The BJP government in Gujarat is planning to enact a law to “keep a tab on fake news and messages” being circulated on social media platforms.
At an event organised by BBC News at Ahmedabad Management Association, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said: “At a time when social media has reached every individual, it is but natural that some people might misuse it, along with those who put technology to right use. It is important to stop messages that disturb social peace; messages that are meant to harass somebody socially or politically; to destroy an existing social fabric; to spread rumours against the nation. So a law is being made in this regard.”
Patel said that his government has been planning to bring such a law for the last three to four months. “We are thinking of how to implement it, because it should not appear to anyone that we are censoring anyone or trying to restrict anybody’s independence or stop anybody’s work,” he said.
In September, the Gujarat government had issued an order whereby spreading fake news was made a punishable crime. The order stated that spreading fake news on social media or any other channel/ medium, provocative speeches, provocative or objectionable literature/ writings that could hurt sentiments will be included under Section 153 (A) of the IPC, entailing a jail term of three years. The government had also included mob lynching under the same section of the IPC.
Pankaj Shukla, head of BJP’s IT cell in Gujarat, claimed that the issue of fake news was more “social” in nature. “The issue of fake news is not a political one. The impact is more social than political… In the last six months, we have seen that in issues affecting social integrity, it is not the politicians or workers of any political parties who are involved. People just forward messages as they receive. There are no political intentions behind it,” Shukla said.