Brazil, Germany and Japan to call for expediting the process for reforming the UN Security Council, with the four countries saying that inter-governmental negotiations on the issue have dragged on for more than a decade without substantial progress.
  • The four countries, also known as G4, outlined their position in a common letter submitted to the President of the UN General Assembly.
  • They demanded action for transforming the UN Security Council in line with “Common African Position”, and said negotiations shouldn’t be held “hostage, procedurally and substantially, by those who do not wish to bring about reform”.

Reform of the United Nations Security Council

  • Reform of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) encompasses five key issues: categories of membership, the question of the veto held by the five permanent members, regional representation, the size of an enlarged Council and its working methods, and the Security Council-General Assembly relationship.
  • The Member States, regional groups and other Member State interest groupings developed different positions and proposals on how to move forward on this contested issue.
  • Any reform of the Security Council would require the agreement of at least two-thirds of UN member states in a vote in the General Assembly and must be ratified by two-thirds of Member States.
  • All of the permanent members of the UNSC (which have veto rights) must also agree.

United Nations Security Council (UNSC)

  • The Security Council is one of the six main organs of the United Nations.
  • Its primary responsibility is the maintenance of international peace and security.
  • While other organs of the United Nations make recommendations to member states, only the Security Council has the power to make decisions that member states are then obligated to implement under the Charter- Hence, it is the only body of the UN with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states.
  • Resolutions of the Security Council are typically enforced by UN peacekeepers, military forces voluntarily provided by member states and funded independently of the main UN budget.
  • It has 15 Members (5 as Permanent Members and 10 as Non- Permanent Members), and each Member has one vote.
  • Five permanent members: China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Each of the Permanent Members has Veto Power over every decision of UNSC.
  • The Permanent Residence of UNSC in the UN Headquarters New York City, USA.
  • The presidency of the Council rotates monthly, going alphabetically among member states.

Functions and Powers of UNSC:

Under the United Nations Charter, the functions and powers of the Security Council are:

  1. to maintain international peace and security in accordance with the principles and purposes of the United Nations;
  2. to investigate any dispute or situation which might lead to international friction;
  3. to recommend methods of adjusting such disputes or the terms of settlement;
  4. to formulate plans for the establishment of a system to regulate armaments;
  5. to determine the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression and to recommend what action should be taken;
  6. to call on Members to apply economic sanctions and other measures not involving the use of force to prevent or stop aggression;
  7. to take military action against an aggressor;
  8. to recommend the admission of new Members;
  9. to exercise the trusteeship functions of the United Nations in “strategic areas”;
  10. to recommend to the General Assembly the appointment of the Secretary-General and, together with the Assembly, to elect the Judges of the International Court of Justice.

-Source: Hindustan Times


SC: LACK OF CONSENT WON’T VITIATE CBI PROBE

Focus: GS-II Polity and Governance

Why in news?

The Supreme Court has held that once a court takes cognisance of a corruption case investigated by the CBI, it cannot be set aside for lack of the State government’s prior consent for the probe against some of the accused, unless it is shown that it has resulted in prejudice.

Details

  • The Supreme Court the cognisance and trial in a CBI case against public servants “cannot be set aside unless the illegality in the investigation can be shown to have brought about miscarriage of justice”.
  • Thus, if the State had given a general consent to CBI investigation in a corruption case and cognisance has been taken by the court, the case cannot be set aside unless the public servants plead that prejudice has been caused to them on account of non-obtaining of prior consent under Section 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act.
  • However, in its observations, the court underscored that the CBI cannot extend its powers to any State unless the State government grants its consent.

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)

  • The CBI was established as the Special Police Establishment in 1941, to investigate cases of corruption in the procurement during the Second World War.
  • Later, the Santhanam Committee on Prevention of Corruption recommended the establishment of the CBI.
  • The CBI was then formed by a resolution of the Home Affairs Ministry. The Ministry of Personnel, later on, took over the responsibility of the CBI and now it plays the role of an attached office.

What does CBI do?

  • The CBI is the main investigating agency of the GOI. It is not a statutory body; it derives its powers from the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946.
  • Its important role is to prevent corruption and maintain integrity in administration. It works under the supervision of the CVC (Central Vigilance Commission) in matters pertaining to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
  • CBI can investigate cases connected to infringement of economic and fiscal laws, i.e., breach of laws concerning customs and central excise, export and import control, income tax, foreign exchange regulations, etc. But cases of this nature are taken up by the CBI either at the request of the department concerned or in consultation with the concerned department.
  • CBI also investigates crimes of a serious nature, that have national and international ramifications, and committed by professional criminals or organised gangs.
  • CBI also has the mandate to coordinate the activities of the various state police forces and anti-corruption agencies.
  • At the behest of a state govt., the CBI can also take up any case of public importance and investigate it.
  • CBI also maintains crime statistics and disseminating criminal information.
  • The CBI is India’s representative for correspondence with the INTERPOL.

Issue of Consent

  • Since police is a State subject under the Constitution, and the CBI acts as per the procedure prescribed by the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which makes it a police agency, the CBI needs the consent of the State government in question before it can make its presence in that State.
  • This can lead to certain cases not being investigated and seeing a silent deadlock.
  • Recently, states like Andhra Pradesh (consent is again given after change of government in-state) and West Bengal withdrew consent.
  • As per Section 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act,1946, the state governments can withdraw the general consent accorded.
  • The CBI would still have the authority to probe old cases registered when general consent existed.
  • Also, cases registered elsewhere in India, but involving people stationed in states which have withdrawn consent, would allow CBI’s jurisdiction to extend to these states as well.

-Source: The Hindu


STUDY HIGHLIGHTS ONLINE EDUCATION WOES

Focus: GS-II Social Justice

Why in news?

A field study by the Azim Premji University on the efficacy and accessibility of e-learning has found that more than 60% of the respondents who are enrolled in government schools could not access online education.

Details

  • The study examined the experience of children and teachers with online education.
  • The researchers noted that non-availability or inadequate number of smartphones for dedicated use or sharing, as well as difficulty in using apps for online learning, were the most important reasons why students were not able to access classes.
  • Children with disabilities in fact found it more difficult to participate in online sessions.
  • The researchers pointed out that 90% of the teachers who work with children with disabilities found their students unable to participate online.
  • The study also found out that almost 90% of parents of government school students surveyed were willing to send their children back to school.
  • However, they said it would be a feasible option if the health of their children was taken care of when schools reopen.
  • Almost 70% of the parents surveyed were of the opinion that online classes were not effective and did not help in their child’s learnings.

Hurdles faced by Teachers

  • Teachers, too, expressed frustration with online classes. More than 80% surveyed said they were unable to maintain emotional connect with students during online classes, while 90% of teachers felt that no meaningful assessment of children’s learning was possible.
  • Another significant finding was that nearly 50% of the teachers reported that children were unable to complete assignments shared during the online classes, which had led to serious gaps in learning.
  • Only around half the teachers reported that they engaged with students daily through online classes.
  • The survey also revealed that around 75% of the teachers spent, on an average, less than an hour a day on online classes for any grade.
  • Teachers also reported that they were ill-prepared for online learning platforms.
  • According to the survey, more than half the teachers shared that their knowledge and user-experience on online platforms and modes of teaching were inadequate.
  • Another hurdle that teachers found during the online classes was the one-way communication, which made it difficult for them to gauge whether students were understanding what was being taught.

-Source: The Hindu

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