SOCIAL MEDIA LAWS: PROS, CONS AND CAUSES
Social media is a platform for people and communities to interact with each other. It contains personal as well as professional information about people for that reason it must be regulated by the government to protect individuals from cyber-crimes.
The prospect of social media laws is increasing as it has become an integral part of individuals’ lives. Social media law involves the legal issues related to user-generated content and the online websites that host that content. Social media law consists of both criminal and civil laws at the state and federal levels. Some examples of social media laws are those that protect or prohibit the posting of content and those that broaden or restrict privacy rights for employees.
What are Social Media Laws?
Social media is an online platform for interaction and business opportunities as well. It is different from traditional media such as print, radio, and television in two significant ways – first, the amount of content that can be generated by the users themselves far exceeds the content generated by news/opinion-makers, and second, its “viral” ability for the potential exponential spread of information by word of mouth and interlinking of the various social media platforms, thereby considerably reducing the control over the spread of any such information. Therefore, regulation of this has become important because the usage of social media has increased drastically.
Social media law comprehensively covers all the legal issues associated with user-generated content, and it comes under both civil and criminal law aspects. Some of the particular legal concerns for individuals as well as communities for social media are the right to privacy, defamation, advertising law, intellectual property (IP) law, etc.
Information Technology Act, 2000
Social media law in India is regulated by the Information Technology Act which was enacted in the year 2000 to regulate, control, and deal with the issues arising out of it. Social networking media is an “intermediary” within the meaning of the Indian information technology act 2000 (IT Act 2000). Thus, social networking sites in India are liable for various acts or omissions that are punishable under the laws of India.
Information technology Act- section 66A of the IT Act is focused completely on social media content and regulates it. It prohibits any offensive video, audio, text message or any recorded content to be transmitted. This also prohibits the information or any electronic mail which is known to be false but sent to cause annoyance, injury, or insult the others.
However, this section was struck down by a landmark judgment known as Shreya Singhal v. UOI.
Shreya Singhal Judgment
Brief facts of the case
Two girls, Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Srinivasan were arrested by Mumbai police in 2012 for expressing dissatisfaction with the band convened after the death of Shiv Sena’s chief Bal Thackery. The women posted comments on Facebook. The arrested women were later released and decided to withdraw their criminal proceedings against them, but the arrest faced widespread public protest. Police have allegedly abused their authority, including invoking Section 66A and claiming that it violates freedom of speech and expression. There were two tests in Section 66A that were clear and gave the potential to incite current danger and hatred. Section 66A failed these tests because the imprisoned position did not incite the hatred of the people or disturb the law and order. The other two sections of the
Act, sections 69A and 79, are far below public attention, probably because they are substantive statutory provisions rather than criminal provisions (like Section 66A). However, these provisions result in an unconstitutional system of censorship. Section
Section 69A empowers the government to block public access to content for a variety of reasons. Intermediaries who do not follow the instructions to block content can be sentenced to up to 7 years in prison.
This provision ensures that the government can block any content it deems to fall within the fairly broad conditions and has been used with mixed results – while no doubt there are instances where content does need to be censored (for instance one of the sparks for the recent communal violence in Uttar Pradesh was the distribution through Facebook of a fake video purportedly showing violence committed against the majority community), practice shows that directions issued by the government lack precision (leading to whole domains and websites being blocked) lack appropriate oversight and accountability mechanisms, etc. The broad and ambiguous nature of the conditions to be satisfied before invoking this power are also cause for concern.
Section 79 of the IT Act requires an Intermediary to observe certain guidelines to avail of the exemption from liability. These guidelines (issued in 2011) mandate that the Intermediary must take down any information that is inter alia grossly harmful, harassing, blasphemous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, libelous, invasive of another`s privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically objectionable, disparaging, relating or encouraging money laundering or gambling, harm minors in any way or otherwise unlawful in any manner whatever, acting upon private complaint or if they discover such content on their own.
This provision essentially makes all intermediaries into watchdogs of the Internet with very limited provisions as to recourse or safeguards – for instance, there is no requirement to produce a court order before (or after) mandating a takedown. The requirement to act on private complaints about such a wide variety of `offenses` (some of which again are not crimes in the physical world – for instance, blasphemy is not a crime in India) is disturbing and could be used as a backdoor means of censorship. This system also sets up an alternate system of criminal offenses and censorship for online media as opposed to traditional media (therefore a physical newspaper can carry an article questioning the existence of God while its online version cannot!).
Various organizations have been campaigning for an amendment to this provision and in fact, the Parliament`s Subordinate Committee on Legislation has recommended revisiting these guidelines to make them compliant with the Constitution. Further steps are yet to be taken by the Government, which has, however, assured the country that it is not interested in censoring content.
Social Media Law India complies with the Information Technology Act of 2000 to regulate, manage and address issues arising from IT. Social networking media is a “mediator” in the sense of the 2000 Indian Information Technology Act (IT Act 2000). Therefore, Indian social networks are liable for various acts or omissions that are punished under Indian law.
Article 19 and Social Media
Today, freedom of expression is primarily utilized by social media and the Internet. In recent years, and until now, social media has played an important role in the connection between citizens and the world, expressing their thoughts and communication with others. Even UN conferences and other rallies around the world reach out to citizens through social media. However, the use of social media by citizens as a fundamental right must also be guaranteed by basic obligations. Article 19 itself has its own right to freedom of speech and expression, including in the case of the Internet and social media. Currently, India has about 448 million social media users. Social media is one of the largest platforms for sharing and disseminating your ideas with others.
Some benefits of social media:
- Give the true picture of the problem.
- Strengthening people’s unity and brotherhood.
