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Centre slaps notice on Wikipedia after cricketer Arshdeep Singh's page vandalised

Singh was trolled for dropping a crucial catch in the Asia Cup clash against Pakistan

arshdeep-ap Arshdeep Singh, left, reacts after India lost the Asia Cup match against Pakistan, in Dubai | AP

The Union government has slapped a notice on Wikipedia after a Khalistani slur appeared on the information page of cricketer Arshdeep Singh, a senior IT ministry source said.

Singh faced vitriolic attacks on social media by some users after he dropped a crucial catch in a thrilling Super 4 Asia Cup clash between India and Pakistan in Dubai on Sunday.

After the missed catch, information on his Wikipedia page was changed to link him to the separatist Khalistani movement.

The Indian government on Monday slammed Wikipedia over the publishing of false information on Singh's page that linked him to the separatist Khalistani movement and made it clear that such incitement cannot be permitted.

Minister of State for IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar took to Twitter to slam such a move.

"No intermediary operating in India can permit this type of misinformation (a)n(d) deliberate efforts to incitement (a)n(d) user harm - violates our govts expectations of safe and trusted internet," he said.

Meanwhile, a senior IT Ministry official said that a notice was sent to Wikipedia around the afternoon for the removal of the false content.

Another official said that after the vandalisation issue came to light, the government took a serious view of the matter and summoning of executives was considered.

Wikimedia Foundation, which operates Wikipedia, in response to an email query said that the Meity has informed it about the vandalism on the Wikipedia page of the cricketer, and wrongful edits were removed within minutes.

"The Wikimedia Foundation has been made aware by the Indian Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology of the vandalism that took place on the Wikipedia page of Indian cricketer, Arshdeep Singh.

"The Wikipedia page of the cricketer was vandalized with false claims on September 4, however, the wrongful edits were removed within minutes by Wikipedia's volunteer community. Right now, the article on English Wikipedia is semi-protected (which allows edits by only trusted users) to restrict further vandalism on the page," the foundation said.

According to the edit history of the cricketer's Wikipedia page, an unregistered user replaced the words "India" with "Khalistan" at several places on the profile and his name was changed to "Major Arshdeep Singh Bajwa". But the changes were reversed within 15 minutes by Wikipedia editors.

The slanderous linking of him to the Khalistani movement was said to have been done by elements in Pakistan.

Big social media firms have drawn flak in the past over hate speech, misinformation and fake news circulating on their platforms.

Wikimedia said that Wikipedia is a volunteer-led platform and Wikimedia Foundation generally does not set editorial policy on Wikipedia.

"Editorial policy is instead determined by the global volunteers who edit Wikipedia every month. Information found on Wikipedia must be sourced and cited from a reliable news or other secondary sources of information.

"Vandalism does occur on Wikipedia from time to time, as can occur in any open, online platform. It is a violation of the trust and good faith of our editors and readers, and runs contrary to the values on which Wikipedia is based," the foundation said.

The majority of vandalism on Wikipedia is reverted by bots or editors within minutes, as was done in the recent case of Singh, it added.

The government had last year notified new IT rules to make digital intermediaries more accountable and responsible for content hosted on their platforms.

The rules required social media companies to take down contentious content quicker, appoint grievance redressal officers and assist in investigations.

Significant social media intermediaries those with more than 50 lakh users have to follow additional due diligence, including the appointment of a chief compliance officer, a nodal contact person and a resident grievance officer and all three officials will have to be residents in India.

The IT ministry, in June, circulated the draft rules that propose a panel to hear user appeals against inaction on complaints made, or against content-related decisions taken by grievance officers of social media platforms.

At present, "there is no appellate mechanism provided by intermediaries nor is there any credible self-regulatory mechanism in place", the ministry had recently said.

Several cricketers and politicians have backed Arshdeep Singh, saying anyone can make a mistake in a high-pressure game.

Pakistan needed 34 runs to win when Ravi Bishnoi came in to bowl the 18th over. Arshdeep Singh dropped a relatively easy catch of Asif Ali on the third ball of the over, which led to a massive momentum shift and Pakistan winning by five wickets.

Pacer Arshdeep Singh was called in to bowl the final over but was unable to defend seven runs. 

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