Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

Mar, 19, 2019

[op-ed snap] Foreign hand returns

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency & accountability

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Role of Social Media in influencing elections


NEWS

CONTEXT

It is widely accepted that the current general elections would be India’s first polls to be shaped by the social media. As rival parties weaponise new digital tools in a rather charged political moment, the question of preserving the integrity of India’s elections has come right to the top.

Examples of Foreign Interference

  • Foreign manipulation of elections is a major problem around the world.
  • In the last few years there have been charges of external intervention in elections in countries as different as the US, Cambodia, Madagascar and Taiwan.
  • For example, Indonesia, one of the world’s largest democracies. About 190 million people are set to elect the president, national parliament, provincial assemblies and local councils — all at one go — on April 17.
  • Last week, Arief Budiman, the chairman of Indonesia’s general election commission, told the press that hackers from Russia and China were trying to attack the voter data base and that these attacks were taking place not just every day, “but by the hour”.
  • “Voter behaviour can be changed by de-legitimising the election commission,” Budiman pointed out.

Indian Scenario

  • There was a time when the Indian political classes routinely accused the “foreign hand” for many unexpected developments, electoral or otherwise.
  • Most of the time, the “foreign hand” was a code for the US and its Central Intelligence Agency.
  • As the Congress, under Indira Gandhi, drifted close to the Soviet Union after 1969, the non-left opposition parties would often charge the KGB of meddling in the elections in favour of the Congress.
  • interfering in the internal politics of other societies — through overt and covert means — is as old as statecraft.
  • Before the age of mass politics, it was about influencing royal succession, ensuring friendly sovereigns in one’s neighbourhood, suborning key members of a foreign court, including ministers and military leaders.
  • According to one study, America and Russia intervened in at least one in nine elections around the world between 1946 and 2000.
  • As the global war for political influence raged during the Cold War, the CIA was accused of helping the Congress Party to push back against the Communists in Kerala and West Bengal. Russia and China, in turn, have been charged with supporting the Indian communists.
  • The end of the Cold War and the relative harmony among major powers meant there was less pressure on the great powers to intervene in India.

Cyber field as an arena for foreign interference

  • The contestation between great powers has returned, slowly but certainly.
  • As the cyber domain emerged as a new theatre for the political rivalry, charges have flown thick and fast about foreign intervention in the domestic politics of other countries.
  • Donald Trump’s surprising victory in the 2016 presidential elections has been followed by allegations of Russian intervention to manipulate the social media during the campaign.
  • There is no  question that platforms like Facebook were deliberately used to spread disinformation during the elections.
  • The unprecedented speed of online communication, the relative ease of spreading misinformation, the growing sophistication of fake news, the extraterritoriality of the web, the increasing impact of the digital influence operations by individuals, professional cyber consultants, criminal mafias, and above all governments, has helped constitute a new global cyber landscape that few could have imagined a decade ago.

Ways to address the cyber menace

  • The Indian political class has not devoted enough attention to the issues involved. The problem needs to be addressed at least at three levels.
  • One is for parties and political leaders to pay greater attention to cyber security of their campaigns and social media accounts.
  • Hacking and leaking of personal and sensitive information could have an explosive effect on the 2019 elections.
  • Two, the BJP and the Congress need a small, quiet and credible mechanism for mutual communication to contain the damage from hostile attempts to undermine Indian elections. The two parties must find the will to protect the legitimacy of the 2019 elections.
  • Finally, the national security establishment must extend full support to the Election Commission in fending off many likely threats to the integrity of the elections and help raise the awareness of the political class on the new dangers of the digital age.

 

Jan, 11, 2019

[pib] Report on Section 126 of the RP Act, 1951, Submitted

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency & accountability

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Section 126 of Representation of the People Act, 1951

Mains level: Role of Social Media in influencing elections


News

  • A Committee constituted to review and suggest modifications and changes in the provisions of the Section 126 and other sections of the RP Act 1951, provisions of Model Code of Conduct and any other ECI instruction has submitted its report.
  • The recommendations made by the Committee, when implemented will help in minimizing the possible interference of activities which aim at indirectly influencing voters during the valuable silence period of 48 hours provided to them.

