Exponential rise in hate speech, Centre tells SC

The Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court that there had been an “exponential rise in hate speech and fake news” in the past few years and sought three more months to come up with revised rules to prevent such mischief.

If the government affidavit appeared to be a breath of fresh air, the full list of alleged transgressions offered a sneak preview into the inspiration behind the announcement.

Among the listed events that were apparently showing a sharp rise were “anti-national activities, defamatory postings, and other unlawful activities using Internet/Social media platforms”.

The affidavit was filed by Pankaj Kumar, additional secretary in the ministry of information and technology.

The affidavit did not mention that most of the allegations of hate speech and fake news had been levelled at the ecosystem associated with the supporters of the ruling dispensation. A recent instance was a triple murder in Bengal that was misrepresented by some Hindutva groups through inflammatory posts on social media.

On September 24, the top court had asked for a status report within three weeks on guidelines the government has to formulate for striking a balance between state sovereignty and individual privacy.

The court is dealing with a plea Facebook had filed seeking the transfer of a batch of petitions pending in the high courts of Madras, Bombay and Madhya Pradesh. The petitions had sought the linking of Aadhaar or other official identity documents with accounts on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.

On Monday, the Centre said the Internet had become a “potent tool” for disruption.

“If on one hand technology has led to economic growth and societal development, on the other hand, there has been an exponential rise in hate speech, fake news, public order (sic) anti-national activities, defamatory postings, and other unlawful activities using Internet/Social media platforms,” the government said in its affidavit.

As the “Internet has emerged as a potent tool to cause unimaginable disruption to the democratic polity”, the existing rules, the government said, need to be “revised for effective regulation… keeping in view the ever-growing threats to individual rights and (the) nation’s integrity, sovereignty, and security”.

The affidavit is expected to come up for consideration on Tuesday.