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Create Mechanism to Address Grievances Against Fake News: SC to Centre’

  • Category
    Governance
  • Published
    24th Nov, 2020

Expressing its disappointment with the Centre’s affidavit on action taken against the circulation of fake news, the Supreme Court directed the government to create a mechanism for addressing grievances against such news that is circulated by television channels and other media.

Context

Expressing its disappointment with the Centre’s affidavit on action taken against the circulation of fake news, the Supreme Court directed the government to create a mechanism for addressing grievances against such news that is circulated by television channels and other media.

About

  • Fake news is broadly defined as false or misleading information masquerading as legitimate news.
  • “Fake news” is a term used to refer to fabricated news. Fake news is an invention – a lie created out of nothing – that takes the appearance of real news with the aim of deceiving people.
  • The term has been applied to satire, propaganda, biased reporting, sponsored or promoted content, factually incorrect reporting, entirely fabricated stories, or simply inconvenient truths.

Why India’s fake news virus is more lethal?

  • The crisis of fake news is much more severe in India largely because of the country’s rapidly growing social media base and sloppy regulation of social media platforms.
  • With as much as 376 million people using all kinds of social media platforms, India is on the radar of most social media companies with a rapidly growing internet base.
  • However, compared to many countries, a large number of Indians are more susceptible to fake news and disinformation campaigns.

What is the role of social media functionalities?

  • Social media platforms are a double-edged sword-
    • On the one hand, they allow for social connectedness in a time of social distancing.
    • On the other, functionalities that facilitate “conversation” and, “sharing” contrarily lead to a decline in reflective thinking, inducing the sharing of quick and superficial thoughts and the speedy diffusion of unverified facts.
  • In turn, users become both contributors and victims of misinformation.
  • “Forwarding”, “sharing”, and “retweeting” content allows users to exchange, distribute, and receive content at an unprecedented level.

Protected Speech and its Limits

  • Article 19(1)(a) guarantees citizens the freedom of speech.
  • Article 19(2) allows for “reasonable restrictions” in the interests of inter alia: (i) the sovereignty/integrity of India; (ii) the security of the State; (iii) public order; (iv) decency or morality; (v) defamation; or (vi) incitement to an offence.
  • Speech in India can be restricted because of its consequences, that it may lead to violence, but also because of the speech’s content– that the meaning conveyed is deemed legally objectionable.
  • Any restriction on speech must have a proximate connection with a specific head set out in Article 19(2).
  • The government cannot restrict speech merely in the ‘public interest’, or because it is ‘false’, neither of which are heads under Article 19(2).
  • Therefore, if the government wanted to restrict “fake news” it would need to prove that “fake news” either caused harm because of its content (defamation, decency or morality) or that it was inciteful leading to violent consequences (public order, incitement to an offence).
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