New Delhi: Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud has said that fake news has the power to impair democratic discourse as it drowns out true information.
Justice Chandrachud made the remarks on Friday, December 1, while speaking at the 14th Justice V.M. Tarkunde Memorial Lecture in New Delhi on ‘Upholding Civil Liberties in the Digital Age: Privacy, Surveillance and Free Speech’. He said the goal of fake news is to erode the foundational elements of society, namely the truth.
“Simply by virtue of the scale of dissemination, fake news drowns out true information, replacing the character of discourse from truth-seeking to the loudest voice,” he was quoted as saying, according to the Times of India. “Disinformation, therefore, has the power of impairing democratic discourse forever, pushing a marketplace of free ideas to the point of collapse under the immense weight of fake stories.”
The CJI noted with concern that a cursory glance at newspapers every day brings to the fore communal and vigilante violence resulting out of rumuors and disinformation campaigns. “I remember that while the country was faced with the tragic COVID-19 pandemic, the internet was rife with the most outrageous fake news and rumours – a source of comic relief in difficult times, but also forcing us to rethink the limits of free speech on the internet.”
He underlined that privacy in the digital age is not just a matter of data protection but it is a fundamental right, adding that “we must actively champion”. While noting that the judiciary globally is facing challenges from technological advancements vis-a-vis protecting privacy, he said it is crucial to develop legal frameworks.
The CJI while noting that Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) represented a “marvel of technological innovation”, he said its application raises significant privacy and discrimination concerns. “Studies reveal inherent biases within FRT algorithms, especially in identifying darker-skinned women, ethnic minorities, and transgender individuals. The COVID-19 pandemic accentuated these concerns with controversies surrounding FRT’s use in health data management.”
He asserted all individuals irrespective of their socio-economic status are deeply affected by violations of the right to privacy, autonomy and intimacy while dismissing the notion that economic status and access to welfare entitlements are more important than civil and political rights for socio-economically disadvantaged communities.