The power and reach of social media has augmented immensely in the last 12-18 months in Indian and tracing the growth of social networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter in the country there is a pressing need to tweak information technology laws in the country.
However, of late there have been incidents in India which contradict the ‘Freedom’ of social media posts. Indian government blocking website, removing Facebook and Twitter posts and censoring other audio-visual content such Leslee Udwin’s documentary – India’s daughter has created unrest among social media users in India.
India is tagged to be the largest democracy in the world but restricting content on online media which portrays opinion and views of an individual or a group in the society, does not go well with its principle. Taking into account the technological advancements, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s activities on social media and the subsequent popularity of Twitter and Facebook in India; the Supreme Court has decided to revisit the IT laws of the country and adjust it for the new age of consumers in India.
Following a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by a law student on the arrest of two young women in 2012 on back of a Facebook post on Mumbai shutdown, Section 66A of the Information Technology Act has come under Supreme Court’s scanner.
“It is a landmark judgement wherein Supreme Court has put constitution and interest of people ahead of any political interest. This decision puts our right to speech and freedom back on table,” said Shrenik Gandhi, Co-founder of White Rivers Digital.
The court has described Section 66A of IT act as ‘vague in its entirety’ and has given the government a week’s time to furnish its take on the same. The act does not clearly define content as ‘offensive’ and ‘persistent’.
Freedom of speech and expression allows people to put forth their opinion on a certain issue and indulge in discussion and advocacy but if certain content has the potential to incite violence and disturbance, Supreme Court has allowed the government to block such content. We need more laws that can help the government to differentiate between discussions and offensive material on social media. The Supreme Court ruling comes in light of recent event where people were charged for posting provocative content online.
The constitution has granted several rights to its people but it must understand the responsibilities in the periphery. Social media is an effective tool for distribution of content and sharing of insights and experiences but should not be misused to share ‘offensive’ content that has the potential to cause discomfort between two parties.
Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Communications and Information Technology strongly advocates for freedom of speech and expression and has strong belief in the power of social media. He expressed his distress over the arrest of a young boy from Bareilly district of Uttar Pradesh on sharing a questionable Facebook post.
“Social media has seen phenomenal growth in India. In this digital age, communication and exchange of ideas particularly by young minds of India must be appreciated and complemented. Those who are in politics must learn to be tolerant even in the face of criticism,” the minister said in a Facebook post.
“Section 66A was not only hampering the right to speak freely but also would have also negatively impacted the Indian online community, which could have had a long term impact on commerce and India’s advantage against China and other emerging super powers of being an open friendly online community. It is a welcome judgment,” Mr Gandhi added.
Therefore, amendment of laws is an on-going process which reckons social progress in any country but is that enough to change the ideology for any political party that restricts the freedom of speech and expression. Marketers will be closely looking for developments in the IT industry and its bearing in the market, in order to roll out their next marketing campaign.