With the growing incidence caused by fake forwarded messages through social media platforms, top legal experts have urged the government to come up with guidelines for regulating social media “within 3-4 weeks.”
“It is important for India to frame a regulation that is effective in curbing fake news and making legal enforcement more effective. Such guidelines should ideally be framed within 3-4 weeks through expert and industry body consultations,” opines Karnika Seth, Cyberlaw Expert, Seth Associates.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the government to frame guidelines to regulate social media platforms like facebook, whatsapp, twitter, youtube and put in place a mechanism to track the origin of fake news. With growing internet base and availability of low-cost smartphones, India has become one of the largest markets for many social media brands.
According to a statement from Delhi-based law firm, Ikigai Law, “fake news is news, stories or hoaxes created to deliberately misinform or deceive readers. Usually, these stories are created to either influence people’s views, push a political agenda or cause confusion and can often be a profitable business for online publishers.”
In India content shared by one of such social media platforms had resulted in mob attacks where several people were killed. Also, various political parties on many occasions have been blamed to use social media during elections for spreading misleading information to lure votes.
If child pornography is a zero-tolerance crime, so should be fake news, avers Seth. She further adds that a statutory or a government institution may be needed to oversee and monitor any guidelines framed in this regard otherwise it may not be that effective. Due to anonymity in cyberspace, criminals misuse the internet for ulterior motives such as spread hate speech, fake news and to make illegal gains.
This is the right time for India to enact a legislation that clamps down on such ghost online mischief-makers, said Supratim Chakraborty, Partner, Khaitan & Co. “While such a law should be enacted at the earliest, it should be formulated only after adequate consultations with relevant stakeholders and should ensure that there is no breach of an individual’s privacy rights,” he added.
Chakraborty further explains that issues such as illiteracy, lack of awareness and cultural aspects have amplified the negatives of social media in India. Such guidelines will not only be helpful to curb menaces associated with social media but also aid in proliferating the positive aspects of it.
Many jurisdictions discourage dissemination of fake and distorted news by way of media literacy and misinformation awareness programmes. China has one of the strictest laws on misinformation and fake news. The country has criminalised creating or spreading of rumours that undermine economic and social order.
In the U.K and the U.S close cooperation exists between regulators and private agencies that deploy proactive mechanisms to curb fake news. Verification of news sources is carried out to sanitize and verify news before it is circulated by anyone.