FAKE NEWS AND ITS LEGAL CONSEQUENCES

FAKE NEWS AND ITS LEGAL CONSEQUENCES

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The limitless emancipation made the social media manifesto more susceptible to misuse, misinformation, and thus leads to the rise in fake news. In the recent years, social media has turned out to be gigantic player in framing the public colloquy in a democratic space. In India, there has been a consonant growth of social media users and examples of the mistreatment of this medium. This article seeks to examine how the generation of fake news has disrupted the public sphere and feasible policies that can be executed to check the plague of fake news. The association between diverse episodes of brutality described in the nation media and the enclosed false news in instigating disorganization are talked about in this article. It also strives to inspect the strategy leads taken by distinct sovereign states, mainly in Europe and viable measures which India could take to limit the direction of fake news.

INTRODUCTION

Covid – 19 is not the only thing that has gone “viral” in the first quarter of 2020; with it has also spread the menace of fake news in India, maybe quicker than the virus itself.  From stirring up communal enmity to contributing unapproved care of Covid – 19, social media platforms have been overwhelmed with hoax posts and messages.

‘Fake News’ has become a universal trouble since the hike of unpleasant incidents that have challenged the users’ belief in the news, especially through the social media. Absence of policy application or laws which could either restraint fake news or clasp the perpetrator liable for their action have only made the situation composite and challenging. Responsible users have time and again elevated the issue to review and amend the surviving laws to meet the challenges of advancing of the fake news, but attempts by both policymakers and civil societies have not been ample to address this lacuna within the overpowering digital space. Media is now a network of information, and there are more views than news. The insufficiency of intelligible distinct, for internet users, between real and fake news is what further challenges source. India, being an enormous market for Whatsapp application, has higher than 200 million active users and this number is only expanding making it as one of the flourishing platforms. Even so, the expression, ‘fake news’, had been in operation since a century at least, it attained a renewed attentiveness among media scholars and journalists in recent times, largely payable  rise of hoaxes propagated via the internet.

A few years back. ‘Fake news’ was a hardly used expression. Now, it has become one of the significant ultimatums to the subsisting system of the republic and subject matter for the debaters. Though there is no definition for the word, what makes it a concern is that it allows subjective interpretations of the topic, thus making it hard to study or permit any policy interventions. Fake news contains of stories, news and hoaxes fabricated to misinform intentionally or defraud bookworms or to squeeze a political program. In modern times, different media propagate fake news.

CURRENT SCENARIO OF FAKE NEWS IN INDIA

Fake news on social media has huge results on the opinions of people across the globe. In the Indian context, the outcomes of unrolling fake news have been far from what one could contemplate. According to a report[1], a notable part of such messages rotate all over the fundamental notion of nationalism and nation – building. In scenario, where the principal object behind broadening news is related to patriotism, the facts become less important for the users than the inner wish to bolster their national identity.

Unlike other nations, the chief distributor of fake news in our country is Whatsapp, but not other social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter. Whatsapp, a mobile messaging app was acquired by the social media giant- Facebook. This social media platform permits its users to split information by accelerating it to other users in varied groups and broadcast lists within the same platform which has led to widespread, unchecked distribution of information rarely vetted by users. It has not only misguided the users on social network but also activated intensity and brutal killings around the country.

  • NATIONAL DISASTER MANAGEMENT ACT, 2005

The Home Affairs Department on March, 24, 2020, supplicates Section: 6(2) (i), which    lay down the policies on disaster management, to instruct a lockdown of the country. The ‘offenses and penalties’ referred under Section 51 to Section 60 serves as an efficacious tool against offenders who block the procedure of prevention and containment of the virus.

Section 52 set down the punishment which may enlarge for two years with fine, for a person making a declaration for obtaining any benefits consequent to accident from the government. Furthermore, Section 54 citing punishment for false warning. This provision has been mentioned by the National Disaster Management Authority in its shutdown order.

  • INDIAN PENAL CODE, 1860

Section 54 of the NDMA is very specific to calamity, and the confines of fake news are much far away. Indian Penal Code is a more relevant possibility accessible to a sufferer of misinformation. The Ministry of Home Affairs in its notice dated April, 2nd 2020 mentions the materiality of Section 188[2] and Section 505[3] of the Act. The Act authorizes punishment for infringing any order aptly publicized by a public servant. The punishment includes imprisonment for a period which may expand up to six months or fine which may extend up to Rs 1000 or both. Furthermore, a person peddling hearsay around coronavirus can also be booked under Section 269[4].

In addition, misinformation concerning religion among the pandemic has peaked since the Tablighi Jamaat Markaz in Delhi’s Nizamuddin came out as one of the hotspot of the outbreak. Where a single religion is being attacked, action must be instituted against such person creating or developing fake news, if the alike is proficient of being termed as hate speech. This can be invoked under Section 153[5] of the Code.

  • EPIDEMIC DISEASES ACT, 1897

In addition, regulation to deal with the epidemic of this enormous extent. Under this Act, state governments and union territories can take exceptional action and plan regulations to contain the disease[6] and any person disregarding any ruling or order made under this Act shall be deemed to have committed an offense illegal under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code[7]. A person circulating misinformation could be arrested under Section 3 of the Act.

  • THE INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ACT, 2000

Since the current Social Media handles have become a focal point of all the fake news, misinformation and hate speech messages. As, the admins of the group and every users of social media platforms have to utilize the platform accountably not to come under the extent of the IT Act. The admins, as well as users posting such disagreeable content, can be punished, under the Act which deals with punishment for specification of theft and says that whoever, deceitfully or falsely works with of the electronic signature, password or any other distinctive identification attribute of any person, shall be penalized with confinement[8]. Another provision of the Act, deals with the punishment for cheating by personation by working computer resource, with confinement of either explanation for a time period which may increase up to three years and shall also be answerable with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees[9].

In Alakh Alok Shrivastava v. Union of India[10], the Apex Court in its order dated March, 31st 2020, awaited media to perpetuate a strong sense of responsibility and guarantee that unverified news capable of rising fear is not disseminated. And additionally noted that “a daily bulletin by the Government through all social media direction plus social media and forums to understand the uncertainty of people would be made mobile within 24 hours as submitted by the Solicitor General of India.”

CONCLUSION

Viewing as how fake news is a prodigy competent of causing immense social, political and economic disturbance, it is indeed strange why a nationwide legislation addressing its myriad facets is not already in place. There are many things to be done, and speedy at that. Needless to say, such a rule will need to have sufficient protections in place to check the potential for misuse, and will need to ensure a balance of the freedom of expression and the right to privacy with the policy objective of curbing the spread of fake news. Till then, self – regulation is at the edge of the day, an fairly crucial firearms in the fight against fake news. As sage advice says – listen, think, reflect – and corporate lawyers add: don’t forget your due diligence.

WRITTEN BY:

KABERI SHARMA


[1] Report of Indo – Asian News Service (2018)

[2] Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant

[3] Statements conducing to public mischief

[4] Negligent act likely to spread of disease dangerous to life – whoever unlawfully does any act which is, and which he knows or has reason to believe to be, likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both.

[5] Wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot.

[6] Section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897

[7] Section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897

[8] Section 66 C of the Information Technology Act, 2000 – Punishment for identity theft.

[9] Section 66 D of the Act – Punishment for cheating by personation by using computer resources.

[10] 2020 SCC OnLine SC 345

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