Background

  1. The task of maintaining campaign silence during last 48 hours before the conclusion of polling is becoming increasingly onerous in the light of the increasing influence of digital media.
  2. So, apart from the regulation by law and ECI instructions, the resolve, proactive support and sustained effort by all stake holders is necessary to contain the evil impact.

Section 126 of RP Act, 1951

  1. Section 126 of the RP Act prohibits displaying any election matter by means, inter alia, of television or similar apparatus, during the period of 48 hours before the hour fixed for conclusion of poll in a constituency.
  2. “Election matter” has been defined in that Section as any matter intended or calculated to influence or affect the result of an election.
  3. Violation of the provisions of Section 126 is punishable with imprisonment upto a period of two years, or with fine or both.
  4. It prohibits conduct of Exit poll and dissemination of their results during the period mentioned therein, in the hour fixed for commencement of polls in the first phase and half hour after the time fixed for close of poll for the last phase in all the States.

Scope of Reform

  1. Section 126 and other related Sections of the RP Act, 1951
  2. Prohibitory period of 48 hours before the completion of the poll
  3. Impact of new media platforms and social media during the prohibitory period of 48 hours before the close of poll campaign.
  4. Provisions of Model Code of Conduct (MCC) to the related issue
Dec, 26, 2018

Govt.’s draft rules to regulate social media echo SC orders

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Role of media & social networking sites in internal security challenges

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Various sections mentioned in the amendment bill

Mains level: Menace of unlawful content over social media and measures to curb it


News

  • The draft rules proposed by the government to curb “unlawful content” on social media that make it mandatory for intermediaries to trace the “originator” of such content have drawn strong criticism.
  • However, a close look at the draft Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Amendment Rules, 2018, shows that they are in line with the Supreme Court in recent cases.

Court’s concern

  1. The court has voiced its concern over irresponsible content on social media.
  2. It has reflected in a July 2018 judgment in the Tehseen S. Poonawalla case.
  3. The court gave the government a virtual carte blanche to stop/curb dissemination of irresponsible and explosive messages on various social media platforms, which have a tendency to incite mob violence and lynching of any kind.
  4. For instance, Rule 3 of the draft speaks about the “due diligence” to be observed by online platforms that have over 50 lakh users.

Norms for access

  1. It proposes the publication of rules, a privacy policy and user agreement for access to a social intermediary’s resource.
  2. Clause (1) of Rule 3 mandates that a user cannot host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, update or share information, for example, which is pornographic, pedophilic, racially or ethnically objectionable, invasive of another’s privacy, harms minors in anyway, etc.
  3. On December 6, a SC Bench, led by Justice Lokur, mentioned online giants and recorded that everybody is agreed that child pornography, rape and gang-rape videos and objectionable material need to be stamped out.
  4. The same order also noted submissions by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, for WhatsApp, that they have an end-to-end encryption technology, due to which it will not be possible to remove the content.
  5. Subsequently, on December 11, the Bench ordered the Centre to frame the necessary guidelines and implement them within two weeks to eliminate child pornography, rape and gang rape imagery, videos and sites in content hosting platforms and other applications.
  6. These two orders came on a suo motu case being heard in the SC from 2015 to curb online sexual abuse.
Dec, 24, 2018

Govt moves to access and trace all ‘unlawful’ content online

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Role of media & social networking sites in internal security challenges

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Various sections mentioned

Mains level: Menace of fake news in India and measures to curb it


News

  • In what raises questions over freedom of speech online, the government is proposing draft amendments to rules governing content.

Filtering Unlawful content

  1. The proposed amendments to rules under Section 79 of the IT Act make it mandatory for online platforms to “proactively” deploy technology, which would enable a filtering of content seen as “unlawful”.
  2. They also require end-to-end encryption to be broken so that the origin of messages can be traced.
  3. In the draft of Amendment Rule 3(9) requires “intermediaries”, or online platforms, to “deploy technology based automated tools or appropriate mechanisms, with appropriate controls.
  4. This should be done for proactively identifying or removing or disabling access to unlawful information or content.
  5. The insertion of a new Rule 3(4) activates a pro-active monthly notification across intermediaries to warn users repeatedly.
  6. Rule 3(5), which will introduce a “traceability requirement”.

