Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

Trolling in IndiaIOCR


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Abuse of women on social media and its implications


The Amnesty International India has released a report titled “Troll Patrol India: Exposing Online Abuse Faced by Women Politicians in India”. The report analysed more than 114,000 tweets sent to 95 women politicians in the three months during and after last year’s general elections in India.

Highlights of the report

  • The research found that women are targeted with abuse online not just for their opinions – but also for various identities, such as gender, religion, caste, and marital status.
  • Indian women politicians face substantially higher abuse on Twitter than their counterparts in the U.S. and the U.K.
  • Around 13.8% of the tweets in the study were either “problematic” or “abusive”.
  • Problematic content was defined as tweets that contain hurtful or hostile content, especially if repeated to an individual on multiple occasions, but do not necessarily meet the threshold of abuse.
  • While all women are targeted, Muslim women politicians faced 55% more abuse than others.
  • Women from marginalized castes, unmarried women, and those from non-ruling parties faced a disproportionate share of abuse.

A matter of concern

  • Abusive tweets had content that promote violence against or threaten people based on their race, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, religious affiliation, age, disability or other categories.
  • They include death threats and rape threats.
  • Problematic tweets contained hurtful or hostile content, often repeated, which could reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes, although they did not meet the threshold of abuse.
Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

[op-ed snap] Keys to kingdomop-ed snap


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Social media - security vs regulation


In the Supreme Court, a matter related to communication platforms is being debated. 


  • The matter was originally a plea for regulatory parity between internet telephony platforms and OTT communications providers like WhatsApp.
  • It has turned into a question of national security and the threat to democracy posed by social media platforms.

Social media – security issues 

  • The government’s anxieties about social media date back at least to 2016, when there was a mass exodus of workers from the Northeast from Bengaluru panicked by rumours. 
  • Recently, fake news and lynchings across the country has intensified public fears.
  • Government has told the court that the internet is “a potent tool to cause unimaginable disruption to the democratic polity,” and will publish rules for its regulation in three months.


  • It was seen as the democratic force-multiplier of Arab Spring.
  • It has become a foe of democracy — even in the US, where the attorney general has requested Facebook not to deploy software which makes interception impossible.

Issues out of the debate – Technical Issue and Political

  • This turns the spotlight to the two issues, technical and political. 
  • Technically, it would mean rolling back or compromising end to end encryption, which would affect the data security of everyone, and not only suspects.
  • This would represent a huge step back for privacy as a right. 
  • Dismantling or bypassing encryption could work in a climate of political probity where they limit their attention to legitimate targets only. 
  • But if governments snoop obsessively and take arbitrary action, it becomes a cause of concern.
  • Social media companies have shown a reluctance to police content, and Mark Zuckerberg’s speech at Georgetown University last week spelled it out explicitly. 
  • They have opened the door to governments seeking increased access to private communications, in the interest of public safety — and now of democracy.

Issue with governments 

  • Governments in India have shown themselves to be incompetent and malignant by incarcerating harmless citizens arbitrarily for trivial communications, wilfully misreading satire as sedition and weaponising the law.
  • This has continued even after Section 66A of the Information Technology Act was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, on the ground that it offered too much latitude. 


Governments must demonstrate that they are able guardians of citizens’ data before they demand the security keys.

Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

Online CensorshipIOCR


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Combating misinformation spread on social media

  • Indian legal demands for online content removal are the fourth highest in the world, according to a report.

India on the top

  • For the study, the researchers collated all data to find out which governments censor online content the most and which channels are targeted by each government.
  • India is followed by Russia, Turkey, France, Mexico, Brazil, Germany, Pakistan, the US and the UK in the top 10.
  • India and Russia are well ahead, accounting for 19.86 and 19.75 percent of the overall number of removal requests (390,764), respectively, Bischoff said.
  • While India sent 77,620 content removal requests, Russia sent 77,162 requests during the study period.
  • However, these two countries do not always dominate the top spots across all channels.

Why censorship in India?

