Skip to main content

[Link] Fake News, Criminal Law, and Public Discourse

The rights and wrongs of Postcard News will likely be determined by the courts. That aside, over at Scroll, I argue that for us to develop public discourse which approves the use of criminal law to counter difficult-to-define 'fake news' is unsafe as it potentially puts all speech at risk.
The dangers of divisive speech are clear. Quotidian obscenities include killing people because of communal and caste hatred, denying them housing and even access to basic amenities such as drinking water. In a plural society that has been hierarchical for centuries and has not yet recovered from the more recent divide and rule policies of colonial rulers, it is difficult to challenge the need for laws that could counter hate speech. If nothing else, such speech invariably creates societal fissures that may result in real harm – assault, discrimination, and possibly worse. 
That said, the law [....] is a rather blunt tool that can be wielded by almost anyone. It is, therefore, important to look closely at how the law is used and how narratives can be structured to do the least damage possible.

(This post is by Nandita Saikia and was first published at IN Content Law.)