Background

  1. These changes will push back the regulation and legal architecture a full circle, from where it had been nudged after the Supreme Court ruled in the Shreya Singhal case in 2015.
  2. The landmark ruling on March 24, 2015, struck down Section 66A of the IT Act, which allowed the arrest of those allegedly posting offensive content online.

What do these rules imply?

  1. The proposed changes would mean that social media platforms with more than “50 lakh users” would be liable to help the government “within 72 hours” of a query.
  2. They would be expected to appoint a nodal person of contact for 24X7 coordination with law enforcement agencies and officers to ensure compliance.
  3. The draft amendments envisage that online platforms will keep a record of “unlawful activity” for a period of “180 days”, double the 90 days in the older version.

Why such move?

  1. The government is keen to be acting before the general elections on the proliferation of social media and its connection to mob violence seen in the recent past.
  2. The govt. is contemplating pro-active censorship and breaking encryption with traceability .
Nov, 09, 2018

BBC launches fake news fight-back with global campaign

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Role of media & social networking sites in internal security challenges

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Beyond Fake News Project

Mains level: Menace of fake news in India and measures to curb it


News

Beyond Fake News Project

  1. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has devised a new campaign that is aimed at fighting back against disinformation and fake news.
  2. It lays a major focus on global media literacy, including workshops and debates in countries like India.
  3. In 2018 BBC has pledged that the World Service Group would move beyond just talking about the global ‘fake news’ threat, and take concrete steps to address it.
  4. The most highlighted initiatives under the Project includes:
  • In-depth research of Funding
  • Sharing online behaviors,
  • Rolling out media literacy workshops globally
  • BBC Reality Check for upcoming elections

Initiatives for India

  1. The project will include panel debates in India and Kenya, hackathons exploring tech solutions.
  2. It will include a special season of programming across the BBC’s networks in India, Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, the US and Central America.
  3. The Beyond Fake News media literacy programme has already begun delivering workshops in India and Kenya, drawing on work to tackle disinformation in the UK,
  4. Digital literacy workshops have also been delivered to schools across these countries.

Research on Disinformation

  1. The BBC has also conducted wide-ranging research into how and why disinformation is shared after users gave its researchers unprecedented access to their encrypted messaging apps in India, Kenya, and Nigeria.
  2. The complete findings of the research will be made public next week to coincide with the launch of the Beyond Fake News Season.
  3. The season will include ‘Fake Me’, a documentary revealing how far young people will go in pursuit of social media perfection.
  4. There will also be reports on how Facebook is being exploited in the Philippines to spread false information.
Oct, 19, 2018

Data localisation: why, why not

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media & social networking sites in internal security challenges

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Data Mirroring and Localisation, BN Srikrishna Committee

Mains level: Rising cyber crimes and the role data protection bill would play in reducing them.


News

RBI pushes for Data Localisation

  1. The world weighs free global data flow against national security.
  2. Companies around the world rushed to try and meet a RBI-mandated deadline to store Indian users financial data in India, reigniting conversation about data localisation.
  3. The Govt. of India has firmed up its stance on storing data of Indian users in the country, to the discontent of international players and the delight of domestic ones.
  4. This wave again is the latest digital battleground of ongoing power wars between government and industry.

Data Localisation

  1. It is a concept that the personal data of a country’s residents should be processed and stored in that country.
  2. Some directives may restrict flow entirely, while others more leniently allow for conditional data sharing or data mirroring – in which only a copy has to be stored in the country.
  3. As of now, much of cross-border data transfer is governed by individual bilateral “mutual legal assistance treaties” (MLATs).

Why is the issue again in focus?

  1. In early April, the RBI issued a circular mandating that payment data be stored only in India by October 15.
  2. This covered everyone every global payments & technology companies and various domestic & foreign prepaid payment instruments (PPIs).
  3. RBI has not instituted any fines for those who have missed the deadline but is seeking schedules of pending data transfers to India.

