Expressing concern over the dissemination of news with communal tone by a section of media, including web portals, the Supreme Court on Thursday said that social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are being misused to tarnish the image of institutions and judges due to the absence of regulatory mechanism. It also said that if this goes on unchecked, it would bring a bad name to the country.
A bench led by Chief Justice N V Ramana said the social media companies, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, never respond to them and there was no control over fake news and slandering in web portals and YouTube channels. “They write (host) anything against judges, institutions without accountability. They only worry about powerful men and not judges, institutions or common people,” the CJI said.
“If you go to YouTube, you will find how fake news is being freely circulated and anyone can start a channel on YouTube,” the bench, also comprising CJI, and Justices Surya Kant and A S Bopanna said.
“What is shown in a section of private media bears a communal tone. Ultimately, this country is going to get a bad name. Did you ever attempt to regulate these private channels,” the bench asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who replied saying “not only communal but planted stories. These portals even put fake news”.
The SG told the judges that the Central government has brought in Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, which provided a redressal mechanism and timely resolution of grievances of users of social media and Over-The-Top platforms. The rules also mandated the social media companies to appoint an Indian resident as grievance redressal officer.
“The real contest is between the freedom of the press and the right of citizens to get unadulterated news. We have tried to regulate and balance,” the SG argued, adding that the SC can take a holistic view on the rules on the government’s plea seeking transfer of petition against new IT rules pending before different high courts.
These remarks came while hearing a plea by Jamiat Ulema-E-Hind against demonising Tablighi Jamaat members, who participated in Nizamuddin Markaz here in March 2020, in a section of media during the first wave of Covid-19 pandemic.
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