This post is written by Mehul Jain, a student of Maharaja Agrasen Institute of Management, Rohini.
Today we live in a world of high speed internet and fast data transmission. At the very first instance when it came into the hands of the public, less did we have in mind the impacts it was going to cause to the world. People used to believe that the physical world is the only world that connects them.
Then came the concept of social networking, it all started with E-mails but now we have the whole world at our fingertips. Then one after another new apps came into existence. The most popular social networking sites these days include- Facebook, twitter, Whatsapp, Instagram and Snapchat. These social platforms have created a whole new world which has its perks but is also affecting the legal system of the society.
Major impacts in the society can be seen by the generalization of social content; today everyone has a smartphone and feels the urge to stay connected with the world. No doubt this has also proved to be beneficial for the community, nowadays courts accept electronic evidence, court sessions are being conducted via video conferencing and many other tasks are being done using these facilities.
Social media sites have given a new definition to the concept of freedom of speech and also provide in abundance the information we need in our daily lives. It has also helped in spreading legal awareness amongst the people who otherwise would have never got that information with the prevailing systems of education. There are many organisations and firms explicitly working for the benefit and protection of the people on these platforms. The social media at instances has proved to be a very efficient way in unravelling many big issues of the society and has also helped many to attain justice.
But as we all know that everything that comes with strengths also comes with a few weaknesses. Similarly as social media has proved to be a prominent source of knowledge and pool of wisdom, it has also adversely affected society.
These social networking sites give rise to hoax news and sometimes build unnecessary panic amongst the people. Like in a very recent case popularly known as the BOYS LOCKER ROOM case, screenshots of an Instagram group chat of a few boys were being shared where the said boys were allegedly planning about sexually assaulting a girl and were also objectifying girls on the basis of dressing sense. These screenshots were initially shared by a girl, who was a social influencer, then they were reposted by thousands of people and a lot of hatred was expressed on many different platforms toward this group and how the act done by them was socially, morally and legally unjustified. Although later it was found that, a girl made a fake id to judge the moral character of one his friends and started the rumor of her rape on her own.
This tells us that on these platforms there is no proof of authenticity of the information you are reading and not all the people perceive the given information in the same manner so it can lead to formation of different opinions and can result in disputes among two individuals, two communities or even two different nations.
Once after it was revealed by the police authorities that the chat was initiated by a girl then the girl who initially posted those screenshots started receiving demeaning messages and even death threats. It made the whole situation even worse for her. It is to be noted that what happened in this whole incident cannot be blamed on any one person but on the people who have the audacity to conduct such mortifying acts on these platforms.
We are all aware of the pictorial representation of jokes known as the memes. Memes contribute the highest in spreading of any hoax or any hatred directed in a particular direction and you can find a bucket full of memes on these sites. The main disadvantage with the concept of memes is that they usually don’t say anything directly and leaves it to the interpretation of the viewer, so now begins the process of Chinese whispers; every person who views them interprets them in their own way and then again forms a different opinion. And with every different opinion comes a different way of expression of speech and these different speeches can affect a person’s mental as well as physical health. So it is advisable not to trust anything you hear or see on a social media site before checking its authenticity.
These all were the aspects where social media has affected the legal system in a very indirect way, but it also has its effects directly on the system. At the first Law Association for Asia and the Pacific (LAWASIA) conference in New Delhi, many judges expressed their views on how today because of these sites the judges are also under pressure. “Media trials were there earlier also. But today what is happening is that when an issue is raised, a petition is filed, (and) even before it is taken up by the court, people start discussing what should be the outcome.”
“Not what ‘is’ the outcome, but what ‘should be’ the outcome. And let me tell you from my experience here that it has an influence on how a judge decides a case. It is not so much in the Supreme Court because by the time they come to the apex court they are quite matured and they know how the case is to be decided on the basis of law irrespective of what is happening in the media. Today judging is under stress,” Justice Sikri said in his interview. 
We live in an era where we cannot expect someone to be away from these social networking sites. They are now an integral part of our day to day life. But one should always keep in mind that he himself is liable for his action and should always be vigilant as to what he sees and shares on these platforms. It is undoubted that these platforms have made our lives easier but at the same time it is affecting it in a very alarming way. These sites have a great impact on everybody’s mind and so the authorities should keep a check on the content being shared and the ideas being promoted there.
Image from here