By Naina Tiwari from City Law College, Jankipuram, Lucknow
Social media platforms like WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook are now not only limited to texting and posting but are also used for news feed scrolling. These feeds include posts from friends, relatives, celebrities, food pages, fact pages and even meme pages which people follow.Nowadays memes have become the important part of everyone’s daily life. The word meme is derived from the Greek word ‘mimeme’ which means imitated things. Meme is an idea which contains picturized humorous content that virally spreads from one person to another. Video graphed meme is also
produced on you tube which can be shared through WhatsApp among people. Memes have different faces and every particular viewer has its different views some of them take it in a unique, positive way and some in a negative way. It has become the fastest mode of spreading awareness among people that even kids are aware of the current situations. But some people use this to spread negativity in society by trolling, abusing and spreading fake news and giving false statements. These negative things defame the reputation of a person in society which lead them to face trouble and hatred from people.
Laws constituted for defamation done particularly by memes.
According to the Indian Constitution there is only a law for defamation not a particular law for defamation done by memes.The government allows all publication of facts and any other content until it is found to be non-offensive. If any publication is found to be objectionable it invites the term defamation.Defamation means an injury to the reputation of a person. It is defined in section 499 of Indian Penal Code 1860 section 500 which deals with the punishment that a person committing an offense under this section will be liable with simple imprisonment for a term of 2 years or fine or with both.
A meme becomes defamatory when people use it for inappropriate purposes like trolling and abusing without any reason. Some people or groups use it to spread fake rumours in society by publishing fake news, giving false statements, which effects the person and society badly.We all know that a man’s reputation and image in a civilized society is treated as an intangible property and any person who causes any harm will be liable under law in the same way as he would be liable for causing damage to any other property.
The government takes the meme creation as legally defamatory only under certain conditions.
They are :
● Any meme created should not relate to a person’s private affairs.
● It can involve only true facts such that it may not invite defamation.Effect of defamation.
Defaming a person or a group in society can lead to a great effect
Memes were introduced to entertain people in different ways. But because of some wrong people it is leaving a bad impact on society. People are very conscious about their image among the society and when someone defames them by way of publishing false and malicious statements, wrong information, fake news that person suffers a lot. We can see some of the effects like misunderstandings between people, generation gap, anxiety, depression and many others.One of the most important things is that it affects the mental health of a person. We all can see nowadays that just because of the image in front of society people are ready to do anything. These trollings, abuses and accusations lead a person in a state of depression. He starts thinking of committing suicide. And nowadays the rate of suicide is increasing day by day. Small children of age 13-14 are in depression. We all can clearly see the effect but even after all these things some people are still always ready to spread negativity without any reason, without Caring of any person. Should there be any special law for defamation done particularly by memes? Our Indian constitution gives every citizen the right of speech and expression. But at the same time, it becomes the duty of every citizen to protect others rights too. No citizen is allowed to violate the rights of other citizens. And no one gave the right to any citizen to defame a person as they wish in the name of freedom of speech and expression.There is a limit and borderline for everything. Memes were introduced for entertainment and it is supposed to be taken as fun without getting offended.
Some of the main functions of memes are
1. Entertainment- The most important function of creating memes is entertainment and fun. It establishes the thoughts and humorous presence of mind of the creator. Creation of memes usually depends on the trending topic which is going around all over the state or the nation or the world.
2. Current affairs- Memes often help people to know about current affairs. It becomes a stress buster because of laughter. Unknown facts will also be displayed in the shade of memes. Information, live updates, current affairs, and official announcements will be within hands. These are instantly converted into memes in a funny as well as sarcastic way.
3. Promotion- It is a myth that everything that comes out in memes is true. Some people use these platforms as a tool for page, product, and even personal ID promotion. Generally, people hate the content which is being promoted on a promotion page but most of us blindly appreciate the promoted content which comes out from a meme page because of the mere trust. But after considering all of these functions there should be a limit and if someone crosses that limit it doesn’t remain fun at all.
There is a huge difference between joking or making fun and abusing or trolling. Some people easily get offended in private conversations also which shows about their image consciousness and they will never allow anyone to defame their image on social media platforms. Everyone is allowed to post their views by the way of commenting on the positive and negative decisions made by the public but insulting a person is intolerable.
No one has the right to interfere in someone’s personal life, criticize their achievements whether they are celebrities, politicians, or any individual. We can see some cases where without any reason defamation is done like the Mamta Banerjee meme case. This case is related to the fact of posting a morphed image of the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on social media. The defendant Priyanka Sharma, BJP’s youth leader made a plea that the post was not created by her rather it was just shared by her. The post shared by her was already at a viral stage. The case was brought for appeal before the Supreme Court with a plea of bail, the bench, comprising of Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Sanjiv Khanna made it clear that no equality shall remain for any wrong activities. Freedom of speech and expression cannot be denied at any time, but it faces its end when such freedom violates the rights of other people.
Thus, the Court passed an order to Priyanka Sharma, to apologize for the meme shared at the time of release. There is only a law for defamation not any special law for the defamation done particularly by memes and considering the situation of abusing and troll an action should be taken by the government so that the people who are always ready to put their nose in someone’s personal life can be controlled.
Entertaining people through memes is appreciable but insulting someone on social media platforms is not appreciable and that can be termed as defamation. Picturized humorous content named memes was introduced to spread awareness and entertain people in funny as well as sarcastic way. Social media is a platform where one has the right to criticize a person’s career and work-related activities in a healthy way but no one has the right to open their personal affairs and expose it to the public. The act of criticizing must be done in a good faith to make the work better and not to insult the person. The medium of communication between two people arises through memes which depends upon the content that the person takes in a positive or in a negative way. Defaming a person on social media by interfering in someone’s personal affairs and causing damage to his reputation is punishable. But when any law is introduced to the society it should be updated time to time so that a consistency can be made. Same way defaming a person is punishable but there should be a special law for the defamation done particularly by memes so that people before making any content take note of the matter which will be published.
Publishing false statements, fake news leads to a negative impact on society. Some people are affected so badly that they suffer from mental illness.Keeping all these things in mind and the impact of these things on society the memes content should be published and the government should take the appropriate steps and introduce new laws regarding the defamation done particularly by memes to punish the wrongdoer with an appropriate punishment.