The World Health Organization (WHO) recently said that world governments are fighting a war on two fronts, the COVID-19 and a massive influx of information about epidemics, which some have called “infodimex.” ۔ This flow of information provides an opportunity for false news to spread rapidly. With the advent of digital resources and less reliance on print media, misinformation is spreading at an alarming rate with one click or even a simple ‘forward’.
It then becomes necessary for the government to take regular steps to curb the spread of such misconceptions. Preventing fake news as well as protecting freedom of expression and at the same time is not an easy task and at a time when the world is at the feet of such a deadly virus, the lines between the two become blurred. ۔
This article aims to examine the impact of fake news on people, which severely affects one’s ability to think critically and make informed decisions. It sheds more light on the need for regulatory measures to curb fake news and the controversy over doing so within free speech jurisprudence. India’s current model of spreading misinformation is at odds with other countries and is being scrutinized for complying with international human rights standards.
In March 2020, the Supreme Court of India, Alok Srivastava v. Union of India, recognized the issue of infidelity in India and asked the state governments to follow the instructions issued by the Center to curb the menace of fake news. The Supreme Court further stressed the need for the Government of India to issue daily bulletins through all means of media, including real-time reference to Code 19 to counter the panic caused by uncontrolled flow. Said through verified information.
Fake news and misinformation around. In the petition, it was pointed out that the recent forced migration of migrant workers was due to the fears created in the minds of the workers due to fake news which extended the lockdown period to more than 3 months. The expulsion resulted from the spread of unauthorized information, resulting in the deaths of poor migrant workers looking for a home.
In this era of lockdown, there are more cases of fake news in India, due to which the police arrest people all over the country. In Mizoram, police arrested 15 people for spreading fake circulars and told people to return to their homes to stay out of the state. Then, in Odisha, fake news circulating through WhatsApp claimed that a person coming from outside the state had an infection. After an investigation by the police, the matter was found to be false. At present India does not have any dedicated legislation to regulate fake news, this epidemic is explaining why we need it.
Fake News V. Free Speech: Indian Legal Setup
Information Technology Act, 2008 (IT Act)
In India, social media platforms identified as ‘intermediaries’ under Section 79 (2) (c) of the Information Technology Act, 2008 under Section 2 (W) are expected to perform their duties. Follow due diligence while performing. Initially, under the Act and in accordance with the Code of Conduct in April 2011, there is no liability for arbitrators if they are not responsible for the initiation, transmission, and reception of such content through their networks. ۔As a result, the move exempted mediators from ensuring that they failed to stop fake news.
Realizing its mistake, the government directed the arbitrators as a solution to the other end of the spectrum to immediately direct batches on the contents of the censorship. These measures have been compared to Chinese-style censorship. The government can use it as a political weapon to censor it, which does not benefit them. Such a move would be detrimental to free speech.
In contrast to this important decision in the United States v. Alvarez, where it was thought that free speech, counter-speech and refutation could overcome lies, the Indian government’s move would be far from protecting free speech. The conversation should continue naturally, not in a documentary way.
Disaster Management Act, 2005 (DMA)
Section 54 of the DMA’s intent, ‘Failure to deal with a false alarm or disturbance or warning about its severity or severity, causes panic’ and has so far been applied only during the record of arrests. Is. The offense is punishable by up to 1 year in prison and a fine. However, it has long been criticized for being too specific about disasters at a time when the scope of fake news is wider.
Although Covid-19 has been described as a catastrophe that allows for the implementation of this section, the competence of the Fake News Control Act cannot extend beyond the period of such catastrophe. Although the unique feature of this act is that its application is limited to the period of disasters, it also yields positive results. He does not allow the supply job to get out of the extraordinary situation of catastrophe, thus ensuring that the ban on free speech is not further manipulated by the government. ۔
Indian Panel Code (IPC)
Section 505 (1) (b) of the IPC deals with the dissemination of false and mischievous material which may cause panic among the people, or any section of the public, under which any person may commit any act against the State. Can commit a crime. Or public peace. Under this section, the offender can be sentenced to a maximum of 6 years imprisonment and a fine. Section 505 (1) (b) in conjunction with section 54 of the DMA, is largely considered to contain the spread of fake news.
However, the real problem with fake news is the wrong content that comes in the form of unpaid stories and disguises it as real news. Suppressing civil or criminal liability for those who propagate fake news will require the discovery of real malice, which will not be applicable to fake news shared by many such unknown sources on the Internet.
The standard of malice can be eliminated and the propagandist of false information can be severely punished with ideal damages. However, imposing strict liability will require retrieving incorrect information back to its source which is recognized as a painful process and often not an effective process. Furthermore, this mandate will not necessarily deter publishers from creating misinformation, nor will it eliminate the damage caused to social media users by the group that believes and acts on their content.
It is not unknown that it would be dangerous and ineffective to adhere to the legal machinery. It calls for self-regulation where we want to become more sophisticated news users and pays more attention to the need to critically evaluate what we read.
Awareness programs aim to educate the media, emphasizing the importance of fact-checking. When fake news sources outnumber their legitimate counterparts, fact-checking often becomes a hassle and a chore. In addition, daily announcements by health officials to eliminate misinformation, public announcements and regularly updated statistics will create an effective response to the spread of false news.
Free speech to stop fake news within jurisprudence
International human rights law recognizes that in the face of public health threats and public emergencies, the lives of the nation are at stake, and restrictions on certain rights can be justified. The extent and severity of the epidemic of covid 19 is at an all-time high level of public health risk, justifying restrictions on freedom of expression and expression.
However, such sanctions must be in accordance with the principles of international human rights law. The same is stated under Article 19 (3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCRPR) which requires, strictly, the limits of having a legal basis. Will be revised and will have to be proportional to achieve it. the aim.
While measures must be taken to curb the spread of misinformation, there is a downside. Efforts to curb fake news can result in the imposition of censorship laws, or the suppression of critical thinking that requires informed decisions. Recently, the Thai government has taken steps to curb the spread of misinformation, including a ban on communications that are either ‘wrong’ or ‘misleading’.
The move prompted the Thai government to arrest an artist who criticized the government. The answer to the public health crisis. This argument proves that freedom of expression and access to expression and access to information can be violated by misusing emergency measures to control fake news and justifying the voice of criticism against the government. Is.
From the very beginning of these epidemics, the Indian government has taken a stand on its unplanned actions and has condemned such criticism of these actions as fake news. In the case of the expulsion of migrant workers and the resulting deaths, the government failed to hold them accountable and all the blame was placed on the spread of fake news. Although misinformation has played a major role in exaggerating the lockdown time, the government should be held equally accountable for its misguided planned actions.
Active censorship is now taking place in them
A trustworthy lawyer, legal analyst, and writer with an ample amount of experience, a consultant who has been writing and speaking about the internet and social media for nearly 6 years, In addition to practicing law, I also provide media consulting to law firms and law-related companies,I am a fellow of the College of Law Practice Management. Expertise in Civil, Criminal, Tax, Tech laws, and News media Consulting .