  • The findings come at a time when India is trying to find ways to fight misinformation spread on social media.
  • According to Twitter records, many content removal demands from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology simply cited a violation of Section 69(A) of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

On the hit list: Social media contents

  • While Facebook received most of the content take down requests from India, Google got it from Russia, Microsoft from China, Twitter from Turkey and Wikimedia from the US.
  • In fact, a vast majority – more than 90 per cent – of India’s government content removal requests went to Facebook, the findings showed.
Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

[pib] “Voluntary Code of Ethics” by Social Media PlatformsPIB


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Regulating role of social media in elections campaigning

  • Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) on behalf of its members has agreed to observe the “Voluntary Code of Ethics” during all future elections including the ongoing State Assembly Elections.
  • IAMAI and social media platforms Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, Google, Sharechat and TikTok had presented and observed this Code during the General Elections to 17thLok Sabha 2019.

Highlighted features of “Voluntary Code of Ethics”

  • Social Media platforms will voluntarily undertake information, education and communication campaigns to build awareness including electoral laws and other related instructions.
  • Social Media platforms have created a high priority dedicated grievance redressal channel for taking expeditions action on the cases  reported by the ECI.
  • Social Media Platforms and ECI have developed a notification  mechanism by this ECI can notify the relevant platforms of potential  violations of Section 126 of the R.P. Act, 1951 and other electoral laws.
  • Platforms will ensure that all political advertisements on their platforms are pre-certified from the Media Certification and Monitoring Committees as per the directions of Hon’ble Supreme Court.
  • Participating platforms are committed to facilitate transparency in   paid political advertisements, including utilising their pre-existing labels/disclosure technology for such advertisements.
Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

[op-ed snap] Peekaboo, guess whoop-ed snap


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Accountability for online abuse


The Supreme Court, responding to a plea by Facebook, has expressed serious concern about the electronic Wild West that internet technology has opened up. It  directed the government to file an affidavit within three weeks outlining a strategy to get social media platforms to share information with law enforcement without compromising the privacy of citizens.

What the court said

  • It asked why citizens must suffer being trolled and maligned with the impunity conferred by anonymity, and without hope of easy legal remedy.

What are the problems in handling the issue

  • The society has become eager to both give and take offence.

  • There are countervailing claims of different rights.

  • None of the stakeholders involved have practised fully ethical practices.

  • The government itself permits the rampant misuse and abuse of the law against citizens who speak out online.

  • Even after the offensive Section 66A of the Information Technology Act was struck down as unconstitutional in 2015, the harassment of citizens involved in opinionating, advocacy or discussion has continued, without the government requiring application of mind from the police.

  • Some governments have stooped to using the instrument directly against their own people.

  • Supreme Court ruling in Shreya Singhal vs Union of India said that “It is clear that Section 66A arbitrarily, excessively and disproportionately invades the right of free speech and upsets the balance between such right and the reasonable restrictions.” In the judges’ view, Section 66A suffered from the deficit of “vagueness”, encouraging arbitrariness.

  • The guidelines which the government is required to produce may be as arbitrary in practice, because perceptions of right and wrong are socially determined, rather than legally.

  • The social media platforms which would follow these guidelines have not consistently been ideal guardians of the balance between privacy and accountability.

  • Facebook is still firefighting the Cambridge Analytica scandal and allegations of letting its platform be used to influence the US elections and Brexit. And troll-teeming Twitter is permanently beleaguered by allegations of unresponsiveness to complaints of abuse.

Way ahead

  • Clarity concerning guidelines would remove the arbitrariness with which action has been sought and draconian curbs applied.

  • Caution is required since the imperative of public order and safety is often used to justify innovations that are revealed to be intrusive or coercive.


The court, has, over the years has expanded the contours of free speech. It may finally rely on existing laws and processes. If applied prudently and morally, they should suffice the purpose.

Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

[oped of the day] Shaking the foundation of fake newsop-ed snap


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : The issue of Fake News and handling it

Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. This will cover a key issue that came in the news and for which students must pay attention. This will also take care of certain key issues students have to cover in respective GS papers.


Combating fake news is a growing preoccupation with the technology platforms, the political class, the news media. 

Fake News

  • Fake news is not a new phenomenon linked to the rise of social media.
  • Governments and political actors have always invested in disinformation campaigns to build narratives of their choice. 
  • Institutional news media is no longer seen as an arbitrator of the ‘real news’. It lost credibility due to complicit and motivated reporting. 
  • The advent of social media has decentralised the creation and propagation of fake news. 
  • This has led to the difficulty in controlling/eliminating fake news.

