SC dismisses plea over fake social media accounts

SC dismisses plea by BJP leader for weeding out fake social media accounts

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a plea by a BJP leader and advocate against the Delhi High Court's judgement that had declined to act against bogus Facebook accounts and Twitter handles which proliferated fake news, and caused radicalism and at times, riots as well.

A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao, Krishna Murari and S Ravindra Bhat rejected the petition filed by Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay for weeding out fake social media accounts.

The court, however, allowed him to file an impleadment application in a pending matter related to linking of Facebook account with Aadhaar.

Upadhyay challenged the validity of the Delhi High Court's order of December 9, 2019, saying it failed to consider that at present, the total number of Twitter handles in India are around 35 million and total number of Facebook accounts are 350 million, of which 10 per cent were duplicate, bogus or fake.

In his plea, he has claimed, "Fake news is the root cause of many communal riots including the recent riots in Delhi, in which many people lost their lives. Fake social media accounts are used to promote casteism, communalism, regionalism, linguism, radicalism and separatism, which endangers fraternity, unity and national integration."

He also contended various political parties and contesting candidates used fake social media accounts for not only self-promotion and image building but also to tarnish the image of opponent political parties and contesting candidates, especially during the elections.

"The right to know the truth is an integral part of Article 19 of the Constitutuon 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," he pointed out.

The petition filed through advocate Ashwani Kumar Dubey contended the High Court has failed to appreciate that publication of fake news also involved use of black money, benami transaction, under-reporting of election expenses and indulging in other kinds of malpractices. 

"Influence of black money has potential to result in an imbalanced election between people of different financial statures. Thus, in order to have free and fair elections, which is a basic dictum of democracy, level playing field is paramount and this cannot be achieved without weeding out fake social media accounts," the plea said.

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