U.P. officials have said Muzaffarnagar violence was stoked by fake videos

With Uttar Pradesh officials suggesting that fake videos were circulated to incite and stoke communal tension in the run-up to the violence in Muzaffarnagar, Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Manish Tewari on Monday said new media presented scope for misuse and “the law [IT Act] was on a learning curve.”

Recalling a similar flare-up last year when messages on social media triggered a mass exodus of people to the north-east from southern cities, Mr. Tewari said, “I have often said that never before have so many people from so many places had so much power at their fingertips. This is the largest ungoverned space on earth.”

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh too had raised the issue of “responsibility for social harmony and public order,” speaking at the inauguration of the National Media Centre in the capital two weeks ago: “I emphasise this particularly in the light of the social media revolution, which is rendering irrelevant the lines between a connected citizen and a professional journalist.” Dr. Singh had added that a “mature and wise” handling was necessary in order to avoid the “tragedy” of last year, when many became “victims of an online propaganda campaign and were driven across the country to their home States.”

Asked if the incident in UP necessitated further regulation, Mr. Tewari said: “There is already an IT Act administered by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. If something has law and order implications, some steps become necessary which do not impinge on fundamental freedom of speech and expression but fall within reasonable restrictions.”

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