Laws against spreading fake news

Fake News

Author’s note

Tik-Tok, Youtube, WhatsApp, Facebook or Instagram – fake news and rumors find their place everywhere.

Do you know the punishment for spreading fake news, rumors, and hate speeches online?

Table of contents

  1. Why do people spread fake news?
  2. Examples of rumors in India
  3. How illegal is it to spread fake news?
  4. Conclusion

Why do people spread fake news?

In India, fake news is often circulated to spread political or communal propaganda.

People spreading these viral videos or fake information most of the time intend to shape public opinion against or for a particular group.

Another reason why false information is passed on is that people do not read up about an issue entirely and believe everything that confirms what they already believe. They forward the same misinformation to others without verifying it.

Examples of rumors in India

The popular news about Google Maps removing the LoC boundary between India and Pakistan is all fake. According to the Washington Post, Google has just changed the symbol. Now the disputed boundary is represented by a dashed gray line.[1]

The Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013 also began with a fake video spread across by a member of the legislative assembly who belonged to the then opposition and now ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).[2]

How illegal is it to spread fake news?

The spread of fake news has always been a problem but in times when the population is at their edge and important announcements almost on a daily basis, it becomes especially necessary as to what law has to state in this matter.

Here are certain laws concerning directly with fake news:

Statements conducing public mischief

Section 505(1) of the Indian Penal Code states that whoever makes, publishes or even circulates any information, report or rumor with an intention to cause fear or disquiet among the public or incite feelings of hatred among a class or community will be imprisoned for a term of three years and five years respectively, with fine.

However, the element of intention is very important here. This means whoever, circulate, publishes or makes such news in good faith and with no intentions mentioned before will not be charged under this section.

Intentionally provoking with intent to cause a riot

According to Section 153 of the Indian Penal Code, whoever maliciously or wantonly provokes the public, with the intention that provocation will lead to riots will be imprisoned for a term of 1 year or fine or both, if rioting is committed. If not, then the term of imprisonment will reduce to 6 months or fine or both.

Promoting enmity between classes

Section 153(1)(a) of the Indian Penal Code states that whoever, by means of words, either spoken or written or interpreted by means of visible representation, intends to incite feelings of hatred, enmity or disharmony among different groups of people, will be punished under this section.

Maliciously insulting the religion or the religious beliefs of any class

In Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code, anyone who deliberately and with malicious intentions try to insult a particular religion or religious beliefs, outraging religious feelings of any class, through words, spoken or written or by means of visible representation, will be punished with imprisonment which can extend to 4 years or fine or both.

Punishment for false warnings

Section 54 of The Disaster Management Act deals with the punishment for false warnings. A person who makes or spreads a warning or a false alarm regarding a disaster or its severity leading to panic, on conviction, will be punished for imprisonment of one year or fine.

It is interesting to note here, that the element of intention is not at all given any mention.

Conclusion

The issue of fake news is being dealt with by various Indian laws. There are provisions in place to punish the person spreading such news.

So, the next time you receive a WhatsApp forward with any piece of information, make sure you read up about it and verify it and most importantly do not unnecessarily click on the ‘forward’ button as it has serious consequences.

  1. Greg Bensinger, Google redraws the borders on maps depending on who’s looking, The Washington Post, (February 14, 2020, 5:30 PM).

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/02/14/google-maps-political-borders/

  2. Alisha Sachdev, How Fake News Spreads in India,The Diplomat, (April 09, 2018).

    https://thediplomat.com/2018/04/how-fake-news-spreads-in-india/

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