Kolkata, June 15: The West Bengal government is working on a new law to tackle the menace of fake news and posts on social media, a move which comes against the backdrop of such posts stirring trouble and unrest in many parts of the country.
A Home Department official said that the state government intends to bring more clarity on the nature of the offence and punishment for those responsible for spreading fake news and posting morphed photographs with an aim to disrupt peace and communal harmony or spread hatred in society.
The state government has been preparing a data bank on fake news circulated on social media in West Bengal and other parts of the country in the past couple of years besides, keeping records of past offenders while framing the new law, he said.
The new legislation comes after several reports of fake news circulation surfacing in the state during the last couple of years. The recent incidents in Shillong, Godda in Jharkhand and Karbi Anglong district of Assam have added to the concern.
Fake news, morphed photographs, pictorial representation and write-ups posted on social networking sites could have major implications which can create unrest among the people and require strict law to deal with it, the officer said. “There are several incidents in recent times when posts on social media had major implications. Different sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) are used to deal with cases depending on the nature of the crime or intent of the posts.
But the state government is trying to formulate a law for strict actions against persons or the organisation found guilty of such activities,” he said. Currently, in West Bengal people who are found responsible for posting fake news and morphed photographs with the intent of causing fear or alarm among the public or commit an offence against the state or against public tranquillity are booked under Sections 505(1)(b) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), he said.
The IPC section 505(1)(b) punishes those who intent to cause or likely to cause fear or alarm among the public, or any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquility.
The IPC section 504 is also applied for cases where “intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace” is found. In the process of the drafting the law, the state government is taking assistance from the West Bengal Police. Police have identified several paid Twitter handles and Facebook accounts which are constantly being used in different manner for such posts, he said. “They have also identified how funds are routed through different channels to pay these people who were handling fake Twitter handle and Facebook accounts and sharing fake news, photographs, pictorial representations and articles,” he said.