Legislation for Fake News Regulation

By | July 23, 2020
Legislation for Fake News Regulation

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The legislation for fake news regulation has become an obligation because of the rising number of pseudo-essential spread of absolutely baseless information through the use of several online platforms. It has guided people like us as their spectators and pushed us into believing the authenticity of the content.

This article deals with the use of the internet as a medium for communicating false reports that are sensitive or debatable in nature, thereby gaining popularity in a very short span of time.

“Alternative facts and fake news are just other names for propaganda” ― Johnny Corn

Introduction

Amidst the rising impact of the social media platforms and the quest to retain the top position on the internet platforms in the genre of Gossips and Limelight, many people resort to releasing phony statements and fraudulent news. Heretofore, it has been years since this menace has been irritating the society, only turning out to be more blasphemous.

How are people able to exploit these resources?

It is just a piece of cake for even noobs to understand the algorithms of the various search engines and social media platforms. Once, one acquires the knowledge of how he/she can approach humungous audiences, they are just a step away from creating Fake News. It is quite shocking to say that this has become a new trend. That too a global one!

What are some common ways?

Have you ever noticed the various forms in which people try to accumulate a plethora of viewers? If not, then next time whenever you come across them do think before blindly believing in them. They can be in the form of trolls, new forms, paid commentaries, fake video clips among many.

For the same reason, the government has got hold of the nerve to furbish the freedom of speech to some extent. Over here, one thing is quite that we do have some organizations who took upon themselves to uncover these scandals.

In India, some of these organizations are India Social Media Hoax Slayer, AltNews, and Snopes(Globally). Due to the reports by these entities, many Fake News generators are exposed like the Editor of Postcard News (India). As a result, the Editor was arrested whose ultimate aim was to create communal discord.

Global Menance

If you feel that it is only in India where people indulge in such practices then it is absolutely wrong. Everyone is well aware of Russia’s interference in US Elections in the year 2016. Russia did so with the help of fake news and bots. Also, one must keep a note of this case as it is a very well-documented case of inter-national online manipulation.

Not only in the US but in West Europe too, Russia is meddling in between the Elections of all these countries (1), leading to a rise in the concern of these countries in the content which is broadcast. Amongst all this rise in the fake news, Facebook has dived into preventing people from using its platform for political misinformation and rumors after the data scandal that was announced by the Cambridge Analytica.

Given the statement, Facebook came up with new updates wherein transparency and authenticity were the key pointers amongst the publishers as well as the advisers.

According to a report by Freedom House (Freedom Report 2019), the level of online tactics and fake news has played a significant role in the elections of more than 18 nations in just a single year, the US, being included in the 2017’s list.

Also, China has topped the list of Internet Freedom Abuse. Apart from China, Russia has also been indulged in such malpractices as already stated above. Both the countries have been exploiting the discussion forums and other platforms for years now.

Apart from all the meddlings, even bots counteract hate speech of the several web-domains. One horrific aspect of Fake News is that it makes everything intense and profuse, leading to the creation of a veil on the truth.

Scenario: India

India is also a part of this race. The spread of misinformation is rising to a great extent; both on the media platforms as well as on the web. This poses a huge social threat to the Indian Society. As a result of fake news, there are humungous riots and mob-lynching cases coming up daily in India.

When we are shifting towards technological communication platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, it is morphed images, data-stealing, click-baits, motivating stories, rumours, etc. which should be kept far from reach. Though this is not what the reality is!

These rumours have become contagious and can spread to more than 35 crore Indian Internet Users. The pinnacle of the adversities caused by Fake News is people’s death. The circle of rumours is such vicious that even famous personas end up tweeting fake news which results in Deletes later along with huge criticisms.

The Most Vulnerable Platforms

Taking into consideration, in the Indian subcontinent, WhatsApp stands out to be the most vulnerable one! Millions of the users (both educated as well as uneducated) use the platform and knowingly or unknowingly pass on the information.

India constitutes the highest number of deaths due to “Selfies.”

Some Famous Examples

There are a lot of examples but the following ones are some of the most famed ones:

  • The news of Community Spread of COVID-19 on several social media platforms(4).
  • The Karnataka Assembly Elections that were held in 2018 is a good example of this. The rivals floated rumours and fake news on all media platforms(5).
  • The damages caused by Fake News include even the Muzaffarnagar riots (2013)(6).
  • Do you remember the circulation of the message: “UNESCO has declared ‘Jana Gana Mana’ the best national anthem.” This too was a rumour. This message must have flooded in your WhatsApp groups and Chats at least once(7).
  • 2000 notes contain a GPS Tracking Nanochip. (Nov 2016)(8)

Laws and Regulations

Talking about the laws against the infringement of fake news, then India does not have any specific laws for the same.

