Indian Penal Code
Section 505(1):- The Section talks about the statements which conduce to public mischief. The punishment under this Section may extend to a maximum of 3 years, or a fine, or both. Such offenses are non-bailable and non-cognizable.
Recently the Supreme Court of India struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 is the case of Shreya Singhal v. Union of India (AIR 2015 SC 1523). The judgment had found that Section 66A was contrary to both Articles 19 (2) (free speech) and 21 (right to life) of the Constitution.
The entire provision was struck down by the court. The petition said the judgment rendered Section 66A extinct from the very date of its insertion into the IT Act, i.e. October 27, 2009. However, despite the clear and unequivocal judgment by the SC, Section 66A still somehow finds a place in police FIR’s.
These measures include:
1. Ascertaining the source and origin of the message. If one isn’t sure of the authenticity and correctness of the message or its content, one may make attempts to make certain of the veracity of the matter before forwarding it to others.
2. Just in case of any claims made within the message one has received, conduct secondary checks on google or other sites before disseminating it.
3. If the message incites strong emotions, it’s likely to be sent for such purposes. Any shocking or outrageous claim made has to be verified before it’s sent to others who may believe it completely.
4. Just in case of the message containing videos or pictures, there’s a break of them being edited or used out of context to mislead unsuspecting recipients. a straightforward reverse image search on Google can reveal the first source and context of the image.Any harm resulting from such forwarding can make the person doing so susceptible to legal consequences.
5. Use fact-checking services, there are many reputed fact-checking sites, which help people to verify claims made on social media or messages which have gone viral.
6. Sometimes there would be obvious spelling, punctuation mistakes, or other grammatical errors that may suggest the inauthenticity of the message. One has to develop a healthy scepticism towards the content on social media.
Thus, before you create, share, or forward any message, you must be aware of the content of the message and must realize the implication of the same. Any kind of information that might create panic, fear, or anxiety amongst the public must be avoided. In our everyday life, we are being exposed to an ‘infodemic’ which the World Health Organization defines as ‘overabundance’ of information. Due to this, a lot of times, we forget to check the veracity of the facts of the content.
Law enforcement agencies and cyber law experts say that existing laws in India are vague as far as fixing responsibility for such messages. Till now, the cases are decided on the basis of the previous judgment. Thus, there is a need to have a law that explicitly protects the interest of a group admin of a messaging platform but still ensures that the person spreading such information is located and punished accordingly.