Because of the most recent technological revolution, social media is expanding quickly and becoming an essential component of daily life. Due to the rising popularity of smartphones increasing growth has been observed. With these smartphones, nearly everywhere access to any social media platform is simple. These social media platforms’ mobile versions are so simple to use that they are user-friendly.
The most important areas of youth’s lives nowadays are social media. Today’s social media platforms are significant in forming and influencing public opinion. Users have a platform to communicate their thoughts, ideas, and opinions on a particular subject because of social media networks.
What is Social Media?
The term social in regards to media suggests that platforms are user oriented and becomes a place for communal activity. As such, social media can be viewed as online facilitators or enhancers of human network webs of individuals who enhance social connectivity. Social media largely consists of tools for sharing and exchanging information that is based on the internet and mobile devices. It combines technology, communications, and social interaction and offers a platform for exchanging ideas through written words, images, moving visuals, and musical compositions. People from all age groups are attracted to social media, especially the youth since it gives a medium for them to express their thoughts and discuss issues.
There are different types of social media such as social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Blogs, Vlogs, Social news, etc. all these options just make it easily accessible to people.
There are many benefits of using social media such as it helps in staying updated in current times, helps people to stay connected with friends, family, and relatives, easy to obtain information, easy banking, and other facilities which facilitates people to get any work done easily. Despite all of its advantages, social media has several possible dangers. Social media is not a problem itself, but it is due to the manner that people replace it for face-to-face connection. Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) has emerged as a widespread issue and frequently encourages constant social media site checking. Your mental health may be impacted by the thought that you could lose out on something if you are not online. This can also lead up to spending more time online than staying present in the real world. This doesn’t mean that social media is a problem, anything that is used in excess can cause issues.
Laws relating to Social Media
We live in a technologically advanced world when knowledge is readily available. However, the media plays a primary part in it, hence in India, the media is governed by various regulations and codes. Since its purpose includes the public and national interest, regulation is important since it is one of the industries that is believed to be developing.
The Information Technology Act
Section 66 (a):
According to this section, if any person who sends a message by any means of communication device any information that is offensive and if specially created to annoy, spread hatred, criminal intimidation shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to a term of three years and fine.
Section 69 (a):
This section says that government has the right to ban or stop public access to any information that is not consistent with provisions of the government, and this section also provides the procedure of blocking access of the public to certain information. Who doesn’t comply with this provision will be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to pay a fine.
Constitution of India
The Indian constitution provides certain basic rights to citizens of India. These rights protect their basic life interest and if it is violated remedy is provided to them. Article 19 of the Indian constitution talks about the Right to Freedom, there is no specific mention of freedom of press/media but it flows through Article 19(a) which is the right to freedom of speech and expression. Dr. Ambedkar quoted, “Freedom of press is essential for political liberty. When men cannot freely convey their thoughts to one another, no freedom is secured, where freedom of expression exists the beginning of free society and means for every retention of liberty are already present.
“Free- expression is, therefore, unique among liberties“. There is no specific clause for freedom of the press but liberty of the press is included in freedom of speech and expression. The press has no special rights or liberty as an entity but it has the same liberty and right as provided to individuals of the country under freedom of speech and expression. For example, we can say journalists, editors can claim freedom of speech and expression as any other citizen claims it under article 19(a). The Indian Press Commission has rightly opined that the democracy of a country cannot be protected only through the help of legislature but the opinion of people also matters and what better medium other than media/press.
Indian Penal Code
The official criminal code of India is known as the Indian Penal Code (IPC). It is a thorough code that aims to cover all important areas of criminal law. Any person who violated the laws mentioned above will be dealt with under the provisions of IPC.
- Section 295A: Defaming religion or religious beliefs on purpose.
- Section 153A: encouraging hostility between groups based on race, religion, etc.
- Section 499 deals with defamation, according to this, anybody who makes a defamatory comment in writing or verbally with the goal to destroy someone’s reputation faces legal consequences. Section 499 and 500 of the law are the primary safeguards against social media abuse.
- Section 505 deals with statements that incite public annoyance.
- Section 509: Disrespecting women’s modesty.
- Sections 124A: deals with sedition, which means that a criminal act that encourages opposition that has the potential to bring down the government.
1. Shreya Singhal v. Union of India
In this case, sections 66(a) and 69(a) of the Information Technology Act were challenged stating that it is violating article 19(1)(a) and Article 14 of the Indian constitution. The court stated that there is no Intelligible Differentia i.e. difference capable of being understood. There is no difference between the other mediums and the internet to carry out any information. The supreme court opined in this landmark judgment that section 66(a) of the IT act should be struck down, as it violated the freedom of speech and expression under article 19(1)(a) of the constitution and it was not saved by under article 19(2) which imposes reasonable restriction. Sc says that section 66(a) is open-ended, undefined, and constitutionally vague with the words used in the statute. This section invades the right to free speech, the right to dissent, and the right to know. Further court added that this statute that ‘no proximate relationship to public orderand failed to pass ‘clear and present danger test’ i.e. it is US doctrine, which questions in every case whether the words used are dangerous and will create havoc that government has a right to prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree.
2. Arnab Manoranjan Goswami v. The State of Maharashtra
A defamation case was filed against a journalist of the republic media network, he argued that the remarks made by “a member of the Congress in reference to India’s COVID-19 testing methods and the regrettable killing of three persons [including two priests] in Palghar on April 16, 2020” were questioned “provocatively” by him. He argued in opposition that statements promoting racial or social unrest cannot be protected as free speech. He further took defense by saying that any of the comments made by him, had very less chances of inciting any communal riots.
Why Laws regarding Social Media are required?
In India, the media is regarded as the fourth pillar of democracy. Since the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government are adopting the same framework as India’s regulatory system. Although certain controls for the press are absolutely important, there are currently no specific regulations in place in India. Even though we can see in the constitution that there is no specific article relating to media, it is just under article 19(1)(a) freedom of speech and expression.
As we are living in a highly technology-driven world where information travels quickly and is unaffected by distance, thus the media must play a constructive role. One false or inaccurate report might have a negative impact on society, spark riots, or incite hatred among the populace. It is the responsibility of the media to provide the truth in India, where people of many cultures and religions coexist, but also abstain from spreading false information and politicizing stories to raise popularity. It is very necessary to have certain reasonable restriction, which stops any media personnel from creating hatred, and communal problems but also safeguards his/her freedom of speech and expression.
Problems in regulating Social Media Laws
In India, many legislation and rules govern the media. Since its purpose includes the public and national interest, regulation is important as it is one of the industries that is considered to be developing. Every time a law is formed, it takes into consideration three factors: the law, the economy, and psychology as laws are primarily designed for the benefit of people. And because the media is one of the fastest-growing industries, there are growing worries about the need to establish a single legal framework to govern all types of media.
However, due to a large number of media organizations in India, we are having trouble controlling the media. They are defending it by expressing their desire for themselves. Self-regulation is maintaining the freedom of expression without engaging in censorship or self-censorship and instead establishing basic standards of truth and morality. But there are talks of having a specific legal framework for regulating media in India.
Because we live in technologically advanced age, social media use has dramatically increased. According to a study, consumers spend 142 minutes a day on social media on average. With the rise of social media, it is essential to establish a specialized legislative framework to control it, protect users from abuse, and prevent cyberbullying. Finally, we might add that “social media is both a blessing and a curse.”
This article is authored by Dhanda Shah, student at LJ School of Law.
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