Draft Law on Data Protection

  1. In July 2018, a data protection draft law by a committee headed by retired Justice B N Srikrishna recommended for a copy of personal data of Indians to be in India (data mirroring).
  2. A subset of that data, labelled critical personal data, must be stored and processed only in India.
  3. The draft E-com policy recommended localisation for community data and data generated by users in India from various sources including e-commerce platforms, social media and search engines.
  4. It also discussed strategies to incentivise domestic data storage in India through facilitating data infrastructure.
  5. There could be, say a 2-year, sunset period for industry to adjust before localisation becomes mandatory a/c to the report.

Why need Data Localisation?

  1. A common argument by officials is that localisation will help Indian law enforcement access user data.
  2. Proponents also highlight the security against foreign attacks and surveillance.
  3. An RBI circular ruled that to ensure better monitoring, it is important to have supervisory access to data stored with these system providers.
  4. This especially gained prominence when incidences of lynchings across the country were linked to WhatsApp rumours whose stance on encrypted content frustrated government officials.
  5. Concerns also arose when Facebook declared that its Cambridge Analytica controversy had affected Indian users as well.

Data is the new Oil

  1. In the home of the largest open Internet market in the world, companies like PhonePe claim that national wealth creation relies on in-house data storage.
  2. The e-commerce policy took on a similar stance, championing domestic innovation, and the data protection report also mentioned harnessing India’s digital economy.

Arguments in Favor

  1. Along with government support, most domestic-born technology companies (which tend to have heavy foreign investments) support data localisation.
  2. Most of these firms store their data exclusively in India.
  3. Some Indian companies have strongly argued that data regulation for privacy and security will have little teeth without localisation, citing models in China and Russia.
  4. These domestic companies are rivals of many big US giants and condemn the large tax differences between international companies operating in India and those with a permanent establishment in the country.
  5. Many argue that localisation would lead to a larger presence in India overall, such as local offices, and increase tax liability and open more jobs.

Argument against data localisation

  1. Industry bodies, especially those with significant ties to the US, have slung heavy backlash.
  2. Many are concerned about a Fractured Internet (simply put servers go offline and out of access) due to uncertain protectionist policies.
  3. Much of this sentiment hampers to the values of a globalised, competitive internet marketplace, where costs and speeds determine information flows, rather than nationalistic borders.
  4. Opponents say that this, in turn, may backfire on India’s own young start-ups that are attempting global growth, or on larger firms that process foreign data in India.
  5. Critics caution against state misuse and surveillance of personal data.
  6. They also argue that security and government access is not achieved by localisation.
  7. Even if the data is stored in the country, the encryption may still remain out of the reach of national agencies due to company’s privacy concerns.

Crimes across the globe not covered

  1. The draft bill mandates local storage of data relating to Indian citizens only
  2. Localisation can provide data only for crimes that have been committed in India, where both the perpetrator and victim are situated in India
  3. Prevalent concerns around transnational terrorism, cyber crimes and money laundering will often involve individuals and accounts that are not Indian, and therefore will not be stored in India
  4. For investigations into such crimes, Indian law enforcement will have to continue relying on cooperative models

Global Scenario

  1. India’s major partner, US leave regulation up to the state and sector.
  2. US also signed the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act (CLOUD Act) which established data sharing with certain countries.
  3. China mandates localisation for all “important data” held by “critical information infrastructure” and any cross border personal data transfer must undergo a security assessment.
  4. Russia also has the most restrictive regulation for data flow with strict localisation and high penalties.
  5. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) does not mandate all data to be localised, but rather restricts flow to countries with a strong data protection framework.

