The Impact of Social Media On Free Speech In India

The Impact of Social Media On Free Speech In India



Social media brings a lot of convenience to people; it helps you connect to people all over the world. That being said, social media comes with less accountability. This is where the question of freedom of speech and its limitations comes into play. It is important to know what a person could or couldn’t say or do in the digital world. This article just explores freedom of speech and social media’s correlation.


Social media is a major part of our lives nowadays. Everyone is engaged with social media in some way. It provides a platform for people to express themselves openly to the masses. It opens doors to many opportunities, from socializing to marketing to business. Everything is possible because of social media. Social media also comes with many boons, like trolls, and less accountability for what people post or write on it. People hide behind a profile and think they’re invisible and can say or do anything. It is important to strike a balance between social media and freedom of speech. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean you can say anything you want without having consequences. While the country recognizes freedom of speech as a fundamental right, it has also imposed reasonable restrictions to protect public order and harmony. The use of social media as a means of exercising freedom of speech and expression has faced challenges due to the arbitrary use of cyber laws, such as Section 66A of the Information Technology Act of 2000. This has led to shaping the legal landscape and sparking ongoing discussions, regulatory developments, and judicial interventions in India. Excessive state control and regulation over social media platforms and intermediaries have also been noted to potentially curtail freedom of speech.

Freedom of speech 

Freedom of Speech is a human right that gives people the right to express themselves without restriction, It is essential for people to have free speech to establish democracy and for the purpose of running a democratic country

Freedom of speech in India is a vital and complicated issue, inherited by the determination of a combination of societal values, legal considerations, and historical factors. While India recognizes freedom of speech as a fundamental right, it also imposes reasonable and logical restrictions to protect public order and harmony. The legal landscape is shaped by colonial-era laws that veto sedition, promote aggression between different groups, and restrict hate speech.

 Even though the constitution guarantees, the ease of restricting free speech, and the selective interpretation of expression have raised concerns about the practical realization of this fundamental right. The line between Freedom of speech and misusing freedom of speech is very thin, it is the point of contention between scholars, and it is a topic of debate if freedom of speech should be restricted and what should be or shouldn’t be restricted, Freedom of speech is not absolute, and the government could limit it in the interests and concern of the security of the state, to regulate foreign relation and anything causing tensions between two country, to maintain public order, decency or morality, or in case of contempt of court, defamation, or agitation to an offense. The use of social media as a means of expressing freedom of speech and expression has faced much contention due to the arbitrary use of cyber laws, such as Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 which states criminalises the sending of offensive messages through a computer or other communication devices.

Social media and society

Social Media has made a worldwide communication chain possible and it has provided people with a new place for the possibility of free expression with a wider audience. People have a better overview of the situation around the world with direct sources without any malicious manipulation involved, Businesses have new ways to approach a larger market or get in touch directly with customers in the comfort of their homes, It has also given birth to a lot of new job opportunities like content creators, social media managers, vloggers but at the same time it brings out a lot of disadvantages like cyber-bullying, misinformation, hate speech, fake news that create mob aggression, online scams, identity theft, inappropriate contents available to children, pushing certain political or religious agendas, cyber harassment and stalking, insecurities in teens and adults, addiction, social anxiety, anxiety and depression. It is important to understand both the positive and negative outcomes of social media on society and individuals to ensure a healthy and balanced use of these platforms. If used right social media has a lot to offer to people.

Legality of freedom of speech in social media

India has very varied and complex laws and legality for freedom of speech on social media. The Constitution of India provides freedom of speech and expression to every person in any form like speech, writing, and gesture under Article 19(1)(a), but the government has imposed certain restrictions on them under Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution to prevent misuse of 19(1)(a) i.e. freedom of speech to maintain the interest of public order. Hate speech is prohibited by several sections of the Indian Penal Code, and the Code of Criminal Procedure, like these laws aim to prevent disruption among India’s diversity with different social, caste, and religious communities. Sections 153A, 153B, 295A, 298, and 505 of the IPC are section that deals with hate speech. Section 153A prohibits the promotion of aggression between different social class groups to keep peace in the community and maintains secularism. The Indian government has established a collection of laws and regulations that are implemented by various commissions such as the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to regulate social media platforms that are currently there and those that are emerging. Social media intermediaries are required to hire Indian-based grievance officers to manage any consumer grievances and regulate and remove specific offensive content. The legality of free speech on social media platforms must be supervised carefully, ensuring a balance between the right to express oneself and the prevention of offensive speech. Indian courts have cases involving freedom of speech on social media platforms, creating a distinction between free expression rights and protecting individuals from malicious intent.

Case law

  • Shreya Singhal v. Union of India-

The case was a landmark judgment by the Supreme Court of India on March 24, 2015, by the bench consisting of Justice R.F. Nariman, and Justice J. Chelameswar, Intermediary liability and online speech via social media is a critical issue in India. It’s time we find a fair and effective approach that protects free speech and holds intermediaries accountable. Let’s establish a secure and responsible online environment that benefits everyone. The case challenged the validity of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, which is concerned with criminalizing offensive speech digitally. The Court ruled Section 66A The law in question has been deemed unconstitutional and a violation of the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression. provided under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution. The court ruling highlighted the significance of implementing clear and comprehensive laws to govern online speech, while also underscoring the crucial role that freedom of speech and expression plays in democratic societies. The case played a significant role in shaping the landscape of digital speech in India, and served as a timely reminder of the fundamental importance of freedom of speech in a democratic society.

  • Indian National Congress (I) v. Union of India (2014)-

The case of Indian National Congress (I) v. Union of India (2014) is challenging the validity of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000. In this case, the Supreme Court of India upheld the validity of Section 66A , the court stated that online speech should only be restricted if it posed a genuine threat to public order and morality. This decision highlighted the significance of maintaining a balance between upholding free speech and ensuring public order.

New Developments

Recent developments in India have been pointed to address the issue of digital hate speech. Example A new browser extension for Indian Twitter users has been developed to help filter out offensive content and create a safer online environment. The extension aims to particularly protect women and transgender individuals who often become targets of online harassment. The legal framework focuses on hate speech in India is also a topic of pertaining discussion and criticism. While the country has previous laws against hate speech, enforcing laws related to social media and online platforms poses challenges and criticisms. 


While social media has many benefits and is good entertainment for today’s youth, there are new issues emerging constantly. It is necessary to use social media wisely while keeping in mind that any act on social media has consequences. It is necessary to keep check on content that is posted online as it has a huge audience with a different age range which also includes underage children and it is easily accessible to them, it is necessary to ensure morality and order in society. Freedom of speech should come with some limitations as an inappropriate or offensive expression could lead to major consequences to society and individuals. Such expression can lead to dire consequences therefore these content need to be monitored, removed and punished.

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