- Make the public think about what is right or wrong.
- To reduce stereotypical thinking.
- In a democracy like India, they expressed opposition to the government.
- Express your thoughts through books and blogs.
- Give oppressed classes and women voices against violence and atrocities.
Some drawbacks of social media:
- Spread hatred for religion, race, etc.
- Spread false publicity.
- Defamation of people and institutions.
- Threat to internal security.
- It can complicate relations with friendly countries.
- Promotes violence, riots, and mass crime.
Some major causes to regulate social media:
1. Restrictions on freedoms by Constitution itself:
Articles 19(2) to (6) impose restrictions on various facets of freedom mentioned in Article 19. It is important to note that the legislature cannot restrict the freedoms on any other grounds other than those mentioned in Articles 19(2) to (6). But it also states that-
The restrictions must be imposed only under the authority of law.
Each restriction must be reasonable.
The restriction must strictly relate to the grounds mentioned in Articles 19(2) to (6).
2. The dignity of a nation:
Citizens must be responsible for their fundamental duties also while taking benefit of fundamental rights. Fundamental Duties under Article 51A provide few duties which shall be followed by citizens while enjoying their fundamental rights, so the same applies to Article 19. While taking the privilege of freedom of speech and expression a citizen must protect the integrity, unity, and sovereignty of India. Anything expressed on social media platforms must not degrade the dignity of any society, religion, etc., or our nation.
3. Cybercrimes by use of social media:
Cybercrime is the worst result of the use of social media. Cybercrimes as now in the present days are rapidly increasing and most of the cases are related to cyberstalking, cybercrime, money fraud, outraging the modesty of women by morphing photos or videos, etc. are the bad example of cybercrime.
4. Loss of moral values:
Some people do not give respect to moral values and laws while using social media platforms. Especially people having the age of 14-22 years, don’t know how and in which manner the social media platforms are useful and wrong for them. The impact of using Social media can be seen in people as it is diverting them from their moral values and respect for life.
5. Public order and foreign relations:
Sometimes social media is also responsible for disturbing public order or foreign relations, by this way sometimes users are creating havoc on International relations or public order. Mob lynching, Riots are the worst condition due to fake or wrong news or videos circulating over social media platforms.
Provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) apply to social media online viz. Intentionally Insulting Religion Or Religious Beliefs (S. 295A), Promoting Enmity Between Groups On Grounds Of Religion, Race Etc. (S. 153A), Defamation (S. 499), Statements conducing to Public Mischief (S. 505), Insulting The Modesty Of A Woman (S 509), Criminal Intimidation (S 506), Sedition (S124-A), etc.
Regulatory Body for Social Media Laws
On February 25, 2021, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) notified the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (Intermediary Rules 2021) under Section 87 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act). The objective of the Intermediary Rules 2021, which superseded the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules 2011, is to establish a harmonious, soft-touch oversight mechanism among social media platforms as well as digital media and OTT platforms, etc.
The Intermediary Rules 2021 are divided into three parts Part I deals with defining all the terms used therein; Part II deals with the due diligence requirements which must be followed by a social media intermediary (SMI) and a significant social media intermediary (SSMI) and Part III deals with the code of ethics and procedure and safeguard in relation to digital media.
Who are Intermediaries?
Section 2(w) of the IT Act defines an intermediary as “intermediary”, with respect to any particular electronic records, means any person who on behalf of another person receives, stores or transmits that record or provides any service with respect to that record and includes telecom service providers, network service providers, internet service providers, web hosting service providers, search engines, online payment sites, online auction sites, online marketplaces, and cyber cafes. Rule 2021 introduces the concept of “SMI ”, which “enables predominantly or exclusive online dialogue between two or more users and creates, uploads, shares, distributes, modifies, or accesses information. Is defined as an intermediary that enables. service. Based on the number of users of the social media platform, the intermediaries were divided into “SMI” and “SSMI” (the central government reports that the number of registered users in India should exceed 500,000 rupees).
Social media companies enjoy strong liability protection and are primarily self-regulating. The need for government regulation is increasing.
A law known as NetzDG requires social media companies to quickly remove “obviously illegal” content containing malicious language or to impose heavy fines.
Social media platforms are generally exempt from liability but may be forced to remove content. The Internet is often shut down and governments are trying to tighten control of several platforms.
The social media platform is free to use. But lawmakers are considering a bill that fears rights groups would undermine freedom of speech.
Although the social media platform is fully accessible, the government may ask companies to remove content that they consider unfavorable, such as music videos.
The platform must quickly remove “disgusting violent material” or impose heavy fines. The law was passed after a terrorist attack on Christchurch, which was broadcast live on Facebook.
Where the internet is not free
Online media is monitored by a government watchdog and routinely restricted. The legislature has moved to block U.S. platforms for allegedly censoring Russian state media.
Though censorship is extensive, social media platforms operate relatively freely. The monarchy has been accused of manipulating online discourse.
It has some of the most restrictive censorship laws in the world. Many Western platforms are banned, and their Chinese equivalents are closely monitored by the government.
Federal law requires social media companies to remove hate speech or misinformation within a day. The government has at times cut off access to platforms.
Usage of social media is growing dramatically. There is an urgent need for the development of a unique and comprehensive statute encompassing this arena. Also, the present statute, that is, the Information and Technology Act, 2000 has to be amended and expanded, explaining in greater detail, issues related to privacy and social media. Most importantly a wider definition of privacy is also to be adopted in this Act as Social media is infringing it without any regulations. There is also a need for proper implementation of guidelines issued by the Supreme Court of India, in various cases related to privacy and social media.
MS. BHAVIKA LOHIYA