This Article is written by Anchal Kushwah, a student of ISBR LAW College.
Media has a very vital role and has influence in virtually every aspect of our lives. We all will be so stagnant and clueless if this technology and the digital world would not exist. Indeed, we can say that in some of the other ways these technologies and the digital world are controlling our lives. Whereas, on the other hand, this era of modern technology enables us to do certain things which seem to be impossible before ages. And when it comes to media houses it is considered one of the important sources of information and also with the help of media houses we can know incidents happening around the world. In more precise words, what is told to us by the reporters or what we see on social media accounts, we tend to believe it so easily. So basically these media houses have a lot to do with our lives and the way it influences our lifestyle is commendable. Though we cannot ignore the fact, that like every other thing this also has two phases i.e. one positive and the other one is negative. In the following article, the researcher is going to bring certain cases of spreading false information through mass media and social media too. And adding on to this the researcher will also emphasize the consequences of such spread of fake news and how it is affecting our lives as well as our legal right.
REPORTED CASES OF SPREADING FAKE NEWS
Nowadays the rapid development of media has a great impact on our society and its culture. The damage caused due to fake news on social media has been on fire due to the growth of internet penetration in India, which has risen from 137 million internet users in 2012 to over 600 million in 2019. India is one of the largest markets for WhatsApp with over 230 million and as a result of which it is one of the main platforms to spread any misinformation. Here are some of the examples which show how mass media, print media, electronic media, and social media have influenced the citizens of society.
Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019
During, the declaration of this Act, there was so much chaos in the country. And there were thousands of people who came for protest against this act. But actually, when Supreme Court asked Central government of India to look after in this and weed out all the fake news that haS been circulated across the nation, it has been recorded that 95% protestors don’t even know about CAA. They feel that the CAA will take away their citizenship. And all these things happened because of the widespread misinterpretation. Hence, the outspread of fake news and videos have influenced our citizens.
The 2019 general election was also called India’s first WhatsApp Election because it was used as a tool of propaganda. As VICE and Altnews wrote, ‘parties have weaponized the platforms’ and ‘misinformation has been weaponized’ respectively. It has also been reported that Facebook went on to remove one million accounts regularly including all those accounts which are spreading disinformation on social media accounts. Basically, more than connecting socially to each other these social media accounts are now active as an easy source of information regardless of knowing the truth of the matter. It has become so evident that how crucial role has been played by these platforms to influence the decision of the people of the society. However, we can’t do anything until and unless we realize that whatever we are posting on our accounts can ruin the decision of a bigger section of the society.
Misinformation related to COVID-19 pandemic is in the form of social media messages related to home remedies, fake advisories, and conspiracy theories that have not been substantiated either by any medical expert or any professional doctor. On 7 March 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an appeal not to believe any such news related to the pandemic until and unless it is not been confirmed by the government of India. The Press Information Bureau brought out a fact check that stories about a financial emergency being imposed in India were also fake.
Well, these are not the only cases where media has played an important role in influencing people, and also they have a major contribution in bringing people to the streets and creating a lot of chaos in the country. There were several other cases as well; Indian revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s of Article 370, demonetization, and a lot more are there in the table.
MISHANDLING FREEDOM OF SPEECH
Freedom of speech has been a fundamental right however it is restricted to a reasonable extent, defamation being one. Though each one of us is entitled to freedom of speech, however, we cannot ignore the fact that each and every rule is incomplete without reasonable limitations such as ‘Right to Freedom Of Speech’. Indeed there are certain publications that can lead to cyber defamation.
In the case of Dr. Rachna Gupta vs. Dev Ashish Bhattacharya, the applicant had filed a case in the High Court of Himachal Pradesh at Shimla on 03 January 2020, Where the respondent was an accuse of defaming the plaintiff on social media accounts and print and electronic media. Since the plaintiff was defamed due to the disinformation shared by the respondent on the social media accounts and her reputation was adversely affected as a result of which she asked for the compensation of Rs.1,00,00,000.
And of course, we cannot forget the very famous Arnab Gowswami case. He has been in controversy from past months even today he was not granted any type of bail especially after the Palghar mob lynching case regarding his alleged use of inflammatory language, as well as claims of misinformation.
After observing all these, it is so apparent that influencing the people comes out of the mishandling of the information and it can either be on social media, print, or electronic media. Whenever there is excess use of freedom this is how it landed up to, which is actually very harmful to our society and its people.
CONSEQUENCES OF MISHANDLING OF INFORMATION OR SPREADING OF FAKE NEWS
Just like the Chinese whispers within a blink of an eye people tend to misinterpret any information shared online or strongly believe any baseless accusation. Media trials can often cost an individual’s life.
In the year 2018, there was a piece of news reported according to which two men were dragged out of jail and burnt alive till death by a cheering mob as rumors of child abducting got widely spread on WhatsApp. Whereas, the truth of the matter is that both the men were set upon fire by mob villagers who were falsely accused after they were spotted near an elementary school. The arrest of those men fueled rumors on social media and sparked the outrage on the social media apps and amidst the society. And this outrage of the people resulted in the death of those two innocent men.
Along with the above example, there are several other instances that depict the situation of the spread of misinformation and as a consequence of which there is a high probability of some severe losses to the innocent person which can extend up to taking someone’s life.
Social media app is one of the most trending features of the technology that gives us an opportunity to be with people even if you are millions of yards away from your loved ones. Printing media and electronic media is also one of the most important sources to know the happening around the world with just one click. However, it does not mean that whatever posts we see or we like on our social media accounts leads to truth. It’s our responsibility to substantiate the data before forwarding it to anybody. There might be some flaws in the data or the news we hear or see. Within a blink of an eye, we tend to rely on some random news or any data and then repost the same story. We should always think twice because our one-click may ruin someone’s entire life or defame him/her for their whole life.
- Chris Kitching, Men burnt alive by mob after false WhatsApp messages accuse them of child kidnap, 13 Nov. 2018, Available at: https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/whatsapp-rumours-incite-angry-mob-13576897
- Rachna Gupta V. Dev Ashish Bhattacharya, OMP No. 574 of 2019 in COMS No. 20 of 2019, Decided on: 03.01.2020. (2020), India .