A petition was filed in the Supreme Court on Wednesday seeking directions to remove fake social media accounts claiming that they promote communalism, radicalism, separatism, etc and is one of the root causes of riots and recent Delhi violence. Dozens of people have been killed in the violence, which began just before US President Donald Trump's state visit, and over 200 have been injured.
The special leave petition (SPL), filed by BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay, is challenging a Delhi High Court order dated December 9, 2019, pertaining to linking social media accounts with proper identity proof. Delhi High Court had dismissed the petition observing that to do a small good, by weeding out fake, ghost or duplicate accounts, the majority of genuine account holders data will be at stake.
The petition said that while passing the impugned order the High Court failed to appreciate that presently a total number of Twitter handles in India are around 35 million and the total number of Facebook accounts is 350 million, and according to experts around 10% of them are duplicate, bogus or fake. It said that the court also failed to appreciate that there are hundreds of fake twitter handles and bogus Facebook accounts in the name of eminent peoples and high dignitaries including the President of India, Vice President of India, Prime Minister of India, Chief Ministers, Cabinet Ministers, Chief Justice of India and the Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts, etc.
These fake Twitter and Facebook accounts use real photos of constitutional authorities and eminent citizens and therefore, common man relies upon the messages published from these Twitter and Facebook accounts, the plea said. "The court also failed to appreciate 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.
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 said 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 ANI inputs)