Response to fake news

  • The current response to fake news primarily revolves around three prongs
    • Rebuttal
    • Removal of the fake news item
    • Educating the public. 
  • They are not sufficient in themselves to address the larger ‘political’ problem posed by fake news.

Rebuttal and removal

  • A rebuttal is a form of fact-checking wherein the fake news is debunked by pointing out errors like mismatch, malicious editing and misattribution. 
  • If the fake news item appears on institutional handles, attempts are made to have it removed after rebuttal. 
  • There is pressure on companies like Facebook and YouTube to proactively remove fake news from their platforms and rework their algorithms to ensure that such content does not gain prominence. 
  • The newly introduced limits on forwarding messages on WhatsApp are due to this discourse. 


  • This encourages educating the end-users to be more discerning consumers of news.
  • It informs them of verification tools so that they can ascertain the accuracy of a news item before sharing it.
  • Another emerging strand is tracking the ‘source’ of fake news to address the issue at its root. 

Challenges in the approaches

  • Along with de-anonymising all social media accounts it will rise serious issues concerning the invasion of privacy and free speech.
  • It may be used by governments to quell dissent.
  • Attempting to rebut fake news may be possible to rebut news on one fake instance. But the ‘fake news factory’ will keep churning out similar stories to advance its chosen narrative.
  • It is impossible to completely ‘remove’ fake news even after rebuttal, given the decentralised nature of dissemination. 
  • Propagation and virality of a news item are contingent not on its accuracy but on how well it conforms to the dominant narrative. 
  • The act of ‘rebuttal’, instead of supplanting the original fake news item, could vie for space with the latter. 
  • The average consumer relies on overall narratives to evaluate a piece of information. The increasing complexity of issues and deluge of information has made it impossible for any individual to develop a well-researched stand on all the topics. 
  • When an individual piece of information conforms to someone’s held beliefs, it is readily accepted and shared.
  • Studies have confirmed that people don’t care about finding the ‘truth’ behind a news item and instead look for evidence to support their preferred narrative – confirmation bias. 
  • Therefore, debunking discrete items of fake news without addressing this battle of narratives will have only marginal value. 

Way ahead

  • If we are concerned about the impact of fake news, we must address the underlying narratives, instead of merely trying to rebut individual items. 
  • By addressing the weaknesses that allow the fake news narrative to take root. Eg., the rise of right-wing due to the loss of credibility of the liberal camp.
  • Mobilize public opinion around an alternate narrative that makes the fake news item irrelevant. 
  • Most people cannot hold multiple stories in their head and thus, instead of poking holes in an opponent’s story, it may be more effective to replace it with a different narrative built on facts.
Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

[op-ed snap] Content management: On Aadhaar-social media linkageop-ed snap


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Overreaching effects of Aadhaar


No merit in idea

  • The submissions in the Supreme Court on behalf of the Tamil Nadu government in support of linking social media profiles of registered users with their Aadhaar numbers are not well-founded in the law as it now stands.
  • It is noteworthy that a Bench of the Madras High Court, which is hearing two writ petitions on this matter, did not see merit in the idea.

Aadhaar for social media

  • The court pointed out that Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act has been struck down to the extent that it authorised body corporate and individuals to use the number to establish someone’s identity.
  • The petitioners had approached the Court with such a prayer on the ground that many people got away with inflammatory posts on social media because of the lack of traceability.
  • The Bench has since then expanded the writ petitions’ scope to examine the adequacy of the legal framework on cybercrimes and the responsibilities of intermediaries who provide telecommunication and online services.

Tracing offensive messages

  • The State government is batting for better assistance from intermediaries and social media companies to trace offending messages.
  • While the Supreme Court will decide the question of transferring these cases to itself, the Madras High Court will continue its hearing.

The policy confusion

  • The Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology notified new draft rules for intermediaries last year and called for public comments.
  • One of the changes proposed is that intermediaries should help identify originators of offensive content.
  • This has created some understandable misgivings at a time when there is widespread suspicion about online surveillance.
  • Technology companies that use end-to-end encryption have pleaded inability to open a back door for identifying originators.
  • The issue concerns the global policy of these companies as well as the wider public interest of millions of registered users.


