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West giving shape to new information order, could squeeze out autonomy of nations to decide: I&B minister Anur

The West is giving shape and form to a new information order, which could “squeeze out” the autonomy of nations to decide what is best for them, Union Minister Anurag Thakur said on Friday, and asked IIS officers to become the “bulwark” against an externally enforced information order.

The information and broadcasting (I&B) minister was addressing the valedictory session of IIS officers of the 2018, 2019, and 2020 batches.

India as the world’s largest democracy has to be an equal participant in giving shape and form to the new information order, Thakur said.

“We are now witnessing the birthing of a post-pandemic new information order as geopolitical lines of alignment are being redrawn and geo-strategic concerns are being reframed. The overwhelming dominance of Big Tech in grey, hazy algo-driven information dissemination lies at the core of the new information order,” Thakur said, according to an I&B ministry statement.

“Once again, we are seeing the West giving shape and form to the new information order with big tech firmly aligned with them,” he said, cautioning that “this could squeeze out the autonomy of nation states to decide what is best for them”.

“Herein lies a role for the officers who must become a bulwark against externally enforced information order,” Thakur said.

The minister said that the IIS is the “frontline defender” of India’s “official information system which protects the country’s interests and shields India’s democratic structure of governance”.

“The primary task of the officers joining the service would be to fuel an informed understanding of the issues so that public discourse is well-informed, as a public discourse which is ill-informed weakens the nation, tarnishes its institutions, and weakens trust in the elected government,” the minister said.

Public discourse that is influenced by “malicious disinformation” is corrosive and dangerous for democracy and national interest, he added.

Highlighting the menace of “infodemic”, Thakur said, while democratisation of public spaces offered by tech platforms has no doubt had a positive impact, allowing a bottom-up participation in popular debate and discourse, at the same time “malicious, weaponised disinformation”, be it internal or external, has worked against the positive gains of the democratisation of public spaces.

He exhorted the officers to ensure gains from democratisation of digital public spaces are not eroded by disinformation.

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