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18th January Current Affairs

Who is Abdul Rehman Makki and why has the UN blacklisted him?

(GS-II: International Relations, Security Challenges and their Management in Border Areas – Linkages of Organized Crime with Terrorism)

In News:

The UN Security Council’s (UNSC) 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee added 68-year-old Abdul Rehman Makki to its list of designated terrorists upon China withdrew its ‘ technical hold’.

Details:

Pakistan-based Makki is the deputy chief of the terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba and the brother-in-law of its founder (Hafiz Saeed).

Background:

During India’s two-year (2021-22) tenure at the UNSC, five names were designated under the ISIL and Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee including Abdul Rehman Makki (LeT).

These names faced a “technical hold” from China, while the other 14 members (permanent + non-permanent) of the UNSC supported the listing.

India and the US have listed Makki as a terrorist under their respective national laws.

In October 2022, Pakistan was removed from the grey list.

What is the 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee?

The committee is part of the UNSC and its job is to implement international sanctions against terrorists.

It was established as the Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee in 1999 after UNSC Resolution 1267 designated Al-Qaeda and the Taliban as terrorist bodies. In 2011, a separate committee was formed for the Taliban.

What does the UN’s blacklisting of terrorists imply?

Resolution 1267 was adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and requires all UN member states to –

  • Freeze the assets,
  • Prevent the entry into or transit through their territories, and
  • Prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale and transfer of arms and military equipment to any individual or entity associated with Al-Qaida.

It is conducive to enhancing international counterterrorism cooperation in response to terrorist threats.

Significance for India:

Threats from terrorist organisations in the region remain high. (Makki being linked to seven terror attacks in India)

Listings and sanctions by the UNSC are effective tools to curb such threats and dismantle terror infrastructure in the region.

It validates India’s commitment to a zero-tolerance policy toward terrorism.

It will also inspire India to press the international community to take credible, verifiable, and irreversible action against terrorism.

News marked false by PIB to be taken down: draft rule

(GS-III: Role of Media and Social Networking Sites in Internal Security Challenges)

In News:

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology proposed a draft rule that would require social media platforms to take down content that has been “fact-checked” by the Press Information Bureau’s fact check unit as false.

Details:

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) proposed a draft rule – Rule 3(1)(b)(v) of the amended version of the IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021.

The proposed rule requires social media platforms to take down content that has been “fact-checked” by the Press Information Bureau’s (PIB) fact-check unit (or any other agency authorised by the Central Government) as false.

Background: The amended version of the IT Rules 2021 was enlarged to include the removal of fake news from online intermediaries.

The larger issue of fake news in India:

Meaning:

Fake news is any piece of misleading maliciously false information circulating through print media, electronic media or social media.

‘Yellow Journalism’ and ‘Tabloid Journalism’ are the terms used for fake news.

Motive:

To increase their viewership and TRP through eye-catching headlines and cooked-up news.

To spread propaganda/personal agenda/image building/defaming

Impact:

Negative impact on law and order of the state as well as the safety and security of the citizens. (31 mob lynchings due to fake news of being child abductors)

Breed communal hatred and disturbs the communal harmony in a society.

Affects the election outcomes via fabricated articles, audio, videos, and election campaigns. (Fake news accused of tampering U.S Presidential elections)

Laws to curb fake news:

Section 66 D of the IT Act 2008 regulates offences related to electronic communication.

The Disaster Management Act 2005 and the Epidemic Diseases Act 1897 (especially during Covid-19) regulate the circulation of fake news or rumours that can cause panic among citizens.

The Indian Penal Code of 1860 regulates fake news that causes riots and information that causes defamation.

Challenges in curbing fake news:

India has 451 million active monthly internet users and the role of the different social digital platforms is on the rise.

Due to end-to-end encryption of messages, third parties will not have any access to these messages.

Hence, such fake news comes to the attention of the administration only if it is reported.

There is no dedicated fake news law.

The use of internet shutdowns to curb the spreading of fake news has been an effective way.

Concerns related to Rule 3(1)(b)(v) of the amended version of the IT Rules 2021:

Anything contradicted by the government might be used to justify-content takedowns.

The PIB’s fact-checking unit (established in 2019) verifies news about government ministries, departments, and schemes.

But it rarely explains why information has been identified as false or misleading and, on some occasions, it tweeted incorrect information.

Way ahead:

A very strict fake news law is the need of the hour.

Linking Aadhar to social media accounts, as suggested by Attorney General could be helpful.

Being a digitally responsible citizen –

  • By just rechecking the information from some authentic sources
  • By applying common sense without getting biased

Some best practices:

Facebook has partnered with a fact-checking website to check the authenticity of messages circulating through it.

In 2018, Google news trained 8000 journalists in different Indian languages to spread awareness about Fake news and fact-checking.

Scientists use the laser to guide lightning bolts for the first time

In News:

Scientists have used a laser beam to guide lightning for the first time, hoping the technique to help protect against deadly bolts — and one day maybe even trigger them.

Details:

During a storm in the summer of 2021, the scientists were able to photograph their beam driving a lightning bolt for 50 meters.

About Lightning:

Lightning is a very rapid — and massive — discharge of electricity in the atmosphere, some of which is directed towards the Earth’s surface.

James Webb telescope discovers its first Earth-sized exoplanet

In News:

James Webb Space Telescope has discovered its first new exoplanet. The planet is named LHS 475 b, and it is roughly the same size as Earth.

About Exoplanets:

Exoplanets are planets that orbit other stars and are beyond our solar system.

If an exoplanet is too close to the star, it might be too hot to sustain liquid water.

If it’s too far, it might only have frozen water.

When a planet is at a distance that enables it to have liquid water, it is said to be in the “Goldilocks zone”.

Why study exoplanets:

Broadens our understanding of other solar systems

Helps us piece together information about our own planetary system and origin.

To search for living organisms in the universe.