  • After the K.S. Puttaswamy decision (2017) in the ‘privacy’ case, any state intervention in the regulation of online content has to pass the test of proportionality laid down by the court.
  • It will be desirable if courts do not impart needless urgency to the process of introducing a balanced regulatory regime to curb content that promotes undesirable activities such as child pornography, sectarian conflict and mob violence, without affecting individual privacy.
  • The balance must be right between protecting privacy and allowing the state leeway to curb crime.
Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

[op-ed snap] Platforms of our ownMains Onlyop-ed snap


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : nothing much

Mains level : India's interest needs to be protected from unwanted social media influence.


Social media platforms allow political parties to reach millions of prospective voters and are therefore an integral part of elections.

Misuse of Social Media

  • However, some authoritarian regimes across the world have used social media to manufacture positive public opinion.
  • Worse, some established democracies have had to deal with propaganda, fake news and foreign interference in domestic elections.
  • These developments point to the capacity of social media platforms to seriously undermine democratic practices worldwide.

Steps after the Cambridge Analytica scandal

  • Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where the company illegally harvested the personal data of millions of Facebook users without their consent and used that to influence their voting preferences, Facebook has been in the forefront in creating various checks and balances in cyberspace to create an environment for free and fair elections.
  • It has created specialised global centres with the sole aim of promoting election integrity.

Use of Artificial Intelligence –

  • As a platform that sees billions of posts each day, Facebook has identified Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AIML)-powered pattern recognition tools to be the most effective line of defence against “unnatural interference”.
  • Whenever accounts are found that are similar to ones flagged in the past, and that are inaccurate, abusive, or violating the platforms’ terms of service, they are systematically removed.
  • At present, AIML tools assist the platform block or remove over a million accounts a day.

Case study of India

According to a recent survey, one in two Indian voters has received some kind of fake news in the month leading to the elections. AIML tools also work to minimise the spread of such disinformation.

Inefficiencies in model with regard to India
  • Some of the actions taken by these platforms, however, have not been that well received, especially by those who say that these platforms should not be deciding what is proper and improper in the Indian online space.
  • For instance, Twitter’s top officials, including global CEO Jack Dorsey, were summoned to appear before the Parliamentary Panel on Information Technology for alleged bias against right-wing voices on the platform.
  • With almost all the popular social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp, being foreign-owned, and with India having neither insights into their internal algorithms and functioning nor any viable homegrown equivalents, its population will always be susceptible to interference beyond its control.

Way Forward

India’s ability to create its own mass collaborative technology and independent institutions with technical expertise that can monitor and counter actions of the government, is paramount in ensuring that social media evolves into an enabler of transparency and democracy, rather than a cause of democratic recession.

Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

India signs ‘Christchurch Call to Action’IOCRPriority 1


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Christchurch Call to Action

Mains level : Regulating role of social media against organized terrorism

  • To combat online extremism, India has decided to sign an international call initiated by the governments of France and New Zealand along with top social media companies after the Christchurch attacks.

Christchurch Call to Action

  • The dissemination of such content online has adverse impacts on the human rights of the victims, on our collective security and on people all over the world was declared by the 17 signatory countries.
  • The Call outlines “collective”, “voluntary” commitments from Governments and online service providers intended to address the issue of terrorist and violent extremist content online.
  • The document highlights, “All action on this issue must be consistent with principles of a free, open and secure internet, without compromising human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression.
  • While the document stresses on the need to ensure that it does not impinge upon the rights of free speech of citizens of any country, the US has decided not to sign the document amid free speech concerns.
  • The meeting held in Paris was attended by representatives of online giants like Microsoft, Google, Twitter, Facebook and Amazon.

