OP. ED.SCC Journal Section Archives

Abstract

The internet is one of the most used and innovative additions in the lives of people in this modern world. With the arrival of social media, the internet took socialising to a whole new level because initially it became the medium of sharing thoughts and soon grew into a medium of official communication between people and people, government and government and government and people. With all sorts of information on the social media, humour is one of the biggest user-generated and shared content. The internet brought the expression of humour in the form of satire, sarcasm, and wit with social media posts on the fingertips and memes all over the place, bringing out the dark sense of humour hidden in people as well. Getting in trouble for humour isn’t new, but with the vast reach of the internet, people posting from one corner of the country and someone getting immediately offended from another corner of the country has become common. This opens room for debate on the questions like ‘How can someone be arrested for a joke?’, ‘How can a joke be criminal?’, ‘Should law take social media seriously?’, ‘Is arresting for a social media post a violation of free speech?’ and ‘Do we really need laws to monitor everything on social media?’

The present elaborated discussion is a study of various cases in India related to humour and social media and observes how humour is used as a tool to commit crimes, and how laws are used against them, reasonably and unreasonably. It also observes the nature of people over the internet and how it affects their real lives. It also studies the laws present in India to analyse what the country requires in order to prevent the misuse of both, the laws and the social media, and in the end, concludes with a suggestion of separate Media Law and why it is necessary.

INTRODUCTION

Humour is to speech what salt is to food”.1

The internet is “a cooperative message-forwarding system linking computer networks all over the world”.2 The rise of the internet has given a new platform to the people and has grown enough to become a part of reality. From a common citizen’s social media profile to official government notifications being released on websites, with the passage of time, the internet not only remains a source of information and education, but also of global trade & commerce, of personal and professional connection, and of charity & crime.

The swiftness with which the internet has integrated into the lives of people, it would not be wrong to state that it is now an extension of their own personality. Due to the degree of anonymity and vast reach it provides, it brings out the untamed selves of people, which can be closely associated with what Sigmund Freud referred to as the Id,3 making the internet the “Wild West”.4 “Researchers assume that analysis of comic texts provides us with important insights about what is lurking in the social mind behind the façade of platitudes, conventions, and political correctness”.5 One of the basic reasons behind this is that, over the internet, there exists a very low chance of face to face backlash. Even though countries across the world have taken steps to counter it,6 a complete success in preventing Cybercrime is nowhere in sight.

Along with all types of content, the internet has now also become a platform for sharing humour in an electronic form, which can be done in the form of texts, images, videos or other formats. “Rather than light-hearted entertainment, jokes are in fact important arenas in which sensitive and troubling issues are processed and negotiated”.7 Sigmund Freud happens to be the most important authority on jokes and he called them “a combination of [comic] technique and [humorous] thought”.8 Another popular term on the internet in terms of humour is ‘Memes’. The term meme was coined by Richard Dawkins in his book ‘The Selfish Gene’. The Oxford Dictionary defines meme as “An element of a culture that may be considered to be passed on by non-genetic means, especially, imitation”.9 The term is basically associated with pictorial or video jokes, perhaps because they (as a form of presentation of humour or idea), grew on the internet the most, where they spread, most of the times as a trend, through immediate sharing or imitation.

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Note: This Article was first published in RMLNLU CMET Law Journal 6 CMET (2019) 77.  The extract has been reproduced with the kind permission of RMLNLU.

* Student, BA LLB (Hons), KIIT School of Law Bhubaneswar, Odisha.

1 ‘Political Satire in Modern India’ (The Hindu, 6 April 2018) <https : //thehindu.com/thehindu/lr/2003/04/06/stories/2003040600010100.htm.> accessed 14 January 2019.

2 Douglas A Downing and others, Dictionary of Computer and Internet Terms (10th edn, Barron’s Educational Series Inc US 2009) 256.

3 Sigmund Freud, The Ego and the Id (first Published 1923, Courier Dover Publication 2018) 8.

4 Megan Carpentier, ‘Online Abuse : How Different Countries Deal with It’ (The Guardian, 12 April 2016) <https : //theguardian.com/technology/2016/apr/12/online-abuse-how-harrassment-revenge-pornography-different-countries-deal-with-it.> accessed 15 January 2019.

5 Limor Shifman and Dafna Lemish, ‘“Mars and Venus” in Virtual Space : Post-feminist Humor and the Internet’ (2011) 28 (3) Critical Studies in Media Law 253, 254.

6 The Guardian (n 257).

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Telangana High Court: A Division Bench of Raghvendra Singh Chauhan, CJ and B. Vijaysen Reddy, J., directs the State to publish vital information about COVID-19 related data to the public at large so that people are aware about the situation and take required precautions for controlling the pandemic.

What has been sought in the present petition?

Direction to respondents on the following :

  • State of Telangana’s action in not taking appropriate measures to make all pandemic related data available to the public at large in a comprehensible manner as breach of its Constitutional duties and violative of fundamental rights of the citizens.
  • Directing the State of Telangana to have a dedicated web portal updated on a daily basis containing the above-stated information.

Media Bulletin on COVID-19 information

Initially when the virus was spreading, a Media bulletin on daily basis was issued by the State Government of Telangana which eventually when the COVID-19 cases started to rise in a steady manner, was halted.

According to the petitioner, until and unless the relevant data is collected and publicised, the extent of the disease spreading through the population would be unknown.

Since the relevant data is not being publicized, people at large will be of the opinion that the pandemic is no longer a serious illness, and that they are safe to venture out.

The cases in the State of Telangana are on a rise , since the testing is not being done on a large extent and relevant data is also not being revealed, phenomenal number of persons being detected may just be the tip of the iceberg. 

Court directs the State not only to publish the vital data on the internet, but also published on the front pages of all the Newspapers in the Print Media.

People should be made aware of the fact that the pandemic is only increasing day in and day out.

In the above regard, Advocate General, B.S. Prasad sought time to submit his report with regard to the steps being taken by the Government.

Matter to be listed on 18-06-2020. [Amrita Aryendra v. State of Telangana, WP(PIL) No. 111 of 2020, decided on 08-06-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Kerala High Court: C.S. Dias, J., while referring the present petition to a Division Bench of the Court stated that,

Right to education is sacrosanct in the Constitution of India and is the mandate under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.

Petitioners submitted that the respondents 7th and 8th where their children are pursuing their studies have been insisting for payment of additional fees in order to facilitate virtual classrooms in view of COVID-19.

It is disheartening to learn that a student allegedly took away her life due to lack of access to the internet for attending virtual classes.

Payment of Fees

Petitioner in the context of their grievance also submitted that some State/UTs had formulated guidelines for the conduct of online classes and ordered that the students should not be denied education for want of payment of fees during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Matter adjourned to Division Bench

In exercise of powers of this High Court, under Section 3 of the Kerala high Court Act, 1958, and in view of the substantial public interest in the petition, bench adjourned the matter to Division Bench of this Court.

Interim Order by Single Bench

In view of the outbreak of pandemic, respondents 6 and 7 have been directed not to levy any additional fee from petitioners children until further order.[Sreelekshmi v. State of Kerala, WP (C) No. 10867 of 2020, decided on 03-06-2020]