Social Media Law and its Implications

Introduction

In the past decade, we have seen the boom in social media has increased in leaps and bounds. The “Social Media Explosion” as we term it has been staggering, the ambit of social media and its use had increased so much that it has been necessary for the law to intervene. Therefore the landscape in which social media usage has increased it has been seen the law is still struggling to cope. The factors which contributed to the popularity and widespread use of social media in the recent times is because of its ‘active user’ attractiveness which has played a major role and created a sought of domino effect whereas more people started showing up the culture and popularity of using social media like Facebook, Whatsapp and other social media sites which resulted in attracting few more to join and this continued. As a result, it is seen now Facebook is the most popular social networking site on the planet, which hosts more than 2.7 billion monthly active members in the whole world. It is seen that not only Facebook but other equally popular platforms are now owned by Facebook and have become the subsidiary of FACEBOOK INC. WhatsApp, Facebook messenger, and Instagram have more than 1 billion monthly active users. Social media does not only revolve around sites like Facebook, apps like Whatsapp, there are different types and classes of social media  Some of the different types which fall under the ambit of social media are:

  • Social networking 
  • Microblogs
  • Vlogs and YouTube
  • Blogs
  • Wikis

These categories too fall under the ambit of social media and are governed by social media laws as well. Therefore we have seen that a major part of the society now uses these platforms for day-to-day communication and other socio-virtual activities. Just like in the real world laws are implemented for their sustenance, growth, and development, here to comes the need for Social Media law so that this virtual society that social media has created does not turn into anarchy. 

Social Media Laws and implications

There are various laws governing the different activities that are performed on the social media, some of the areas of the important law mentioned.  Article 19 of the constitution of India talks about the freedom of speech and expression which guarantees all citizen and state that free speech cannot be curbed by making laws against it, however, the freedoms are under the ambit of some reasonable restriction as mentioned in article16(2). Therefore any person is at the liberty of reading, writing, and commenting on any issue however under the reasonable restrictions that the state imposes in the interest of citizens and the country.

Section 66A of the IT Act deals with social media content and its regulations. The law prohibits the publication of any offensive video, audio, text message, or any recorded content to be transmitted. It law also prohibits the information or any electronic mail which known to be false but is sent purposefully for annoying, injure, or insulting the reputation of the other person. This is done with the criminal intent to spread hatred among the people and society at large. If a representation of a woman is indecent then according to the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1998 – in this act Section 3 and Section 4 talk about the indulgence of women in the act of pornography and also award punishment to the people who circulate these types of obscene material. Sections 292-293 of the IPC also award punishment for obscenity (including pornography).

Certain sections of the Indian Penal Code like:

  1. Section 295A of IPC awards punishment to people who intentionally hurt the religious sentiments of people.
  2. Section- 153A of IPC: promotion of enmity between groups on the ground of religion, race, etc. 
  3. Section 499 of IPC: defamation
  4. Section 505 of IPC: Statement conducting of public mischief. 
  5. Section 509 of IPC: Insulting the modesty of women. 
  6. Section 506 of IPC: criminal intimidation and section-124A of IPC: sedition  
  7. The main laws to protect the person from social media abuse are Section 499 and Section 500 of IPC states that if any person publishes a defamatory statement whether oral or in writing to harm the character is punishable under this section.

Case Law

Shreya Singal v. UOI 24th March 2015

The court on March 24, 2015, held that Section 66A is unconstitutional for “being violative of Article 19(1)(a) and not saved under Article 19(2) accords the state the power to impose “reasonable restrictions” on the exercise of this right, the bench of Justices J. Chelameswar and R.F. Nariman ruled in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India. On the freedom of speech and expression “Section 66A is cast so wide that virtually any opinion on any subject would be covered by it and if it is to withstand the test of constitutionality, the chilling effect on free speech would be total,” the court said.

Conclusion

According to the social media statistics, there are 3.725 billion active social media users daily these users spend 142 minutes on average a day or some more on this platform. It sums up that in the year 2018-19 a total of 328 million users were there using different social networking sites. Seeing the statistics we can say that social media has become a major part of our life. In light of the event even a few media moment has recently come to be popular of these movements were, example- #Metoo movement which gained a lot of popularities to an extent even celebrities and a few important people started sharing their Metoo moments during their careers, this becomes so massive movement that many people faced legal implication of the crimes they did in the past affecting someone. Another movement is #bringbackRolacola, the candy product made by Parle Company. Therefore we can see that social media is both boon and bane, as they help people to connect with their near and dear ones while on another hand a lot of people are becoming victims of different cyber-related issues common they are cyber bullying, etc. Therefore to stop the misuse the government is constantly trying hard to impose stringent laws on this matter, along with making new laws that are effective to award proper legal justice on different social media-related cases.

Author(s) Name: Abhishek Mukherjee (University Of Calcutta)

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