Today’s Memes Culture and Online Defamation

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This post has been written by Mamta Kumari, a law student from Banasthali Vidyapith.

INTRODUCTION

In today’s scenario most of the people who are on social media like to spend their time by newsfeed scrolling. Some scroll it for the useful purpose and some use it just for entertainment and passing their time. The platform where this activity can be done is Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. For the purpose of their entertainment people create memes and circulate them widely on the social media and these are created out of fun, defaming or insulting others.

MEMES: MEANING

The term “Meme” is derived from Greek word “mimema” which means intimated. It was introduced in the year of 1976 by Richard Dawkins, a British Evolutionary Biologist in his work “The Selfish Gene”. Meme is an idea, behaviour, or a cultural unit through which an information can be spread very easily from one person to another.

Meme can be anything which may relates to a simple person or thing to any celebrity or article. Anything which can be any picture, video, symbols, quote, or any other text which is humorous in nature can be used as a meme. Memes are generally spread through social media platform like on Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube etc.

Now a days if one has to circulate any information, can opt for the option of creating memes as it is the fastest mode of spreading any news for the awareness of people due to which almost every person is able to know the current situation.

ONLINE DEFAMATION THROUGH MEMES

Constitution of India under Article 19(1)(a) has given fundamental right of Freedom of Speech and expression to its citizen where the citizen of India has right to speak anything, but it must be subject to exception mentioned in Article 19 of Constitution so a person cannot speak whatever he want because there are several statement which may amount to defamation. The exception makes a person duty bound to protect the rights of others because no citizen has right to violate the right of other person while performing his work.

There are several memes which damages the reputation of the person upon whom the meme is created. Whether the meme amounts to defamation of a person will depend upon the content used in such matter as the defamation will result when something written or said orally is injurious to the reputation and goodwill of the person. For constituting defamation, the said statement must not be true as the fact.

Sometime creators of such memes are accused of defaming others but they protect themselves when they proves the content to be true about that person or by saying that it is just their opinion and not a statement intending to defame them.

WHY MEMES ARE CREATED?

People create memes by making a comparison of the current situation or any news with any of the famous characters, celebrities, or filmy dialogues. Sometimes memes are created to abuse and victimise people. They even use memes to insult and bullying people and due which the sentiments and feeling of people may get hurts. There are several reasons of creating memes and they are as follows-

  • To explain any concept via internet– People create memes for the purpose of explaining any concept with the help of any picture, videos, hashtags etc.
  • For gaining popularity- People who create memes says themselves as memers and for gaining popularity and carrying social media marketing activities, makes meme.
  • Entertainment– Most people take meme as a source of fun and entertainment as it offers something which is humorous and can be spread like a fire.
  • For current affairs– It is not only use for the purpose of fun and entertainment as some take good advantage of it by post current affairs and important news.
  • Defaming and trolling– The famous personalities and Bollywood celebrities are mostly trolled and abused for the act done by them as the famous incidence of Alia Bhatt at Koffee with Karan show is a good example of it.

INCIDENTS OF ONLINE DEFAMATION THROUGH MEMES

Mamata Banerjee meme case-

In this case the BJP’s Youth Wing leader Priyanka Sharma was booked for defamation when she posted a morphed picture of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on social media in which  the head of CM was photoshopped upon the body of Priyanka Chopra wearing met gala costume. By the West Bengal trial court, she was sent for the 14 days Judicial custody. Priyanka Sharma in her plea contended that she is not the creator of image as she has just shared the picture which is already viral by thousand of people on social media.

Priyanka Sharma’s brother appealed before Supreme Court on India for the bail of her sister. On appeal Supreme Court released her on bail and had directed her to produce a written apology for sharing meme. The Court while directing her said that freedom of speech and expression by an individual is always available but it ends when it amounts to infringement of right of another individual

Alia Bhatt- Koffee with Karan Incident-

This was the famous incidents due to which the social media was flooded with lots of memes as in this incidents Indian actress Alia Bhatt was on the show of Koffee with Karan and was asked a question that who is the President of India and she answered Prithvi Raj Chauhan. This found to be very funny for the people and countless memes were created on this matter.

AIB – PM Modi Meme case-

In this case AIB (All India Bakchod), a comedy group’s founder Tanmay Bhatt was booked for posting a meme in which the image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi was used in a dog filter in a snapchat. The cyber crime cell of Mumbai registered FIR against him under section 500 of IPC and section 67 of IT Act.

CONCLUSION

Memes are the popular trend of social media where enthusiasts create and spread memes and also uses them for the purpose of greater social media marketing tools. People defame others either in private or publicly and insulting a person by creating a defamatory meme comes under the online public defamation. And they use them to abuse people on the social media platform in the name of freedom of speech and expression.

When a person does not have any other mode to insult others they take a support of memes where they if warned take the plea that it was just out of fun and no intention of defamation exist. So, this act of defaming by memes must be properly regulated by laws and no one has a right to do so for his own fun as it may be harmful to the other about whom the memes are circulated on social media.

REFERENCES

https://www.mondaq.com/india/social-media/673736/law-on-internet-memes

https://www.thebetterindia.com/152813/trolled-online-cyber-bullies-law-constitution/

https://www.dnaindia.com/india/photo-gallery-mamata-meme-case-sc-asks-priyanka-sharma-to-apologise-says-it-will-not-operate-as-precedent-2749237/sc-order-gives-wrong-message-poonam-mahajan-2749240

https://blog.ipleaders.in/memes-study-defamation/

Image from- https://www.hm-attorneys.com/can-you-sue-over-a-meme-turns-out-you-can/

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