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Meera Mathew

People's right to know, to hold opinions, right to access, to seek and receive information, as well as to disseminate and impart ideas, despite frontiers, are protected under all democratic nations' constitutional right of freedom of expression. This duty to inform and disseminate news is undoubtedly the responsibility vested with media as the fourth estate and as a watchdog thereby enabling it to exert due checks and monitors on the working of the nation. By this, it mandates a strong, independent and adequately resourced media to operate in order to serve the general public interest and to place and keep up high standards of journalism. With the changing notions of media and with the prevalence of social media and interactive entertainment platforms, where users write the content, edit the same and disseminate it to the public, the question arises if social media does indeed actually function as ‘media’ as envisioned by our constitutional drafters. Disseminating information accurately to the public is a sacrosanct duty and if such a duty gets affected, the edifice of democracy is devastated. From the traditional media having reliance on what had been circulated, it moved to a system where the ordinary citizen has the capability to manage media technologies and notify own stories creating trends more for a business purpose. This change as named as media-morphosis has also crushed the right to be informed accurately. Against this backdrop, this article addresses the rising frequency of disinformation ‒ occasionally indicated as ‘misinformation’ or ‘fake news’ in social media, inflamed by both states and non-state stakeholders, plus the diverse issues to which they perhaps are a causative part or key source. It also critically evaluates the obligation states have to enable a conducive environment for freedom of expression that comprise encouraging and defending diverse media however, simultaneously, to curtail any sort of misinformation being disseminated to its people. As is evident from the title of this article, the jurisprudential aspects of freedom of information vis-a-vis the freedom to disseminate are examined where the primary examination focus is on – if media that is used to keep a watchful eye on the dealings of government and act as a champion of the public's right to know, has departed from this constitutional duty with the emergence of social media. Moreover, the nexus between ‘contours of expression to disseminate the information’ and ‘extent of limitations as to such information dissemination’ will be analysed. To illustrate, Indian legal framework is used and applied. In its conclusion the author endeavours to question the unwarranted benefit social media enjoys as ‘intermediary’ and as ‘media’ thereby ponders if the current Indian legal framework is adequate to deal with the ramifications.