Social Media and Freedom of Speech and Expression: Challenges Before the Indian Law
15 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2017
Date Written: 2014
Social media has become an extension of our lives. Everyone has a presence on social media, Although there are several flaws and ill effects, it cannot be run down because it is also a remarkable tool to connect, collaborate, and unite people despite territorial limitations.
Social Media has become a vital communications tool through which individuals can exercise their right of freedom of expression and exchange information and ideas. In the past year, a growing movement of people around the world has been witnessed who are advocating for change, justice, equality, accountability of the powerful and respect for human rights (e.g. Arab Spring Revolution) wherein the Internet and Social Media has played a key role.
However, the freedom of speech and expression does not confer on the citizens the right to speak or publish without responsibility and the legislature may enact laws to impose restrictions on the right to speech and expression on the several grounds. Social media is open to misuse as well, as several cyber crimes can be easily committed through social media (e.g. threats to all girl rock band of J&K). This gives the State a justification to regulate online content in the interests of the public at large, the necessity of which cannot be denied.
As long as the interests of people are taken care of, there can be no objection to government regulation but the problem arises when, in the name of regulation, it starts censoring i.e. encroaching upon the civil rights of the people viz. freedom of speech and expression (e.g. Mamata Banerjee cartoon case, Mumbai facebook case, Air India Ltd. Employees case, etc.).
The national framework relevant for social media presents a matrix of several legislations collectively known as the cyber laws of India. Although none of these legislations refer to social media per se but, considering that they touch upon contemporary social media related issues, it becomes imminent to analyze them, particularly Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
Against this backdrop, the present paper makes a modest attempt to analyze the realization of the right to freedom of speech and expression in the context of social media and the role of law in ensuring and regulating its exercise.
Keywords: social media, IT Act, freedom of speech and expression
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