Free vs hate speech on social media: the Indian perspective

Publication Date14 Nov 2016
AuthorIftikhar Alam,Roshan Lal Raina,Faizia Siddiqui
SubjectInformation & knowledge management,Information management & governance,Information & communications technology
Free vs hate speech on social
media: the Indian perspective
Iftikhar Alam
Otago Business School, University of Otago, Dunedin,
New Zealand and Department of Management,
International Institute for Special Education, Lucknow, India
Roshan Lal Raina
JK Lakshmipat Singhania University, Jaipur,
India and Department of Management,
Indian Institute of Management Lucknow (IIM-L), Lucknow, India, and
Faizia Siddiqui
Department of Management, International Institute for Special Education (IISE),
Lucknow, India
Purpose – The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, in a landmark judgment, scrapped a draconian law
[Section 66 (A)] that gave the police absolute power to put behind bars anybody who was found posting
offensive or annoying comments online. This paper aims to examine the take of people on the “Free
Speech via Social Media” issue and their attitude towards the way sensitive messages/information are
posted, shared and forwarded on social media, especially, Facebook.
Design/methodology/approach – The research was carried out on a sample of 200 social media
users, all picked up randomly, from ve Indian states/Union Territories. Data were collected through a
questionnaire, and users were contacted through e-mail. Data collected were analyzed through the
Kolmogorov–Smirnov (K-S) Ztest.
Findings – The ndings indicate that hate posts/messages are on the rise, and more and more users
are joining in. Besides, prosecution happens only when the aggrieved party is inuential or powerful.
Practical implications – The ndings of this research give a strong insight into the social media
behaviour of users in relation to hate contents/posts. The study establishes the fact that Indian people
are in favour of free speech, but with a sense of restraint and responsibility. The work could form the
basis for future research on various aspects of hate speech on social media. Researchers could study the
trials and prosecutions that have happened over the past few years and whether punishment has acted
as a deterrent.
Originality/value – The research is likely to be important for those involved in work on freedom of
speech or hate speech through social media. Social networking sites such as Facebook would also get
some insights into users’ perception towards free and hate speech mechanism on social media.
Keywords Facebook, Social networks, Twitter, Free speech, Hate speech
Paper type Research paper
Social Media is the most modern and progressive form of interpersonal communication
across the globe. India is no exception. It has grown substantially over the past two
years. As of April 2015, there are over 143 million users of social media; 118 million
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Received 8 June 2015
Revised 3 October 2015
12 November 2015
18 December 2015
Accepted 6 January 2016
Journalof Information,
Communicationand Ethics in
Vol.14 No. 4, 2016
©Emerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/JICES-06-2015-0016

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