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Election & Voting Processes Stand Threatened By Social Media Manipulation, Says Supreme Court

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
9 July 2021 4:54 AM GMT
Election & Voting Processes Stand Threatened By Social Media Manipulation, Says Supreme Court
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Election and voting processes stand threatened by social media manipulation, the Supreme Court remarked in the judgment delivered on Thursday in Facebook vs. Delhi Assembly case.Entities like Facebook have to remain accountable to those who entrust them with such power. While Facebook has played a crucial role in enabling free speech by providing a voice to the voiceless and a means to...

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Election and voting processes stand threatened by social media manipulation, the Supreme Court remarked in the judgment delivered on Thursday in Facebook vs. Delhi Assembly case.

Entities like Facebook have to remain accountable to those who entrust them with such power. While Facebook has played a crucial role in enabling free speech by providing a voice to the voiceless and a means to escape state censorship, we cannot lose sight of the fact that it has simultaneously become a platform for disruptive messages, voices, and ideologies.", the bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul noted.

To illustrate this, the Court pointed out the 2016 US Presidential elections controversy about supposed interference by Russia allegedly facilitated by platforms like Facebook. 

As a Prolegomenon to the judgment, the bench also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Hrishikesh Roy said that the Facebook is the most popular social media platform in India with about 270 million registered users. The court made the following observations:

Entities like Facebook have to remain accountable to those who entrust them with such power

Such vast powers must necessarily come with responsibility. Entities like Facebook have to remain accountable to those who entrust them with such power. While Facebook has played a crucial role in enabling free speech by providing a voice to the voiceless and a means to escape state censorship, we cannot lose sight of the fact that it has simultaneously become a platform for disruptive messages, voices, and ideologies. The successful functioning of a liberal democracy can only be ensured when citizens are able to make informed decisions. Such decisions have to be made keeping in mind a plurality of perspectives and ideas. The information explosion in the digital age is capable of creating new challenges that are insidiously modulating the debate on issues where opinions can be vastly divided. Thus, while social media, on the one hand, is enhancing equal and open dialogue between citizens and policy makers; on the other hand, it has become a tool in the hands of various interest groups who haveSuch vast powers must necessarily come with responsibility. Entities like Facebook have to remain accountable to those who entrust them with such power.

Facebook has simultaneously become a platform for disruptive messages, voices, and ideologies.

While Facebook has played a crucial role in enabling free speech by providing a voice to the voiceless and a means to escape state censorship, we cannot lose sight of the fact that it has simultaneously become a platform for disruptive messages, voices, and ideologies. The successful functioning of a liberal democracy can only be ensured when citizens are able to make informed decisions. Such decisions have to be made keeping in mind a plurality of perspectives and ideas. The information explosion in the digital age is capable of creating new challenges that are insidiously modulating the debate on issues where opinions can be vastly divided. Thus, while social media, on the one hand, is enhancing equal and open dialogue between citizens and policy makers; on the other hand, it has become a tool in the hands of various interest groups who have recognised its disruptive potential. This results in a paradoxical outcome where extremist views are peddled into the mainstream, thereby spreading misinformation. Established independent democracies are seeing the effect of such ripples across the globe and are concerned. Election and voting processes, the very foundation of a democratic government, stand threatened by social media manipulation. This has given rise to significant debates about the increasing concentration of power in platforms like Facebook, more so as they are said to employ business models that are privacy-intrusive and attention soliciting.The effect on a stable society can be cataclysmic with citizens being 'polarized and parlayzed' by such "debates", dividing the society vertically. Less informed individuals might have a tendency to not verify information sourced from friends, or to treat information received from populist leaders as the gospel truth. 

The court also noted that the countries like Australia, US, the UK, and the EU have made efforts to regulate platforms such as Facebook in an efficient manner b

"...But their efforts are still at a nascent stage as studies are undertaken to understand the dynamism of the platform and its disruptive potential. A recent example has been Australia's effort to formulate a legislation that would require Facebook to pay publishers for using their news stories. The law was seen as a tool to regulate the platform's unchecked influence over political discourse, society, and democracy. In response, Facebook blocked all news on its platform across the country with the result that there was some relaxation but ultimately a via media was found. The US has also seen heated debates arising from the 2016 Presidential elections with allegations of supposed interference by Russia allegedly facilitated by platforms like Facebook. Last year, the EU formulated legislative proposals namely the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act, setting out rules for platforms to follow.", the bench said.

Also from the Judgment :

'Delhi Can Ill-Afford Another Riots; Role Of Facebook Must Be Looked Into': Supreme Court Upholds Delhi Assembly Summons

Facebook Can't Disrupt India's 'Unity In Diversity' Claiming Ignorance Or Lack Of Pivotal Role : Supreme Court

[Facebook vs Delhi Assembly] Assembly's Function Not Confined To Legislation; Can Have Inquisitorial Role : Supreme Court

'Judicial System Exists For Common Man': Supreme Court Emphasizes The Need To Write Short & Clear Judgments & Restrict Time For Oral Submissions


Case: AJIT MOHAN VS. LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY NATIONAL CAPITAL TERRITORY OF DELHI [WPC 1088 OF 2020]
Coram: Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Dinesh Maheshwari and Hrishikesh Roy
Citation: LL 2021 SC 288

Click here to Read/Download Judgment











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