Way Forward

  1. The CLOUD Act seeks to ease control over data from U.S. authorities.
  2. The law will for the first time allow tech companies to share data directly with certain foreign governments.
  3. This provides India the data not just for crimes committed within their borders but also for transnational crimes involving their national interests.
  4. A fundamental error that the Srikrishna Committee seems to have made is in its belief that the location of data should determine who has access to it.
  5. This scenario will hardly improve even after technology companies relocate Indian data to India.
Aug, 30, 2018

Anti-lynching measures: social media sites to be held responsible

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of the vulnerable sections.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Read the attached story

Mains level: Anti-lynching law –need, challenges


News

Context

  1. A panel headed by Union Home Secretary deliberated on measures to check incidents of lynching, submitted its report.
  2. From May-June, more than 20 people were lynched based on fake posts or rumors floating on various social media platforms.
  3. The panel have come to the conclusion that social media platforms  needed to act in a time bound manner.

Action for non-compliance

  1. Most social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and Twitter would be made accountable for not blocking such malicious posts/videos when brought to their notice.
  2. FIR could be lodged against their country heads” for non-compliance of government orders and they could be prosecuted under law.

Talks with stakeholders

  1. Govt have stepped up engagement with social media platforms.
  2. There is a provision in law which enables government to issue orders to remove objectionable content, block websites etc.
  3. Law enforcement agencies are to step up the act and monitor more proactively.
  4. The social media platforms were given a report showing their compliance with the various government orders.

Other Initiatives

  1. The Ministry has created a portal where people can report such videos and content and that can be forwarded by the NCRB (the nodal body) to States concerned for appropriate action.
  2. Earlier the Home Ministry issued advisories to States and Union Territories following Supreme Court’s directives to check incidents of lynching.
  3. The Centre asked states to appoint an officer in each district at the level of Superintendent of Police, set up a special task force to gather intelligence, and closely monitor social media contents to prevent mob attacks on suspicion of being child-lifters or cattle smugglers.
Jul, 10, 2018

[op-ed snap] Regulating fake news in India is tough

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media & social networking sites in internal security challenges

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Read the attached story


Context

 

  1. The proliferation of technology, cheap smartphones, and reasonable data rates has enabled the democratization of online content.
  2. The flip side is that the speed of content distribution has made traditional journalistic controls of verification unfeasible.
  3. Thus, the unfettered flow of speech has become vulnerable to the boom of unverified information.
  4. Recent incidents in India are indicative of potential harm, ranging from political misinformation to a spate of lynching.

FAKE NEWS- a vogue term

  1. As the incident of withdrawal of the fake news circular indicates, the free speech implications at hand demand a cautionary approach. A preliminary issue is a difficulty in defining fake news.
  2. While misinformation spread through social media has captured public attention, the fake news itself is an amorphous category, including –
  • misleading news,
  • unverified content,
  • hoaxes, and
  • fabricated pictures in the nature of internet memes.
  1. The assessment may involve distinguishing mere poor journalism from deliberate attempts to spread misinformation.
  2. Any top-down regulation that defines fake news simply as containing falsehood may be setting itself up for failure.

What defines the boundary of a news?

  1. It is easy for such regulation to fall into the trap of assuming the existence of a single and verifiable version of the truth.
  2. Apart from cases of patent and absolute falsehood, the line between truth and untruth may be difficult to draw.
  3. The news is generally a mix of facts and opinions that are not amenable to neat segregation.

Pre-Censorship is Impossible

  1. Pre-censorship of news and information, while being virtually impossible due to the speed of content creation, will also violate the guarantee of free speech under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
  2. On the one hand, such legislation could divest individuals of autonomy.
  3. On the other, it could bolster the power of the government to censor opinions it is uncomfortable with.
  4. Any screening in the context of social media applications such as WhatsApp could also violate the fundamental right to privacy recognized by the Supreme Court.

Self- Censorship can work

  1. A cautionary approach warrants avoiding overarching regulation in the form of anti-fake news legislation, irrespective of the benignity of its motivations.
  2. Entrusting a judge, the state or companies like Facebook with the task of making an evaluation of veracity will facilitate judicial, government or private censorship.
  3. This can breed a chilling effect and self-censorship.

A decentralized three-point agenda to address the fake news

Implementation of the above three prongs will not only be a sustainable response to the fake news but will also strike the necessary balance with free speech considerations.

