IAS Gyan

Sansad TV & AIR Summaries


17th March, 2023



  • ‘Fake news’ has become a global concern since the rise of unpleasant incidents that have challenged the users’ trust in the news, especially through social media.
  • Lack of policy implementation or laws which could either curb fake news or hold the perpetrator accountable for their action have only made the situation complex and challenging.
  • Responsible users have time and again raised the issue to review and amend the existing laws to meet the challenges of spreading of the fake news, but efforts by both policymakers and civil societies have not been enough to address this lacuna within the overpowering digital space.
  • Media is now a web of propaganda, and there are more views than news. The lack of a clear distinction, for internet users, between real and fake news is what further challenges source. 

Decoding Fake News

  • ‘Fake news’ is a term that different people use in their own and separate ways to define it, resulting to a plethora of conceptual definitions. At its core, it includes those news stories that are false: the story itself is fabricated, with no verifiable facts, sources, or quotes.
  • Sometimes these stories may be propaganda that is intentionally designed to mislead the reader or may be designed as “clickbait” written for economic incentives (the writer profits on the number of people who click on the story).
  • In recent years, ‘fake news’ stories have proliferated via social media, in part due to the ease and immediacy of sharing any kind of material online. The universe of ‘fake news’ is much larger than simply false news stories.
  • Some stories may have a nugget of truth but lack any contextualizing details. They may not include any verifiable facts or sources.
  • Some stories may include basic verifiable facts, but are written using language that is deliberately inflammatory, concealing pertinent details or only presenting one viewpoint.
  • ‘Fake news’ exists within a larger ecosystem of mis- and disinformation. Misinformation is false or inaccurate information that is mistakenly or inadvertently created or spread; the intent is not to deceive.
  • Disinformation is false information that is deliberately created and spread “in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth”.

Examples of Fake News

  • It is promoted by hackers, politicians, trolls, ad agencies and even governments, all of whom have a good understanding of how the internet works. This means it comes in many shapes and sizes making it harder to spot.

Fake papers (Imposter news sites)

  • They look like traditional newspapers online but are not – they often showcase images and videos that have been manipulated.

Satire/comedy sites

  • They have no intention to cause harm but have the potential to fool people into thinking content is real (examples: Onion or Daily Mash site).


  • These are posts, articles and videos that you may see in social feeds or websites that use dramatic headlines or claims for free items or results to get as many people to click on the article, i.e. ‘you won’t believe what…’.They may have eye catching images, an emotive or humorous tone to get people’s attention.


  • Although not an example of fake news, these are fake profiles, mainly on social media, that are created to spread fake news using automated technology.

Misleading content

  • Articles or news stories that use fake facts to distort a particular issue or an individual.

Bad ads

  • Ads that contain scams or false claims.


  • Sensationalist headlines designed to get you to spread the story without reading it.


  • People, often politicians, willing to use fake news stories to gain popular support.


  • Disinformation that often spreads because of its sensational topic. It could spread through fake news stories, through videos on social media and in different ways. Learn about hoaxes on TikTok.


  • These typically are imposter emails, text, or websites that pretend to come from a reputable organisation in order to gain someone’s personal information. Learn more about phishing with advice from ESET.


  • This is when technology is used to replicate live facial movements of a person in a video and audio to make it seem real. Some of these videos have gone viral where high-profile people like President Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg have been impersonated in fake clips.

Sock puppet accounts

  • These are accounts that use fake online identities to mislead or manipulate public opinion.

Impact of Fake News

The rapid spread of Fake News and disinformation online can have profound consequences. Examples include:

  • Distrust in the media
  • Undermining the democratic process
  • Platforms for harmful conspiracy theories and hate speech
  • Spread of false or discredited science – e.g. anti-vax movement

Laws regarding fake news in India

There is no such specific codified law against fake news. In India, there is a free publication of news under Article 19 of the Constitution which guarantees freedom of speech, but still, there are some provisions in the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Information Technology Act (IT Act), and the Disaster Management Act which controls the effect of fake news in India to an extent. These provisions are-

  • Section 66D of Information Technology Act- “Whoever, by means for any communication device or computer resources cheats by personating shall be punished with the imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine which may extend to one lakh rupees”.
  • Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act-“Whoever makes or circulates a false alarm or warning as to disaster or its severity or magnitude, leading to panic shall be punished with the imprisonment which may extend to one year or with fine”.
  • Section 505(1) of Indian Penal Code, 1860-“Whoever by making, publishing or circulating any statement, rumour or report which may cause fear for an alarm to the public, or to any section of the public shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine or with both”.
  • Section 153 of Indian Penal Code-“Whoever malignantly, or wantonly, by doing anything illegal, gives provocation to any person intending or knowing it to be likely that such provocation will cause the offense of rioting to be committed, shall, if the offense of rioting be committed in consequence of such provocation be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both; and if the offense of rioting be not committed, with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both”.
  • Section 499 and 500 of Indian Penal Code-“ Whoever, by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person is said, except in the case hereinafter expected, to defame that person” and “Whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine or with both”.