The document states that the governments/signatories should commit to:

  • Counter the drivers of terrorism and violent extremism by strengthening the resilience and inclusiveness of societies to enable them to resist terrorist and violent extremist ideologies, including through education, building media literacy to help counter distorted terrorist and violent extremist narratives, and the fight against inequality.
  • Ensure effective enforcement of applicable laws that prohibit the production or dissemination of terrorist and violent extremist content, in a manner consistent with the rule of law and international human rights law, including freedom of expression.
  • Encourage media outlets to apply ethical standards when depicting terrorist events online, to avoid amplifying terrorist and violent extremist content.
  • Support frameworks, such as industry standards, to ensure that reporting on terrorist attacks does not amplify terrorist and violent extremist content, without prejudice to responsible coverage of terrorism and violent extremism.
  • Consider appropriate action to prevent the use of online services to disseminate terrorist and violent extremist content, including through collaborative actions, such as:

The documents draw in the online service providers to commit to:

  • Take transparent, specific measures seeking to prevent the upload of terrorist and violent extremist content and to prevent its dissemination on social media and similar content-sharing services.
  • Provide greater transparency in the setting of community standards or terms of service, including by:
  • Outlining and publishing the consequences of sharing terrorist and violent extremist content;
  • Describing policies and putting in place procedures for detecting and removing terrorist and violent extremist content.

With inputs from:

India Today

Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

Social media platforms present voluntary ‘code of ethics’Priority 1

Image Source


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 manipulating election campaigning


  • Social media platforms and the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) have presented a ‘Voluntary Code of Ethics for the General Election 2019’ to the Election Commission.

About the Code

  • This code will become effective and will enter into force on March 20, 2019 and would remain operational during the election.
  • The code’s purpose is to identify measures that the platforms can take to increase confidence in the electoral process.
  • It is also to safeguard against misuse that vitiates the “free and fair character” of the Lok Sabha polls.
  • According to the code, the platforms will endeavour to where appropriate and keeping in mind the principle of freedom of expression,” deploy appropriate policies and processes to facilitate access to information on electoral matters.
  • The platforms will also ensure that political advertisements by parties or their candidates are pre-certified.
  • Campaigns will be organised to create awareness, including on electoral laws and other instructions from the EC.

Notification mechanism

  • The platforms and the Commission have developed a notification mechanism by which the electoral body can notify them of potential violations under Section 126 of the RP Act, and on other matters.
  • These valid legal orders will be acknowledged and/or processed within three hours for violations reported under Section 126 as per the Sinha Committee recommendations (for last 48hrs).
  • All other valid legal requests will be acted upon expeditiously by the participants, based on the nature of reported violation.
  • A high-priority dedicated reporting mechanism is being created for the EC and dedicated persons appointed for the purpose.
Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

[op-ed snap] Foreign hand returnsop-ed snap


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



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.


Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

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


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


  • 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.


  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
Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

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


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


  • 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.
Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

Govt moves to access and trace all ‘unlawful’ content onlinePriority 1


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


  • 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”.


  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 .
Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

BBC launches fake news fight-back with global campaignIOCR


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


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.
Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

Data localisation: why, why notPriority 1


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.


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.
Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

Anti-lynching measures: social media sites to be held responsiblePriority 1


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



  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.
Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

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


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



  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.
Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

[op-ed snap] Why rumours love WhatsAppPriority 1


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


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
Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

Centre plans law on online hate speech


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

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


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
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.


Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

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
Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

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
Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

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
Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

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
Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

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.
Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

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.

The term social media is being used quite often by everyone and has become a popular topic of conversation, debates and controversies.

“The social networking phenomenon continues to gain steam worldwide, and India represents one of the fastest growing markets at the moment”.

This reflects the emergence of social media in India in upcoming time…so here is presenting a brief article on social media: prospects and challenges.

  • Introduction
  • What is social media?
  • Types of social media
  • Implications and uses
  • Challenges before social media
  • Prospects of social media in India
  • Concerns about privacy
  • Way ahead


  • Social Media is the latest form of media available to the audience of varied groups. It is a form of electronic communication through which users share information, ideas, personal messages, videos and pictures and other content through it instantly.
  • The major reason behind its popularity is that the users are given a free service to create a virtual social world where they exchange photographs, play games, become friendly, fall in love, split, fight, argue and quarrel at many times without having met physically.
  • But, on the other side it is an encroachment to someone’s privacy which can lead to different type of illegal activities by using the information such as name, location, and email addresses.
  • Social media provides us a platform to express ourselves without any restrictions which is becoming a major challenge as it may infringe the fundamental rights of privacy of a human being.