  • To ensure critical media literacy, with critical digital literacy as a component.
  1. This would focus on encouraging individuals to learn the skills required to navigate the internet and question the content they are exposed to.
  2. Users should understand the limitations of digital media.
  3. Full Fact and Facebook’s toolkit offer useful suggestions about this. Design changes to social media platforms that flag content can also be incorporated.
  • To nurture a general culture of scepticism among citizens towards information
  1. Good practices, such as verifying the source of the news and corroboration with related news, ought to be advanced in schools and through public education campaigns.
  2. The role of the district administration and local community leaders is key in this regard.
  3. Heartening examples such as the Satyameva Jayate programme in Kannur schools and initiatives by the superintendent of police in Gadwal demonstrate the potential of such an approach.
  • Limited Legal Interventions can be explored
  1. In a limited set of situations, such as when there is threat to life or national security, targeted and proportionate legal interventions can be explored.
  2. They should account for existing speech offences to avoid overlap.
  3. Despite their own flaws, existing provisions on hate speech, sedition and defamation already deal with certain kinds of harm that may be substantially similar to those posed by fake news.
Jul, 04, 2018

[op-ed snap] Why rumours love WhatsApp

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media & social networking sites in internal security challenges

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of messaging technology, Metadata, Verificado

Mains level: The long-standing debate of Social Media being a boon or a bane


Context

Mob lynchings & role of social media

  1. It was social media that spread most of the rumours leading to a recent spate of lynchings in various parts of the country
  2. All social media platforms struggle with rumours and misinformation. These are spread through posts as well as direct messages
  3. Of all social media platforms, WhatsApp is proving the most challenging for investigators trying to track the source of such rumours and formulate a response

Why are messages difficult to track?

  1. Messaging services by nature do not leave a trail for specific messages
  2. It is very difficult to track where a message originated if has been forwarded many times
  3. With most of these services, the information is with the parent server and police can request the company for access to information, such as IP address, for investigation
  4. With WhatsApp, it is more complex. Everything on the platform is encrypted end-to-end at the device level — all data is stored on the device and not on servers
  5. WhatsApp does not know what is being discussed

Use of metadata

  1. Metadata is defined as data about other data and includes information such as username, device info and log-in time
  2. Each file has a certain amount of metadata, which is embedded when the file is created
  3. WhatsApp removes this, too, when it compresses a video or photo. This is called stripping
  4. Due to the stripping of metadata, it is next to impossible to identify the source on WhatsApp

What is Whatsapp’s approach to stopping this menace?

  1. WhatsApp is working on a mix of in-platform fixes and off-platform intervention
  2. Within the platform it is offering more control for group administrators, flagging forwarded content and offering resources like fact-checking websites for verifying the content
  3. Off-platform, it is expected to initiate measures to educate people about the perils of misinformation and ways to identify them
  4. A new app update allows administrators to choose a setting that only gives the administrators permission to publish in a specific group

International response

  1. WhatsApp was disrupted in 12 of 65 countries — Turkey, Zimbabwe, Azerbaijan, Qatar, UAE, Bangladesh, China, Morroco, Egypt, China, Saudi Arabia — in 2016 and 2017
  2. Uganda has introduced a social media tax to check online gossip, among other objectives, and recently it made social media inaccessible to those who have not paid the tax
  3. In Mexico, private groups collaborated to set up Verificado 2018, a fact-checking initiative, that tries to intervene in the spread of fake news on WhatsApp, particularly during the recent elections
Mar, 20, 2018

Centre plans law on online hate speech

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of these vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Law Commission, Section 66A of IT Act, 267th report of the Law Commission, Bezbaruah Committee

Mains level: Ill effects of social media


News

A distinct law for online “hate speech”

  1. The Home Ministry has written to the Law Commission to prepare a draft law for framing a distinct law for online hate speech
  2. The provisions will deal with offensive messages sent through social media and online messaging applications

Why this move?

