A petition filed by BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay in the Supreme Court on Wednesday (March 4) sought to identify and deactivate fake social media accounts which claimed to promote communalism, radicalism, separatism and many others, and turned out to be one of the main reasons behind the recent violence in Delhi.
The special leave petition (SPL) had challenged a Delhi High Court order issued in December 2019, seeking linking social media accounts with proper proof for identity.
However, the Delhi Court had dismissed the petition at that time by noting that, to do a small good by weeding out fake, ghost or duplicate accounts, the majority of genuine account holders’ data will be at risk.
The petition observed that the High Court failed to note that there around 35 million Twitter handles and 350 million Facebook accounts in India in total.
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According to experts, around 10 per cent of them are duplicate, bogus or fake.
The petition also said the court also failed to observe that there are hundreds of fake Twitter handles and bogus Facebook accounts in the name of eminent leaders and high dignitaries including the President of India, Vice President of India, Prime Ministers of India, Chief Ministers, Cabinet Ministers, Chief Justice of India, judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts, and so on.
“These fake Twitter and Facebook accounts use real photos of eminent people and therefore, the common man relies upon the messages published from these Twitter and Facebook accounts,” the plea said.
“The court also failed to note that fake news is the root cause of many riots including the recent riots in Delhi. Fake accounts are used to promote casteism, communalism, regionalism, linguism, radicalism, and separatism, which endangers fraternity unity and national integration,” it added.
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The petition said that the right to know is an integral part of Article 19 and exposure to accurate information is a necessity for electors to make an informed choice, but, fake news has a tendency to influence this choice in a negative manner.
“Publication of fake news involves the use of black money, under-reporting of election expenses and indulging in other kinds of malpractices. The influence of black money also has the potential to result in an imbalanced election between people of different financial statures,” the plea said.
It added that in order to have free and fair elections, which is a basic dictum of democracy, the level playing field is paramount and this cannot be achieved without weeding out fake social media accounts.
(With inputs from agencies)