Hate Speech against Caste, Religion on Social Media
A Person shares a post against Religion, Caste _ Relief sought against the Person
The more time you spend in India, the more you realize that this country is one of the world’s greatest wonders- a miracle with a message. And the message is that democracy matters.” -Thomas Friedmann
Platforms routinely receive allegations that users have violated the law where many people demand the removal of post or accounts. It is an interesting fact to note here that many times the posts and the claim made there are correct. But too often they are wrong. Verbal abuse or attacks targeting a community on the basis of personal attributes such as race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation etc are increasingly being witnessed online, and are commonly classified as hate speech.
An offensive post on Social Media can you get you arrested:
Meera, a college student was a part of a WhatsApp group where the other members of the group shared a video which was against a known political leader who belonged to the Muslim political party and his workings. The video was also creating enmity and hatred against the Islamic community. Meera, being a college student had read that any kind of hate speech would land her up in some legal trouble along with the other members of the group. Therefore, she requested the group admin to remove the post from the group and requested the members to stop commenting and sharing the videos with other people on the messenger. The admin did not listen to her request so she decided to leave the group and report the same to the cybercrime government about the video which was shared against a known Political Leader and that would hurt the religious sentiment of various people who followed his views and idealized him.
Legal consequences against people for promoting hate speech on Social Media:-
So taking the above illustration of Meera where the group members were sharing a video without knowing that it would land them in legal trouble and if anyone knows about the legalities and the consequences of sharing hate speech should make aware other members of the group and take action against the same and make them aware of the laws and the under what offences they would be charged for misuse of their rights:-
Indian Penal Code, 1860:-
1. Section 153A of The Indian Penal Code:- Section 153-A of Indian Penal Code deals with the offence of promoting disharmony, enmity or hatred between different groups on the grounds of caste, religion, residence, language, place of birth. The offence is a cognizable offence and is punishment for the same extends to 3 years or fine or both.
2. Section 153B of The Indian Penal Code:- Section 153B deals with whoever by words either spoken or written or visual representations that ant class of persons cannot bear true faith and that particular class shall be deprived of their rights as citizens of India by reason of their belonging to a particular class, regional group or community which is likely to cause disharmony, enmity shall be punishable with imprisonment of 3 years or fine or both.
3. Section 505 of The Indian Penal Code:- Section 505 of Indian Penal Code deals with spreading of false and mischievous news intended to upset public tranquility which affects the state of mind and unnecessary panic and shall be punished with imprisonment for 3 years or fine or both.
4. Section 295 A of The Indian Penal Code:- Deliberate or malicious acts, intended to outrage religion of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.
Whenever someone with deliberate intentions tries to or outrages the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India, by words or by signs or visible representations, attempts to insult the religious belief of a particular class shall be punished with imprisonment of either description of a term which may extend to 3 years or with fine or both.
Information Technology Act, 2000:-
1. Section 67 of the Information Technology Act:- Section 67 of the IT act provides that if anyone transmits or publishes any information that is obscene material in electronic form.
2. Section 67A of the Information Technology Act:- Section 67A of the IT Act punishes anyone for publishing or transmitting any material containing sexually explicit acts, in electronic form.
3. Section 66A of the Information Technology Act:- Section 66A of IT Act states the punishment for sending offensive messages through communication services etc. Any person who sends any information which is offensive or any information which he knows to be false or causes injury, obstruction, hatred or ill-will. But this provision was scrapped by social media by the Supreme Court as it was declared unconstitutional and was declared as vague and undefined.
Indian Evidence Act:-
Many people visualize how Indian Evidence Act would play a major role than the Indian Penal Code and the Information Technology Act. Our court functions on proof and evidence hence provisions of the Indian Evidence Act would apply as follows:
1. Section 65A of Indian Evidence Act:- Section 65A is always read along with Section 65B because Section 65A contains the contents of Electronic Record which are needed to be proved by provisions mentioned in Section 65B.
2. Section 65B of Indian Evidence Act:- Section 65B deals with the admissibility of Electronic records in court proceedings. It states that any record that is contained in electronic or digital format shall be termed as a document.
Role of Judiciary and Government in regulating Social Media:-
Various incidents have recently happened on Social Media where the Judiciary and the Government had to take steps to regulate Social Media, to regulate the misuse of social media and content that was shared by various users. The Indian Government has recently due to pandemic has written to the top social media companies such as Instagram, Facebook, Whatsapp to control the misinformation on Covid-19. There was a request made to social media platforms to initiate awareness and to request the users not to spread the news that would create unnecessary panic among people. The recent case of Instagram chat group wherein rapes were glorified and photos of underage girls were shared and they were objectified. Instagram has deleted their accounts and groups and the admin of the group has been arrested and the cases have been registered against the other members of the group in Delhi High Court under the provisions of Information Technology Act and Indian Penal Code and are being investigated. The Supreme Court has recently expressed its recent concern over the misuse of social media in the country and the Court has also observed that technology has taken a dangerous turn and therefore has requested the Central Government to issue new guidelines on ways to curb misuse of social media. The Court and Government are trying their level best to reduce the misuse.
Advisories are given by the government to be followed if you are a member of any of the messaging groups:-
● Do not post fake news or any hate speech in the groups.
● Delete the post that is which you find is objectionable and the admin has notified it
● If you find any fake news or misinformation report it on www. Cybercrime.govt.in immediately or also informs it to the group admin about it.
● Never share any content that is promoting hate speech which is creating discrimination against caste, religion or any content that is violent or pornographic.
Role of Admin on the messaging platforms:-
● The admin should ensure that every member of the group should share information that is reliable and responsible to share verified news.
● Take action against any member who is sharing any objectionable post.
● If the admin cannot control the situation then he can change the settings where he has only the rights of posting in the group.
● The admin should warn all the members and prevent them from sharing anything that is objectionable.
Steps were taken by Social Media to curb Hate Speech:-
A 2019 Microsoft study provides that over 64% of the Indians encounter fake posts online. People are finding it harder to distinguish between misinformation and information that is real. According to Facebook community standards, content that attacks people based on their actual race, religion, nationality, gender identity, sexual orientation is considered hate speech and is not allowed by Facebook. Twitter has an advertisement policy in place which applies to tweets and prohibits hate speech and violence globally. YouTube has changed its policies and under the new policy, no one can comment on that video on or can be recommended by users.
Know your rights but don’t misuse them:-
Our Constitution guarantees every citizen a right to freedom of speech and expression. It states that every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression. Every citizen shall have protection and basic fundamental rights but it doesn't mean and gives you the right to misuse them and hurt others religious sentiments. Whereas Article 19(2) states all the exceptions where the freedom of speech and expression won’t work. Article 19(1)(a) gives the right to speech and expression with reasonable restrictions. There are reasonable restrictions on Article 19 (1) (a) for preserving decency and morality. When people are given the freedom of right to speech and expression but you cannot speak anything which hurts anyone’s religious sentiments or against race or nationality which creates indecency. People have made use of Social media platforms like Whatsapp, Instagram, Facebook for Hate Speech.
The only conclusion we can draw here is no matter how much social media is trying to stop the spread of fake news it is our responsibility that whenever we read something we read is true or not. We must question the articles and the videos before sharing it with someone else before we end in legal trouble. Each one has to take responsibility for the content we create, the content we consume and the content we forward to others. We as citizens should learn to differentiate between free speech and hate speech. It is the responsibility of you and me, and each one of us that let’s not spread the news and make awareness for the sake of doing it keeping in mind that we should not hurt any sentiments.