Various forms of social media

  • Social Networks– Services that allow you to connect with other people of similar interests and background.  Usually they consist of a profile, various ways to interact with other users, ability to set up groups, etc. The most popular are Facebook and Linkedin
  • Bookmarking Sites – Services that allow you to save, organize and manage links to various websites and resources around the internet.  Most allow you to “tag” your links to make them easy to search and share.  The most popular are Delicious and StumbleUpon.
  • Social News– Services that allow people to post various news items or links to outside articles and then allows it’s users to “vote” on the items.  The voting is the core social aspect as the items that get the most votes are displayed the most prominently.  The community decides which news items get seen by more people.  The most popular are Digg and Reddit.
  • Media Sharing– Services that allow you to upload and share various media such as pictures and video.  Most services have additional social features such as profiles, commenting, etc.  The most popular are YouTube and Flickr.
  • Microblogging– Services that focus on short updates that are pushed out to anyone subscribed to receive the updates.  The most popular is Twitter.
  • Blog Comments and Forums – Online forums allow members to hold conversations by posting messages.  Blog comments are similar except they are attached to blogs and usually the discussion centers around the topic of the blog post.  There are many popular blogs and forums like RSS Feeds.

Implications and uses of social media:

  • Social media serve as a superior medium to stay connected with friends and family, to meet new people, and make new friends.
  • It seems to be the most effective form of communication as feedback is instant.
  • It is like a boon to introverts as they find a safer zone to initiate conversations.
  • It is an upcoming media to integrate people and follow the principle of many voices one world.

Effect on Function & Performance of government 

  • Accountability and transparency in Government
  • Various deals, decision by representative are Instantly getting shared on Social media
  • It is helping people decide that what things are actually done by Government
  • It is also causing swift actions by government
  • Making representative more closer through Digital interface
  • Democratising effect

Effect on Governance and Institutions

  • It is providing voice to the people
  • Office delays, and Bureaucratic red tapism, absenteeism has been affected.
  • Recent protest on free speech has also caused judicial activism thus prudent judiciary in even of infringement of rights
  • It also helps political leader during election campaign for propagating manifesto
  • Cost of dissemination of information, expenditure of government has been reduced Vis a Vis to other forms of Information.

Challenges before Social Media:

  • The misuse of one’s personal information, hacking of accounts, morphing of personal photographs, addiction of social networking sites, spam and viruses are most high-flying problems faced due to social media.
  • Some other prospective challenges are illiteracy, reach and accessibility of internet, lack of censorship on social media, need of regulatory body to govern the social media.
  • The most worrying aspect to the social media is the fact that it cannot be controlled and therefore it goes without saying that its consequences can also be dangerous and uncontrollable for all those who use it recklessly and in an irresponsible manner.
  • Frequent networking on sites like Facebook could also generate negative feelings like inadequacy, envy, jealousy or even aggressive behavior.

Concerns about privacy:

  • Most networking sites do not really protect an individual’s privacy. A simple example is that of photos being posted on such sites without taking permission from all the people concerned.
  • There is no authenticity of the data posted nor can everything be taken on its face value.

Prospects of social media in India:

  • There has been a remarkable increase in the internet connectivity in India. There has been successful penetration of personal computers even in the small cities and towns in the country. We all witness the intense mobile penetration in all nooks in India.
  • Seeing the high number of youth in the country who are tech friendly, it can be said that there is a bright prospect of social media in India.

Way ahead:

  • Social media in India has to meet other challenges apart from illiteracy, reach and accessibility that are revenue generation.
  • There has been a rapid increase in social networking sites, microblogging, media sharing and bookmarking sites. India is lucrative market and social media is certainly gaining opportunities to deepen its roots resulting into a strong foothold in India.
  • There is need to regularize the social media. Some agency must be deputed to monitor the anti-social activities taking place on virtual world of social media. Laws relating to cyber crime should be made more stringent. There should be a separate policing department for cyber crimes.
  • There is a need of extensive research study for finding ways to regularize crime against social media.

Social Media, with all its benefits and the potential for more, is definitely a boon, however misuse or irresponsible usage can have negative effects on individuals and society, especially the young impressionable minds. We need to guard against the negative impact of the social media, which ought to be used in the correct manner for creative or productive purposes so that it is progressive to mankind and society at large, rather than regressive.


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