ANI Photo | With troll armies, social media disinformation, there’s fear of barrage of speech that distorts truth: CJI

Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said on Friday that with the advent of troll armies and organised disinformation campaigns across different social media platforms, the fear is that there is an overwhelming barrage of speech that distorts the truth.
While addressing the 14th VM Tarkunde Memorial Lecture, CJI Chandrachud said that traditionally, freedom of speech and expression was deemed to be an essential part of civil rights activism because of the fear that the government would prevent certain kinds of speech from entering the marketplace.
“With the advent of troll armies and organized disinformation campaigns across different social media platforms, the fear is that there is an overwhelming barrage of speech that distorts the truth,” CJI said.
“This ‘epistemological battle’ of sorts was explained eloquently in the New York Times. The spewing of falsehoods isn’t meant to win any battle of ideas. Its goal is to prevent the actual battle from being fought. Therefore, we cannot fall back on traditional notions of free speech and must find new theoretical frameworks to locate free speech on the internet,” he said.
CJI said that the second point of distinction lies in the rupture of the traditional state-activist-corporation relationship.
Civil rights activists no longer place the corporation within the traditional box of an entity whose power is to be restricted. In fact, to the contrary, they rely on social media corporations such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to expand their freedom of speech and expression, often in opposition to the government, CJI said.
However, there is a flip side to adopting privately owned platforms as the medium for dissent, activism, and expression of free speech. With corporations wielding such immense power, there is an immense amount of trust placed on them to act as the arbiters of acceptable and unacceptable speech – a role that was earlier played by the state itself. This can have disastrous effects. It has been widely reported and recognized by the United Nations that social media was used as a tool for ethnic cleansing in Myanmar by the military and members of civil society, CJI said.
While concluding his address, he said that digital liberties activism, including the protection of privacy and free speech, has gained currency at an unprecedented pace,
we are still in an early period of theorizing on it. The civil liberties movement, led by luminaries like Justice Tarkunde, acted as the precursor to a larger narrative – a narrative of digital rights. The very principles he ardently upheld are the guiding lights that beckon us in this era of digital transformation. This transformation is not just about technology, it is about the people and their rights. The torch that Justice Tarkunde carried for justice now illuminates our path towards safeguarding digital freedoms–ensuring that as we traverse through this landscape, we do so with the commitment to upholding the basic values of justice, equality, and freedom. After all, as the world moves online, our battles to uphold civil liberty must also follow suit, CJI said.
CJI said that in the realm of Artificial Intelligence, one can find that the unchecked algorithms used by tech giants compound privacy concerns.
He pointed out that the movie- “Minority The Report,” directed by Steven Spielberg envisions a future where a specialized police department apprehends criminals based on foreknowledge provided by three psychics called “precogs.”
The precognitive nature of AI depicted in the film poses profound dangers to personal privacy, as individuals are targeted for crimes they have not yet committed, challenging the very fabric of autonomy and individual rights, CJI said.
CJI said that in examining various international perspectives on privacy and state intrusion, it becomes evident that the struggle to protect privacy is a global endeavour.
“Courts worldwide grapple with challenges posed by technological advancements, highlighting the crucial need for legal frameworks prioritizing accountability, transparency, and the fundamental right to privacy. Drawing from this global perspective, I will now explore specific facets of privacy infringement, beginning with Facial Recognition Technology (FRT),” he added.
CJI said that the top court overruled earlier judgments in M.P. Sharma and Kharak Singh, firmly establishing the right to privacy as a fundamental right. While acknowledging that the right to privacy is not absolute, the judgment delineated a stringent standard of judicial review for cases of state intrusion, emphasizing the principles of legality, need, proportionality, and procedural guarantees against abuse.
In navigating the complex terrain of privacy and state surveillance, Indian jurisprudence has continually grappled with striking a balance between individual rights and legitimate state interests. The nuanced approach taken by the courts reflects an evolving understanding of privacy as a dynamic and multifaceted right, adapting to the challenges posed by advancements in technology and the expansive reach of state actions.
For instance, India and Sweden, despite their geographical and cultural differences, find themselves grappling with similar privacy concerns in the digital age. In India, the debate around the implementation of Aadhaar, a biometric identification system, raised questions about the balance between individual privacy and the state’s interest in ensuring efficient service delivery. Similarly, Sweden’s population registry system has raised similar concerns, as it consolidates vast amounts of personal data, CJI Chandrachud stated

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