Complete law on social media fake messages

Complete law on social media fake messages

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law on social media fake messages
law on social media fake messages

Introduction

If a person tries to spread such information, causing hate and an uprising, it is an offence. Little knowledge is too dangerous. So, if you forward wrong information without knowing the truth, you can land up in trouble.

Spreading a fake message on any issue which causes incitement, riots, mass killings is punishable under law. It has become a grave issue today as everyone has access to social media. Let’s explore the legal provisions on the issue.

Legal Provision

Constitution of India

Article 19 (1)- Right to Freedom

In India, every person has the right to Freedom of Speech and Expression. You are free to speak anything you want. The state cannot restrict your speech and expression. The basic purpose is to allow people to express their views on any issue.

Reasonable Restrictions of Right to Freedom Article 19 (2)

However, the right to freedom of speech and expression is not absolute. The state can impose reasonable restrictions on it:

  • In the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India
  • To ensure the security of the state
  • To maintain friendly relations with foreign states
  • In public order
  • To maintain decency or morality
  • In relation to contempt of court
  • To prevent defamation or incitement of offence

Writing messages on social media is one facet of freedom of speech and expression. We can write whatever we want. But if that message can harm anyone or cause violence, the government can curtail your freedom.

Controversy

Social media

We have social media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. With technological advancement, almost everyone can access them. You can connect people all over the world. We are just a click away from each other.

But now they have become a platform of highly feigned and provoking information.

Platform to spread hateful content

There is a pool of messages having negative and positive features. We share all the information with people all around us, without giving a fact check. Spreading such content can have consequences as follows:

Hurting religious sentiments

  • If you share a sensitive message with everyone, it will hurt the religious feelings of some. You unintentionally post a religiously prejudiced message, but it injures the religious affiliations of others.

The feeling of hatred against one community

  • Again, if you are not careful, the message can provoke the public against one community. If you share it with a large no. of people, it might spread hate. This can lead to people targeting a particular community.

Incitement

  • Another grave kind of situation can arise due to the spread of fake news. It is incitement of an offense. Your message can provoke people to do a wrong/unlawful act.

Child pornography

Watching obscene material privately is not an offense, but publishing and sharing it is illegal. Sections 292-294 of the Indian Penal Code penalize the sale/distribution, and public exhibition/circulation of any obscene material.

Sections 67, 67A, 67B, and 66E of the IT Act, 2000 make it illegal to publish/transmit obscene material in electronic form.

Section 14 of the POCSO Act makes it illegal to use children for pornographic purposes. Its Section 15 penalizes storing/possessing child pornography for transmission/distribution etc.

Fake News

Social media platforms

WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. are common platforms that bring people close. A person sitting in one part of the world knows what is happening in the other part. If you post/share something, a large no. of people see it and re-share it. This forms a chain of communication.

But people even manipulate the true information on these platforms and then forward it. People outrightly fabricate facts, thus intentionally spreading wrong information. 

Spreading fake and manipulated news is also a crime. Disseminating incorrect information with an intention to deceive has consequences. Such misinformation misleads the public, causing uprisings and violence. Rumors tend to spread faster than the truth, causing people to act rashly.

Media

Small and large media houses today sell the news. To gain viewership/readership, they exaggerate some facts, feign the headlines and provide alternative facts.

They depict insignificant/wrong material in such a way that it intrigues the public. People tend to believe it due to illiteracy and unawareness. They mold sensitive facts and present them in such a way that it influences people’s conscience. Eventually, then people fall into the bait of deceptive propaganda and act against the law.

Examples

Muzaffarnagar riots, 2013

A fake video emerged on social media. The original video was of some Gulf country but someone morphed it, claiming it to be of Muzaffarnagar. Therein, a mob lynched 2 people. People believed it to be in Kawal town in Muzaffarnagar.

Najeeb Ahmed, missing JNU student

A student of JNU went missing after a scuffle with members of a Hindu organization. Surprisingly, a picture emerged on social media, claiming that the student had joined ISIS. However, someone conflated it with another Najeeb of VIT, Vellore, whom people suspected to have joined ISIS.

Mob lynching in Palgarh

A mob lynched 2 sadhus due to a video going viral that they were kidnapping children. There was no truth in this video, still, the police could not do anything to save them.

COVID-19 pandemic

Since people did not know anything about the coronavirus, there was a transmission of wrong information about it. This included COVID protocols, its treatment, no. of patients, vaccination, and so on. Unscientific advice did its job to mislead people.

Fake news tends to create fear in the minds of people. It cuts them off from reality. Rather, it puts a blindfold on people’s eyes and they believe wrong facts.

Legal provisions to contain fake news

Indian Penal Code, 1860

Section 153

A person malignantly does something illegal to provoke another to do an act that he knows will cause riots.

Punishment

1 year imprisonment or fine or both: if riots take place

6 months imprisonment or fine or both: if a riot does not take place

Section 153 A

Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds like religion, caste, race, residence, etc. It also includes doing something prejudicial to the harmony of a place.

Punishment

3 years imprisonment or fine or both

Section 153 B

Making any imputations, assertions, prejudicial to national integration

Punishment

3 years imprisonment or fine or both

Section 295 A

Deliberate/malicious acts, intending to outrage religious feelings of a group/class by insulting its religious beliefs.

Punishment

3 years imprisonment or fine or both

Section 499 and 500

If it appears that false information is causing defamation of a person, he can sue the person spreading the false information.

Punishment

2 years simple imprisonment or fine or both

National Disaster Management Act, 2005

Section 54

Making false alarms/warnings for disasters, which leads to panic.

Punishment

1 year imprisonment or fine or both

Information Technology Act, 2000

Section 66D

A person uses communication devices or computer resources to cheat another by impersonating them.

Punishment

3 years imprisonment and Rs. 1 lakh fine

Section 69

Government-authorized officers can order interception, monitoring, or decryption of any information passing through a computer device.

Punishment

If anyone fails to assist the agency: 7 years imprisonment and fine.

Precautions

Avoid it/Don’t forward it

If a message is likely to cause an uprising/riot, or hurt religious feelings, then don’t forward it. You don’t know the whole truth behind it, so, don’t trust it and don’t circulate it further.

Tagging with permission

People tag each other in their posts. But sometimes out of revenge or to provoke another. If someone tags you on a post related to child pornography or other sensitive material, un-tag yourself. Change your social media account settings, by not allowing anyone to tag you without your permission.

File a report

If some cybercrime happens to you, or someone texts you something unwanted, report it. You can register your complaint via helpline number- 155260. Also, you can do so on the government’s portal- cybercrime.gov.in.

Check the authenticity

If a message is confusing or misleading, try to find the truth behind it. If you cannot find the true facts, don’t forward them.

Conclusion

It is human nature that we tend to believe what we are shown many times. Who cares if it is correct or incorrect? Everyone wants a topic/gossip for discussion. But this can wreak havoc if someone presents really sensitive information wrongly.

Fake news, fabricated text, and a message that incites violence are instances of misuse of social media. Illiteracy and unawareness among people make people susceptible to exposure to misinformation. Indian law criminalizes it but we still aren’t able to stop deceitful content from spreading.

If still doubts persist, consult legal experts at

https://www.aapkaconsultant.com/legal-opinion-legal-shots

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