Channels on YouTube, portals are not liable: Supreme Court


On Thursday, the Supreme Court said a free press must be respected in a democracy and slander, fake news, and reports deliberately slanted with communal overtones, should not be tolerated by web portals and YouTube channels.

The Chief Justice of India said, “The print and broadcast media are responsible and there is an appropriate mechanism in place to correct errors.”. However, all of the media, particularly the web-based ones, mention the community. Efforts to control the situation are futile”.

After more than a year, a bench led by Chief Justice of India, Justice Surya Kant and Justice A S Bopanna took the lid off their complaint and spoke about how fake news was circulated during the pandemic to vilify Tablighi Markaz. Concerns about web publishers engaging in irresponsible, biased and irresponsible reporting to cause distrust among the community.

“Web portals and YouTube channels do not have any regulatory control over fake news and slander. Without verifying facts or verifying their claims, they can publish whatever they want. There are countless channels circulating fake news on YouTube. It is possible to create a YouTube channel and distribute it however one wishes. It was argued by the CJI that such platforms and portals lack regulatory frameworks. Mehta replied that right to accurate information was being balanced against freedom of speech.

As we drafted the new Information and Technology rules, we attempted to strike a balance between the right of the media to free speech and the right of the citizens to correct the information they consume. According to the SG, the rules would stop the spread of fake news and hold web portals and channels accountable for the content they disseminate. The HCs have challenged the new IT rules, so the SC should transfer all pending petitions to it for an authoritative decision. The validity of the challenged rules that grant the media freedom of expression and citizens access to authentic news.

But, the CJI had not yet finished conveying his concern over the present scenario involving the web portals and channels. “They write vituperatively against judges, institutions and whomever they dislike. And when asked to bear accountability for their reports, they never respond. They say they have a right to publish whatever they wish to. There is no control,” Ramana lamented.

In Mehta’s view, web portals are increasingly becoming media taints through irresponsible reporting that tarnishes the image of individuals and institutions. “The government is going to strengthen media accountability through the new rules for IT. Through a three-tiered system, we have worked to balance freedom of expression with the right to correct news. The aggrieved person may contact the media about their grievance; second, the media are obligated to take corrective measures within 15 days; third, if the complaint has not been addressed or no decision has been made within 15 days, the authorities may initiate formal proceedings.”

SC asked SG to make sure that the Union government submits a fresh counter-affidavit within two weeks that details the steps taken to avoid fake news and irresponsible reporting. According to the SC, it will list in the apex court both Jamiat Ulama’s main petition and the Centre’s plea to transfer all IT petitions in HCs.


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