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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)
Faizia Siddiqui (Department of Management, International Institute for Special Education (IISE) , Lucknow, India)

Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society

ISSN: 1477-996X

Article publication date: 14 November 2016




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.


The research was carried out on a sample of 200 social media users, all picked up randomly, from five 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) Z test.


The findings 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 influential or powerful.

Practical implications

The findings 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.


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.



Alam, I., Raina, R.L. and Siddiqui, F. (2016), "Free vs hate speech on social media: the Indian perspective", Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, Vol. 14 No. 4, pp. 350-363.



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