India Policies Affecting Disinformation

From ADTAC Disinformation Inventory

Disinformation in India is predominantly created by domestic actors, by both private citizens or those working for political parties.


India does not have specific laws against disinformation but there are laws that may apply to speech online which criminalize some speech related to sedition and the incitement of enmity between groups.[1]

The Information Technology Act of 2000 and the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) 2011 have provisions which guarantee social media companies with some immunity when illegal content is posted by third parties on their platforms.[2]

Social media companies have agreed to enforce 'silent periods' in the lead up to elections and to report subsequent violations. In addition, political campaigns must provide the Election Commission of India with information about their social media accounts, gain approval for their online advertisements and report on their online campaign expenditures.[3]

In 2021 the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology put into practice the Framework & Guidelines for Use of Social Media for Government Organisations. This requires social media companies to establish grievance redressal mechanisms for users and official "grievance officers". Companies must acknowledge complaints within one day and address them within fifteen days.[4][5]

Judicial actions

Section 66A of the Information Technology Act 2000 prevented the "dissemination of information that a person knows to be false by means of a computer resource or a communication device for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, or ill will" however the supreme court ruled this law unconstitutional[6]. This arose as a result of the landmark 2015 supreme court decision of the 2012 case Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, which made it so that tech companies did not need to actively monitor their platforms for illegal content.[7]

Actions against disinformation

In 2020 India banned 59 Chinese social media apps including Tik Tok and WeChat which it labeled "prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order"[8][9][10][11]. No mention of Beijing was made in the initial governmental press release[12]. The Indian central government cited Section 69A of the Information Technology Act (2000) as the explanation for taking this action[13]. Section 69A gives the state power to issue directions for the blocking of public access to "any information spread through a computer resource" in the interests of the "sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above. [14]

Additionally, India has had more internet shutdowns than any other country in the world, which the government claims is done so in order to prevent the spread of misinformation and to maintain order.[15] In 2020 India has had 109 internet shutdowns[16]. There has been international backlash against these shutdowns which many view as a way for the government to monopolize information, to act undemocratically and to crack down on dissent.[17] [18]

During the COVID-19 Pandemic the government issued an emergency order to censor tweets related to the pandemic.[19]

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National Policies Affecting Disinformation