Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

Change Law to Punish Hate Speech, Online Hatred: Panel



Mains Paper 3: Role of non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security, Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Challenges to social harmony arising out of use of social media and how deal with hate speech and online hatred


  1. The article has given list of some of the recommendations of the expert committee constituted by the centre after the Supreme Court struck down the controversial section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
  2. The article might look flooded with names of acts, years, sections and what not. Don’t worry! Just go through the article and read the footnotes where we have made it easier for you to understand the concepts.


A brief about the committee-

  1. The committee was headed by former Law Secretary T K Vishwanathan.
  2. The report was submitted to the Union Home Ministry.
  3. Mandate: Study domestic and international cyber laws and propose a legal framework in order to deal with online hate speech and incitement of violence
  4. Recommendations: The Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and the Information Technology Act should be amended to include stringent provisions


Important recommendations of the committee-

  1. No need to re-introduce Section 66A but strengthen IPC instead.
  2. Indian Penal Code, 1860; Prohibiting incitement to hatred: Amend IPC section 153 C to include in communication “spoken or written words, signs, visible representation, information, audio, video, or combination of both, transmitted, retransmitted through any telecommunication service, communication device or computer resource”.
    Punishment: up to 2 years or fine of Rs 5000 or both.
  3. Causing fear alarm or provocation of violence in certain cases: Amend IPC section 505A, punishment of any person or group of persons who intentionally, on grounds of religion, race, caste or community, gender, sexual orientation, place of birth, residence, language, disability or tribe, uses any means of communication to communicate.
    Punishment: up to 1 year or fine of Rs 5000 or both.
  4. Amendment in Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973: create a post of State Cyber-Crime Coordinator (not below rank of Inspector General of Police) and District Cyber-Crime Cell
  5. Amending the Information Technology Act, 2000: Amending section 78 allows a police officer not below the rank of Sub-Inspector to investigate any offence under this Act as young SIs are better equipped and trained in dealing with these crimes.
  6. A renovated section 66A has not been recommended in the IT Act, 2000. This is because the IT Act is basically commercial in nature and hence punishments have been recommended in the IPC.
  7. Important observations: In recommending specific changes the committee said
    i) only that speech should be accounted as relevant which relates to “religion, race, caste, community, sex, gender, place of birth, residence and language.”
    ii) online speech would be criminalised “only both, when it advocates hatred and causes the incitement of an offence”.


Way forward:

  1. Section 66A was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court on the ground that it violated the basic freedom of expression of the citizens. There is need to balance the liberty of citizens while tackling the issues of hate speech, online harassment-hatred and national security.
  2. The real purpose of the committee would be served only when the Parliament takes actions on these recommendations by keeping in mind the spirit of the 2015 Supreme Court judgement.


  1. Following are the key takeaways:
  2. Names of the acts IPC, CrPC and IT Act are important in general. Try to remember the names of these acts as quoting them in your answers automatically gives and edge to you and might add half a mark.
  3. Three important sections have been listed IPC 153C, IPC 505A and IT Act 78. Only remember these numbers collectively (if you cannot remember separately). You can quote them in your answers to questions like hate speech, fake news, spreading online hatred etc.
  • Don’t get bogged down by the legal language instead try to get the idea behind each recommendation. There are two important recommendations (sec 153C and sec 505A); 153C talks about giving provocation with intent to cause riot and 505A talks about (false and mischievous reports intended to upset public tranquillity. And the committee has recommended amending section 78.
  1. Indian Penal Code, 1860:  It is the main criminal code of India. It is a comprehensive code intended to cover all substantive aspects of criminal law.
  2. Criminal Procedure Code, 1973:  the main legislation on procedure for administration of criminal law in India.
  3. Information Technology Act, 2000:  It is the primary law in India dealing with cybercrime and electronic commerce.


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