Apart from the above, there are certain legal resources available for people affected by fake news:

  • If any kind of fake news is telecasted in news channels, one can file a complaint with the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) which represents the private television news and current affairs broadcasters.
  • There is another body called the Indian Broadcast Foundation (IBF) where one can file complaints against contents aired by 24*7 channels for promoting smoking, abuse, or any violent action by online or offline.
  • There is also the Broadcasting Content Complaint Council (BCCC) which deals with complaints relating to the TV content which is objective or fake news, where the Broadcaster incites communal hatred, encourage violence against woman, child abuse or promotes consumption of drugs.
  • There is also a statuary body called The Press Council of India who can warn newspaper agencies, the news agency, the editor or the journalist or disapprove the conduct of the editor or the journalist if it finds that a newspaper or a news agency has violated journalistic ethics.


  • Given the sheer number of internet users (825.30 million) and poor digital literacy rate (virtually non-existent among more than 90% of India’s population), verifying all the misinformation rampant on social media is a mammoth task. The diversity of language, culture and politics in India only makes the task more difficult.
  • For example, India has more than 2,800 registered political parties. Hence, it is not surprising that Indian elections are highly polarised events where political parties divided on religious and ideological basis clash with each other and spawn mis/disinformation.
  • Administratively, India is a federal union comprising 28 states and eight union territories, which are largely created on a linguistic basis. Other than Hindi and English, the Indian constitution recognizes 22 regional languages. The number of speakers of many of these regional languages exceeds the total population of many Western countries. Hence, debunking false information in one or two languages does not help in reaching a wider population of the country.

Moving Ahead

  • In a world that communicates in more than 7000 languages, fact-checking tools will have to be more inclusive. Open-source projects like Meta’s early stage ‘No Language Left Behind’ aimed at translations across 200 languages are a good starting point but far from being enough.
  • A mix if public and private actors are at play including independent fact checking organizations, community-led initiatives and, research and civil society organisations. These innovations could use support to scale if we are able to push forward on three fronts.
  1. The first is to do with developing and providing access to the right kind of tech. The tech-enabled fact-checking tools available today are predominantly AI/ML-empowered, with room for similarly effective technologies to be leveraged. There is scope to fund, incubate and accelerate alternative fact-checking technologies, such as blockchain-based solutions. For example, there has been exploration around the application of blockchain to help fight misinformation in news photos.
  2. The second has to do with having access to high quality data. Existing fact-checking systems and datasets narrowly focus on English and unimodal information (i.e., text). Some fact-checking initiatives also operate in countries that lack a robust digital archiving system – a significant database that is omitted from automated fact-checking systems. Developing AI tools to detect misinformation is difficult without the right training data and there needs to be capability to tackle multilingual and multimodal (e.g., visual, audio) information. This would be made possible if a few things came to pass. Government initiatives could digitalise their archives and make them publicly accessible.
  3. The third has to do with capital. Being able to crowd in capital from diverse funding sources such as, governments, foundations, and private companies committed to independent R&D would support small-scale organizations to invest in the kind of rigorous fact-checking tools and human capital required. For this to happen, there needs to be a greater awareness around the intersectionality and multisectoral impact of misinformation.

Closing Remarks

  • The internet will continue to grow exponentially both in scale and number of users, and so will misinformation (if left unchecked). Today, more individuals use the internet than are without it, adding up to 63% of the world’s population. In 2024, over thirty countries—including the United States, United Kingdom, India, Mexico, and Tunisia—will hold national elections. Unless urgent action is taken, misinformation and fake news could polarise people and shift the focus away from the issues that matter.
  • India is witnessing declining trust in news and high levels of fake news exposure, which weakens the ability of the fourth estate to function. Bringing together an ecosystem of actors and developing a full view of both the challenge and the solutions is a crucial first step to ensure we safeguard development agendas not only in India but around the world.
  • Countering content control and phoney news to re-establish confidence in web-based life without subverting web and media opportunity will require state-funded training, reinforcing of guidelines and exertion of tech organizations to make appropriate algorithms for news curation. Thus, controlling fake news is a tricky issue; if not controlled then it might lead to national and international instability; but if it is controlled more than it needs to be, it would harm the democratic system.

As Amit Ray (an Indian author and spiritual master) quotes: –

“In this era of fake news and paid news artificial intelligence is more and more used as a political tool to manipulate and dictate common people, through a big data, biometric data, and AI analysis of online profiles and behaviours in social media and smart phones. But the days are not far when AI will also control the politicians and media too”.