  • Article 19 of the Indian Constitution(9), guarantees “Freedom of Speech”. For the same, the Press Council of India, has the powers of censoring, warning, or admonishing the journalist, editor, newspaper, or news agency if the journalistic ethics are not followed.
  • News Broadcasters Association (NBA) is the body that looks after what the private broadcasters, as well as the TV news channels, are showing you! It is a self-regulatory body that takes into consideration all the issues with respect to the E-media platforms.
  • Even the IBF i.e. Indian Broadcast Foundation works in similar areas. It registers complaints of the TV Channels’ content and BCCC, i.e. Broadcasting Content Complaint Council. You must have come across those sub-lines while watching TV channels wherein it is said that if you have any complaints, you can always register your complaint to BCCC. Also, BCCC has accepted that it does receive complaints against fake news and obscene content that has been broadcasted by some channels.
  • Indian Penal Code (IPC)(10) has included some sections especially to address the issue of fake news. The two sections are Sections 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) and 295 (injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class). Both of the above-stated sections can be used to protect one from the fake news.
  • Section 66 of The Information Technology Act, 2000(11)says that if someone deliberately damages the computer system or the computer then he/she would be liable to be punished and even imprisoned for more than three years and the fine may be at most five lakh Rupees or even both.
  • If there is fake news that hurts a particular individual or a group then they can contact the Civil or Criminal Case for Defamation for the same.
  • Talking further about IPC Section 499 (defamation) and 500(12), if someone tries to defame the person or the organization then they would be punished with imprisonment of up to two years, or fine, or both.

Government Response and its Withdrawal

On 2.4.18, there was an amendment in the ‘Guidelines for Accreditation of Journalists’, by the Government. This measure was taken in the wake of reducing the fake news by media. It meant that a journalist’s accreditation would be cancelled even before the completion of the 15-day inquiry.

Well, even though the initiative was great, after huge protests from the media personnel, this amendment was taken back in just 15 hours! According to the World Press Freedom Index, India ranks 142nd out of 180 countries (13)!

Conclusion

To curb fake news, it is vital to create awareness among people and educate them. Apart from this, the regulations and legislations are also to be followed diligently. Fake News is generally created either for elections or for mere fun! At times governments too indulge in such practices.

There has been a high rise in the same, leading to huge distress. Its control is in itself very complex and tricky which if not taken into account can lead to instability both nationally as well as internationally.

On the other hand, if too much control and restrictions are imposed then the whole Idea of Democracy fails. It is in the faith of everyone that this menace is curbed so that the respect that media holds, is retained. Also, the algorithms for understanding fake news should rise and origin synergies with tech companies can be very helpful.


Authored by: 

Swasti Salecha

Nirma University


References

  1. Almost certain Russians sought to interfere in the 2019 UK election – Raab. (2020, July 16). Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-53433523
  2. Goldman, A., Barnes, J. E., Haberman, M., & Fandos, N. (2020, February 20). Lawmakers Are Warned That Russia Is Meddling to Re-elect Trump. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/20/us/politics/russian-interference-trump-democrats.html
  3. https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/2019-11/11042019_Report_FH_FOTN_2019_final_Public_Download.pdf
  4. PTI. (2020, March 30). Coronavirus: Fear factor combined with fake news creates new ‘infodemic’ on social media. Retrieved from https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-fear-factor-combined-with-fake-news-creates-new-infodemic-on-social-media/article31207883.ece
  5. Aji, S. (2018, April 16). Karnataka Assembly Elections: Fake news livens up Karnataka poll scene as social media war hots up. Retrieved from https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/fake-news-livens-up-karnataka-poll-scene-as-social-media-war-hots-up/articleshow/63779890.cms
  6. Muzaffarnagar riots: Fake video spreads hate on social media. (2013, September 09). Retrieved from https://www.hindustantimes.com/india/muzaffarnagar-riots-fake-video-spreads-hate-on-social-media/story-WEOKBAcCOQcRb7X9Wb28qL.html
  7. Check, T. F. (2019, August 19). FAKE ALERT: No, UNESCO did not declare Indian national anthem ‘best in the world’ – Times of India. Retrieved from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/times-fact-check/news/fake-alert-no-unesco-did-not-declare-indian-national-anthem-best-in-the-world/articleshow/70731926.cms
  8. Desk, I. T. (2016, November 10). No, Rs 2000 note doesn’t have nano GPS for tracking but it may have RFID. Retrieved from https://www.indiatoday.in/technology/features/story/no-rs-2000-note-wont-have-nano-gps-for-tracking-but-it-may-have-rfid-351039-2016-11-10
  9. CADIndia. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.constitutionofindia.net/constitution_of_india/fundamental_rights/articles/Article 19
  10. Retrieved from https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1569253/
  11. Retrieved from https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=8ca29f1a-6e00-45ab-ad8f-ee6ff3ab6161
  12. Retrieved from https://www.clearias.com/defamation-freedom-speech/
  13. Retrieved from https://rsf.org/en/ranking_table

  1. Media Ethics and Responsible Journalism
  2. Adequacy Of Legislation: Curbing Mobocracy In The Age Of Social Media