An Interference with Freedom of Speech and Expression
“If the freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”George Washington
Social media has become an extension of our lives beyond our surroundings and to the extent of knowing people around the world. Nowadays everyone has an account on social media like What’s App, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Though there are several ill-effects on the psychological of the people, they are most addicted as they think that it is a part of life that ensures entertainment to them. It has become an essential tool that connects people despite territorial distances.
Social Media has also become a part of communications where people can exercise freedom of speech and expression, share their thoughts, ideas, and information. In recent times revolution has also been taking place in social media platforms to seek human rights and justice. Examples such as the Arab Spring Revolution, Justice for George Floyd are the instances where media has played a vital role. But this does not confer the right to speak or publish without responsibility on the citizens. There are certain reasonable restrictions on the right to freedom of speech and expression. But it is misused by some people who are the threats to a peaceful country. Many cybercrimes are happening only through social media. There must be certain regulations in the contents that are posted by the people for the interests of the public at large.
The issue which is taken now is the removal of the negative reviews of Tik Tok by Google has interference with the freedom of speech and expression. Freedom of speech and expression is a natural right that is conferred upon the people to express freely without any fear of threats. But freedom of expression is not absolute as it is with restrictions. Tik Tok has been considered as a social network. We have seen several clashes between YouTube and Tik Tok on social media platforms. Tik Tok is a Chinese social media platform. There were also several hashtags to ban Tik Tok and there was also a hashtag of India against Tik Tok has become a trend to ban Tik Tok in India.
This has affected the Tik Tok to some extent and its ratings were dropped from 4.7 to 1.2 in overnight that has become the lowest rating ever. But in a way, Google came as a savior of the app and deleted millions of bad reviews from the Play Store that were commented by the people. As per the report Google has deleted over 5 million negative comments for Tik Tok that led to the improved ratings of the App. As of now, the Play Store has 22 million reviews for Tik Tok which means that Google has so far removed more than 5 million reviews. The present Tik Tok rate is 4.0 and still increasing.
Reasons for the Lowest Ratings Ever
There was a viral trend on the online as the YouTube vs Tik Tok. Carryminati, a YouTuber is known for making funny videos created a spoof video to roast Amir Siddiqui and other Tik Tokers. The video became the fastest 2 million liked- video on YouTube. However, the streaming application has deleted the video due to many reports of defaming an individual. This was spread among the fans of Carryminati and many started to review Tik Tok.
Later a video went viral where a Social Media Influencer is seen threatening a girl for leaving him. This video was furiously reported by various celebrities and the other users of the Tik Tok. There were many such viral videos and Rekha Sharma, the Chief of National Commission for Women decided to ask the government to ban Tik Tok in social media platforms in India for “promoting unproductivity” in the country. All these incidents led to the lowest ratings of the app ever and then Google deleted over 5 million negative reviews that led to the intervention of freedom of speech and expression of the people.
Various Verdicts of the Courts
The power or right to express one’s opinion without censorship, restraint, or legal penalty is known as Freedom of Speech. One’s opinion may be expressed by words of mouth, in writing, printing, pictures, or any other mode. This freedom includes a person’s right to promote and spread and publish the views of other people. Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression.
There are also provisions for freedom of speech and expression in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights etc. Article 19(2) has reasonable restrictions on various grounds on the security of the state, friendly relations of the foreign countries, public order, decency and morality, contempt of court, defamation, incitement of offense and integrity and sovereignty of states. The purpose of freedom of speech and expression is to spread facts, finding the truth, one’s participation in decision making. In Indian Express Newspapers v. Union of Indiathe Supreme Court held that the establishment of the press to enhance the interest of the public by publishing the facts and opinions. The press plays a major role in the electorate process in India. In the same manner, every people have an interest in the public in establishing the facts about an incident or legislation or an app.
In Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, the Supreme Court held that the freedom of speech and expression does not have any geographical limit. It is the right of citizens to collect, exchange, and share their thought with others not only in India but also abroad. The right freedom of speech and expression also evolved with the technology and means of expressing the views through electronic media.
In Union of India v. Association for Democratic Reforms, the Supreme Court held that the right to receive and impart information in freedom of speech and expression also holds the freedom of opinions. In S. Rangarajan v. P. Jagjivan Ram, the court held that everyone has a fundamental right to form opinions on any of the issues that are in general. In a democratic country, everyone has their own opinion and opinions may differ from person to person. One person need not agree on the opinion of others. The commercial information is also included under the right to freedom of speech and expression. The right to freedom of speech and expression through the internet has also become a part of Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution.
From the list of above stated it is well-known that every individual has the right to express his/ her opinion through the internet for the welfare of public interest. The ratings and the reviews that were given by the people and social media influencers are also the part of freedom of speech and expression and expressing their views and opinions in the form of ratings, reviews and comments are the fundament right of every citizen not only in India but also to other persons. But the countries in the world are far better in the laws regarding freedom of speech and expression. The right has also been guaranteed by the laws to such a greater extent. It is right of every citizen to post their views and opinions on the matter that is furiously affecting the morals of the persons.
Thus, the negative reviews that were deleted by Google are the violation of the right to the freedom of speech and expression of the people and this is moreover true and the Tik Tok has been widely abused by the people. It the right of the people to know about a particular app and its reviews and ratings that were commented are also the right to information of the others and even that cannot be violated.
 Oxford Dictionary
 AIR 1987 SC 597
 (2002) 5 SCC 294