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Misinformation: The Evil Eye

Now a days, the world has become easily accessible in one single click. This is because of all the social media platforms made available to us. All these platforms have become so beneficent especially during the outbreak of COVID-19 when we people are not able to step outside our houses due to the lockdown imposed on us for our own safety and these platforms have become the only source of information for us. But the problem starts where these platforms are being used negatively to promote personal agendas

Misinformation is usually mistaken with the word dis-information, both refers to fake and inaccurate information. Misinformation means the unintentional spread of the incorrect facts and figures whereas the latter is the intentional spread of the wrong information.

This openness of social media has led to infodemic of rumours on such platforms. Rumour basically means an unofficial, may or may not be true piece of news that spreads from person to person and these platforms play a crucial role in the spread of such rumours. And if these pieces of misinformation left unchecked can result in serious repercussions.

As of now Indian law does not have as such specific provisions to look after such spread of rumours but we do have few provisions under different statutes for these types of social media rumour spreads.

Following are the various provisions:
  1. Penal code

    • Section 124A: Sedition:
    • Section 295A: Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.
    • Section 503: Criminal intimidation.
    • Section 504: Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace.
    • Section 505: Statements conducing to public mischief.

  2. The Information Technology Act, 2000

    • Section 66D: Punishment for cheating by Personation by using computer resource.
  3. Disaster Management Act, 2005

    • Section 54: Punishment for false warning.

Now I would like to mention few cases in chronological order regarding the spread of misinformation through social media in past few months that has led to grave consequences for individuals and as well as the society as a whole.

Covid-19 Is Not Only Avoidable But Can Be Treated At Home

The people of our country started fighting against each other on the basis of religion from the very day the word about Citizenship Amendment Act got out.

And amidst these Anti-CAA protests people not only used muscle power and ammunitions but also took down to social media to instigate violence by spreading wrong information about the tension and riots in West Delhi.

On 1st March 2020, the misinformation about the shutdown of seven Delhi metro station due to riots and tension in West Delhi took rounds on social media instigating and sustaining the violence.

Later Delhi police took to same social media platforms which were used to create the nuisance and gave the statement that:
There is no truth behind it. All are requested to keep calm as the situation is absolutely normal and peaceful.

Manav Singh Is Not A Rapist

Later around 7th May,2020 this headline took rounds on social media but then it was too late because before this something else has already taken many rounds on social media, that was an account by a girl in which she mentioned an event that allegedly took place in her life two years ago. It was about how she was molested and harassed by a stranger guy who she used to talk with. She in her account mentioned about how he was allegedly going to rape her that day and how she escaped.
But to mention there were no proofs of the same in that account.

As soon as her account got viral on social media Manav started receiving threat calls and messages and was harassed by that girl and her friends and so he tried to defend himself and tell people out there that he is innocent. During all this he realised that no one is going to listen to his side of the story and suddenly had a panic attack due to all this and decided to commit suicide.

People without knowing the truth harassed a guy over an account of a girl that too which happened two years back. This led the guy to commit suicide.

This is how this incident ended up for Manav's family just because of what people did over a rumour spread through social media.

Fake News And The Delhi Riots Over CAA

This is another catchy line made up by our very own public which was circulated the most on WhatsApp text messages. As Coronavirus turns out to be a worldwide health crisis and everyone is forced to stay at home for everyone's safety out there, many people have involved themselves in circulating false messages and information about how one can treat Coronavirus at home by several remedies whereas the truth is one can only avoid getting infected by COVID-19 by taking various precautions but no one can actually treat it by staying at home.

These were several recent cases that took place on social media spreading rumours all over the society.
In the end I would like to conclude by addressing that not only the government but as a general public we all have got a very crucial role in avoiding such rumours from being spread and we can do this by verifying the content and identifying its source.

In all of this Media also has a very important role to play by spreading awareness and help curbing false information.

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