  1. The decision came after a committee headed by former Lok Sabha Secretary General T.K. Viswanathan submitted a report recommending stricter laws to curb online hate speech
  2. The panel was formed after Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, was scrapped by the Supreme Court in 2015
  3. The scrapped provision provided punishment for sending offensive messages through communication services
  4. The 267th report of the Law Commission had recommended inserting additional provisions in Sections 153 & 505 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)

Proposed amendment

  1. The proposed 153 C (b) IPC —‘incitement to hatred,’ recommended that the crime be punishable by two years imprisonment and ₹5,000 fine or both
  2. The proposed amendment section 153 C IPC (promoting or attempting to promote acts prejudicial to human dignity) would be punishable by five years and fine or both
  3. Section 509 A IPC (word, gesture or act intended to insult member of a particular race) would be punishable by three years or fine or both

Bezbaruah Committee

  1. The Bezbaruah Committee was constituted by the Centre in February 2014 in the wake of a series of racial attacks on persons belonging to the northeast
  2. The committee had proposed to insert two stricter anti-racial discrimination provisions in the IPC
  3. Only four States Manipur, Meghalaya and Mizoram, Uttar Pradesh and three union territories — Andaman and Nicobar, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Lakshwadeep agreed to the Centre’s proposal

Back2Basics

Law Commission of India

  1. Law Commission of India is an executive body established by an order of the Government of India
  2. Its major function is to work for legal reform
  3. Its membership primarily comprises legal experts, who are entrusted a mandate by the Government
  4. The terms of reference of the Law Commission include the review and repeal of obsolete laws, the examination of existing laws & the revision of central Acts of general importance
  5. The Commission is established for a fixed tenure and works as an advisory body to the Ministry of Law and Justice
  6. The first Law Commission was established during the British Raj era in 1834 by the Charter Act of 1833
Oct, 06, 2017

Change Law to Punish Hate Speech, Online Hatred: Panel

source:

Note4students:

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


News

Context

  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.

Back2basics

  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.

 

Jun, 09, 2016

Social media details not compulsory: EC

  1. Context: EC stated that there is no need to give social media details of candidate in main form
  2. But a candidate should be directed to give such details on a plain paper
  3. Form 26: Form to be submitted by candidates contesting elections to both Houses of Parliament and State Assemblies
Jun, 04, 2016

An app to get the voice of citizens out

  1. Context: A smart city app launched by Karnataka Govt
  2. Use: It will enable every citizen to get across any civic-related issue as well as any crime to the correct authority
  3. Will integrate the data from social media, its municipal corporation and the crime records bureau
  4. Will cover 5 broad subjects including emergency, garbage, civic violations, traffic and disaster and 11 sub subjects
May, 14, 2016

It is a netizens’ election, says study

  1. Context: Social Media Impact on the Kerala & Tamil Nadu Elections, 2016, a report by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI)
  2. Findings: Assembly poles of Kerala and Tamil Nadu may be influenced by social media
  3. Sources which affect: 92% of social users of Tamil Nadu follow election on social channel
  4. Kerala: TV and print media continue as the most trusted media sources for election-related content
Apr, 07, 2016

FB, Twitter, Google asked to set up India servers

  1. News: The Ministry Home Affairs had requested Internet companies like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Google to maintain servers in India
  2. Reason: Govt is facing problems in getting real time information about frivolous accounts
  3. Purpose: This will help get real time information about accounts, which spread mischievous and incendiary messages
Dec, 05, 2015

NDRF uses social media to reach out to people in distress

Is responding to all SOS tweets, emails, or Whatsapp messages to assure those in trouble that help will arrive soon.

  1. National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams are actively involved in tackling the situation arising out of incessant rains in Puducherry and Tamil Nadu over the past few days.
  2. A small office desk at the NDRF headquarters in New Delhi has picked up over 1,000 strands of vital information on social media and internet.
  3. The IT wing of the force, which is being manned round-the-clock by over a dozen NDRF personnel, is posting assurances to every SoS call made online.
Apr, 03, 2015

Over-the-top (OTT) applications & new challenges

  1. OTT refers to delivery of instant messaging, video, audio and other media over an open Internet connection directly to user.
  2. TRAI is seeking comments on a Regulatory Framework paper on OTT.
  3. OTT like Whatsapp, Hike etc. impacted the revenues of telecom companies who actually provide platform to them.
  4. Most OTT works on clouds which are vulnerable. Risk of hacking of personal information is very high.
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