oppn parties Supreme Court Glare On Misuse Of Social Media Platforms

News Snippets

  • Flipkart assures employees that there will be no job or salary cuts due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Although it was obvious, but the government still clarifies that there is no need to switch off appliances and only lights need to be switched off on April 5 at 9pm after confusion in the minds of some people
  • PM Modi and President Trump decide "to deploy full strength of (Indo-US) partnership" to fight against COVID-19
  • 17 states have reported 1023 cases of coronavirus linked to the Tablighi Jamaat, which translates to 30% of all positive cases in India
  • The government says people should not use alcohol-based hand sanitizers before lighting diyas or candles on April 5
  • The railways say there is no certainty yet when services will resume after the lockdown and a final decision will be taken in the next few days
  • As coronavirus cases multiply in Assam, six north-east states seal their borders with the state
  • Power System Operation Corporation Ltd. (POCOSO) putting all systems and protocols in place at war-footing to ensure there is no grid failure due to reduction in demand on April 5 at 9 pm
  • Power ministry scotches rumours that the power grid might fail due to the 9-minute blackout called by PM Modi on Sunday, April 5
  • Centre asks people to wear home-made masks if it is absolutely essential for them to step out of homes
  • Centre asks states to allow licensed street vendors to sell essential items
  • 8000 samples were tested across India on April 2, but the government said that testing will be need-based and will not be used as a confidence-boosting measure
  • Air India operating special flights to fly passengers stuck in India since the lockdown
  • For the first time in history, Darjeeling loses first flush tea due to suspension of garden work for Covid-19 outbreak
  • Supreme Court asks journalists to be responsible and publish only the official version of news after it was brought to its notice that migrant exodus started after the 'fake' news that the lockdown will be extended to three months
Total count stands ar 3082 as India records 16 Covid-19 deaths, the highest in a single day
oppn parties
Supreme Court Glare On Misuse Of Social Media Platforms

By Sunil Garodia

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.

Before blogging and social media made it easy for people to have their say, the only outlet for people with an opinion was the tiny "letters to the editor" space in print publications where they sent their views which were heavily edited by a desk hack "for reasons of space and clarity". But the difference between having your say in print then and having it online now is that then you had to provide your full address and a telephone number and were not allowed to be personal or abusive. Your identity was established and you were responsible for your actions. Now, online, you have the shield of anonymity and the results are there for everyone to see. The other difference was that letters printed then could cause a flutter in some circles, reaching, say, 10000 readers, but material posted now can go viral in a flash and tens of thousands of people can be involved in a matter of hours. But anonymity has spawned personal attacks, vilest of abuses and threats of rape, murder and acid attacks. Freedom of speech is being misused online with impunity.

It is against this background that one must view the notice issued by the Supreme Court to the Centre to file an affidavit within three weeks to spell out a strategy to get social media platforms to share information with law enforcement agencies without compromising the privacy of citizens. The apex court was concerned that no simple and fast legal remedy was available to ordinary citizens who are subjected to trolling and abuse by miscreants who hide behind the wall of anonymity. Instead, despite the striking down of Section 66A of the IT Act, governments, both at the Centre and in the states, have regularly shown complete intolerance to criticism and have booked netizens for even harmless forwards from their social media accounts. Yet, when it comes to protecting the rights of ordinary citizens, the same urgency is not shown by law enforcement agencies.

Hence, there is no doubt guidelines are required to manage the complete mess that social media finds itself in regarding the misuse of the platforms to abuse others. But since there are several conflicting rights involved, existing laws in India can be applied to redress the grievances; there is no need to enact a new coercive law. A balance has to be struck between protecting privacy and fixing accountability. But the government must act as a facilitator and not a regulator. There are enough laws that can be used to book miscreants in they are forced to verify their identity at the time of registering for social media accounts. No one should be allowed to use such accounts anonymously.

For this, linking Aadhar with social media accounts to establish the identity of users can be looked into. But the greatest drawback is that the social media platforms have consistently failed to protect the data citizens submit to them. Facebook was embroiled in the Cambridge Analytica scandal and there are allegations against other social media platforms for sharing or even selling the private data of users. Hence, can they be trusted with the Aadhar data? The answer to this is that just the number, name, address, mobile number and photo, and not the biometric data, can be accessed from the Aadhar database to establish the identity of users on social media platforms. This information is in any case provided by all those who register on social media platforms. For, as long as the wall of anonymity exists trolling and abuse will not stop. Miscreants will use the social media responsibly only when they use verified accounts and know that that they can be traced and caught for abusing others.