Fake News During COVID-19: The Need Of Significant Actions And Legislations To Curb the Menace

Must Read

What is the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016?

The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 (“RERA”) is an Act of the Parliament. It seeks to protect...

Should the Exorbitant Amounts Charged for RT-PCR Tests be Refunded?

Introduction A plea has been filed in the Honourable Supreme Court of India seeking a refund of exorbitant amounts charged...

Should CCTV’s be Installed in the Police Station?

Introduction In a recent judgment, the bench led by Justice Nariman issued directions to both the state and Union Territory...

A Legal Analysis of the West Bengal Political Crisis on IPS Deputation

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has recently summoned three IPS officers of West Bengal (WB). The decision was...

Explained: Postal Ballot for NRIs

At the end of November 2020, Election Commission sent a proposal to the law ministry to amend the Representation...

Explained: Constitutional Provisions and Legislations With Regards to a Person with Disabilities

The world celebrates December 3 as International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). This day is also called World...

Follow us

For almost a quarter of year 2020, people stayed confined in their homes with little or no contact with the outside world. Social media activity has gone up many foldsNews from all over the world is a click away on social media. Users often do not pay attention to the source of the news that the come across on social networking sites. A Reuters Institute survey of Indian internet users found 52% got news via WhatsApp. A study on 2016 USA presidential elections’ voter dynamics shows that people above 65 are more prone to share fake news over social media without fact checking them.

Fake-news is misleading information that could have very dangerous outcome on the readers. Widely forwarded messages can be dangerous on WhatsApp, because they often come with implicit approval of a friend or family member. These messages are rapidly disconnected from their initial context.

Impact of Fake News During COVID-19

WhatsApp is being flooded with misinformation during the lockdown. From unverified home remedies to conspiracy theories to celestial relevance in clapping hands. For example, a WhatsApp forward said having enough boiled water with garlic cloves will help kill the virus.

Recently, news of some Tablighi Jamaat attendees testing positive for covid-19 broke out. In mid-March, viral hate-mongering, communal false messages started taking rounds on WhatsApp. A viral video showed a Muslim man spitting on food packets before packing them for delivery. The had been video shot long before the outbreak of the virus. Racist hashtags like “coronaJihad”, “CoronaTerrorism” and “CoronaBombsTablighi” started trending on twitter. Equality Labs demanded the Indian government to take steps in curbing the use of communal hate mongering language linked to Covid-19.

Indian Law and the role of Intermediaries 

Upload filter, traceability, 24-hour takedowns etc., are some of the ways to keep check on the messages floated on WhatsApp. These are intermediary based solutions. WhatsApp itself has taken certain steps to curb the spread of fake news. The messages classified as frequently forwarded can only be sent to a single chat at a time.

WhatsApp is also working on a feature where users can verify the authenticity of the messages. However, each WhatsApp group can have up-to 256 members and it has almost 400 million users in India. Thus, the steps taken by WhatsApp will have little to no effect on the spread of fake news.

The central government came up with draft intermediary guidelines to tackle fake news. Under the guideline, intermediaries have to inform users about regulation, rules and privacy policies. This is to ensure that users do not share any content, which might affect public health and safety. The rules mandate the intermediaries to deploy automated tools. These tools will identify, remove or disable access to unlawful information.

Intermediaries have to share information with the government when asked. Further, they will have to trace out the originator if need be. The executive of such intermediaries may face jail term in case of non-compliance. Contrastingly, section 79 of the IT Act provides a safe harbor to intermediaries. It states intermediaries have no knowledge of the content shared on their platforms. Hence, they are not liable for the same.

WhatsApp claims it cannot read the messages since they are end-to-end encrypted. It has already opposed these rules because they breach the privacy of the users.

Conclusion 

While the central government faces moral turpitude, the state governments took action. In March 2020, the Delhi government formed ‘Committee on Peace and Harmony’. It announced anyone sharing false and misleading information could face jail term for three years. In April 2020, the Maharashtra State Cyber Crime Cell announced group admins and anyone posting messages promoting enmity between groups is punishable under Section 153A & B of IPC. The effect of fake news during the lockdown has been noxious and it continues to be so. The government needs to take immediate action and create a sense of responsibility while using social media. 


Libertatem.in is now on Telegram. Follow us for regular legal updates and judgements from the court. Follow us on Google News, InstagramLinkedInFacebook & Twitter. You can also subscribe for our Weekly Email Updates. You can also contribute stories like this and help us spread awareness for a better society. Submit Your Post Now.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Latest News

New Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) Amendments Are Valid Says Supreme Court

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court upheld the amendments in the insolvency and bankruptcy code which makes it mandatory for a minimum of 100 or 10% of home buyers of a project to initiate insolvency proceedings against a builder for not delivering flats or commercial shops on time.

[HUL – Sebamed Ad War] Bombay High Court Passed Injunction; Permits Sebamed Ad Against HUL’s Dove

The ad war between the German personal care brand Sebamed and the consumer goods giant Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) has come to an end. On January 19th, Bombay High Court passed an injunction order permitting the Sebamed ad against Hindustan Unilever’s Dove without any changes. It was observed that Sebamed ads were backed with evidence-based data. However, Sebamed was ordered to put an end to its advertisement that compared HUL soap bars Lux, Pears, and Santoor with Rin and detergent category.

Bombay High Court Says White Collar Crimes Are More Dangerous Than Murder and Dacoity

The Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court rejected 4 petitions of 4 businessmen after observing that white-collar crimes are more serious than murder and dacoity. The businesspersons were booked for fraud of evading GST by producing fake invoices.

Right To Protection Can’t Be Granted To Married Woman Involved in Live-in Relationship: Allahabad High Court

The Bench of Allahabad High Court dismissed a petition of a live-in couple, observing that a married woman in a live-in relationship is not entitled to any sort of legal protection whatsoever. The Court remarked that they are adults and should live as ‘husband and wife’ if they want no one to interfere in their lives.

Police To Decide on the Entry of Farmers To Delhi on Republic Day Says Supreme Court

While the Supreme Court heard a plea seeking an injunction against the tractor rally that is scheduled for January 26th, it held that it is the decision of the Delhi Police officers to see whether the protesting farmers should get entry into Delhi on Republic Day.

[Sushant Singh Rajput Case]: Republic TV & Times Now Hindered Investigation Probe Says Bombay HC

In November last year, the Court had reserved its judgement on the PILs that came from 8 former police officers from Maharashtra, lawyers, activists and NGOs, seeking restraining orders against the media trial in the Sushant Singh Rajput case.

Women Advocates Move To Supreme Court Against the Delhi HC Orders on Resuming Physical Hearing

Another writ petition has been filed by women advocates in the Supreme Court against the decision of the Delhi HC of directing the expansion of physical hearing of cases within the National Capital Territory of Delhi without giving an option to litigants to be represented by their lawyers virtually.

Gujarat High Court Allows Report Filed by Official Liquidator for Dissolution of the Company

The present report had been filed by the Official Liquidator for the dissolution of M/s AtRo Limited under the provisions of Section 497 (6)...

[WhatsApp Privacy Policy Row] It’s a Private App, Don’t Use It; Says Delhi High Court

On Monday, while hearing a petition regarding the privacy policy of WhatsApp, the Delhi High Court said, “It is a private app. Don't join it. It is a voluntary thing, don't accept it. Use some other app.”

Madras High Court Asks the State To Reconsider Number of Seats Allotted for Bcm Category

Mr. Shakkiya filed a Writ Petition under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution to issue a Writ of Mandamus. The petition sought to direct...

More Articles Like This

- Advertisement -