Social Media and Online Defamation

Social Media and Online Defamation

This article is going to be about Social Media and Online Defamation. Also discussing recent cases and laws related to Cyber Defamation.


In the beginning of the decade, when social media was laying its wings on the internet; little did we realise that people will be a mere click and tap away! The planet that we assumed to be so big, seems to be so small now. But, is it a boon or curse keeps us still thinking and wondering!

In 2019, Merriam- Webster defined “social media” as form of electronic communications (such as websites for social networking and blogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (such as videos). Social Media encompasses a lot of apps. All these apps may or may not have imposed limitations. Wherever, there is no limitations there is misuse and wherever there is limitations, people question democracy!

Social Media and Online Defamation

Anyone with internet Access sign up for a social media account and is able to share, post, comment, like, share their perspective. While, doing so people respond in ways that are might be appreciation or sometimes criticisms. Both, ways if used for personal benefits might hurt the sentiments of the other person. On such a large platform, people connect with all type of ideas. Social Media gives the power to certain extent that one can influence others life and may cause any such harm and use it for personal benefits. Social Media easily manipulates the ideas of young minds if not taken care of . The concept of defamation is quite clear here. Now, if you ask; what is defamation? It is the action of damaging the reputation of someone. Defamation might be at a small or large level. For example; it is quite common that a group of teenagers start bullying some of their classmates by false statement. And, these videos later maybe used again later in the future to defame their intentions.

Defamation Case

Defamation by and large might be quite disastrous. In the recent time, the way Rhea Chakaroborty and not only she, many other Bollywood famed persons use it for their P.R not caring about what the other party on whom they make their slander or libel defamatory remarks. Not to be confined to the walls of Bollywood the matter reached attention in the case of Senior Advocate Prashant Bhushan, who made a derogatory remark on the Chief Justice of India and the apex Court i.e., Supreme Court of India. His statement that he tweeted was against the honour of the judiciary. Looking in the matter, contempt of court, the advocate was asked to pay a fine of Re 1 that might not be a lot, but it was a reminder to all the other citizens to use social media in a limitation and not to defame others.

Conclusion on Social Media

Thus, here I conclude that the internet and in particular, social media is a high risk area for defamation litigation. Content posted on blogs, internet forums, online newspaper comment sections and well known social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter can be inaccurate and vicious in character. Anonymity encourages some individuals to dispense with the usual restraints that they might apply to other forms of publication.

Liability for defamatory content posted on social media is not, in principle, restricted to the author (who in any case may be unidentifiable). In certain circumstances liability can extend to an internet service provider (ISP), the website operator or an employee.

Although, the medium of committing this act in the physical and digital world are different, the law of defamation applies the same. The liability regarding cyber defamation in India can be:

  1. On the author of the defamatory material online;
  2. On the service provider or an intermediary. However, it is pertinent to note that as per Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, an intermediary shall not be liable if it does not initiate or modify such defamatory content but merely acts as a facilitator. Further, this protection is also subject to the condition that the intermediary shall comply with the due diligence and Intermediary Guidelines requirements issued by the Central Government and also remove such unlawful content on being notified by the appropriate Government or its agency or upon receiving actual knowledge.

Law on Cyber Defamation in India

In India, Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code primarily governs the law on defamation, however, it is pertinent to note that the law has been extended to “electronic documents”. Section 469 of the IPC (forgery for purpose of harming reputation) has been amended by the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Defamation vs Free Speech

Freedom of Speech and Expression, as provided by the Constitution under Article 19 (1) (a), provides that all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression. However, such freedom is subject to reasonable restriction. The protection of reputation of another person falls within the ambit of reasonable restriction and any comment or remark which hampers the reputation of another person (unless the statement is true) would invite liability under the law of defamation.

Very recently, in the case of Swami Ramdev & Anr. vs Facebook Inc. & Ors. Justice Pratibha Singh had passed an order to remove all defamatory content posted online against yoga guru Baba Ramdev, without any territorial limit, stating that if the content is uploaded from India or such content is located in India on a computer resource, then the Courts in India should have international jurisdiction to pass worldwide injunctions.

Facebook has filed an appeal against the said order which has been admitted by the Division Bench of the Delhi High Court. The grounds of the said appeal are that in spite of the fact that the Plaintiff was aware of the persons who uploaded the content, they have not been made party to the suit. Further, it has also been contented that Baba Ramdev has not shown any strong prima facie case of irreparable loss. Among other submissions, Facebook in its appeal has also contented that global take-down order is against national sovereignty and international comity, as it interferes with defamation laws of other countries. Additionally, the said order also undermines the immunities granted to them in other jurisdictions.

If a certain person feels that he/ she has been defamed he can complaint to the Cyber Crime Investigation Cell at the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portals.

“Whether, social media is a boon or curse; it is import that we realise, the internet is a platform where data is easily shared and, thus Acts as a major hotspot for cyber defamation".

This article on Social Media and Online Defamation is contributed by Sujata Singh. If you like TheCode11, then do follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


  1. That's really Insightful. Even if a guy like me who has no prior knowledge of law could understand it so well.
    Great work! Keep it up

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