media, information, the contemporary

Law, Media and Violence

Siddharth Narrain

October 2018 to November 2018

As part of my work at Sarai-CSDS during this period I worked on a project related to law, media, and violence in contemporary India. My work focused on the relationship between law and media in relation to hate speech online on social media platforms, including Facebook and WhatsApp. I examined contemporary incidents of violence in India such as the 2012 exodus of persons in the Northeast from cities including Bangalore, Chennai, and Pune, in relation to the circulation of content on social media platforms and the virality of this content.

​During this period of time, I worked on a book project that was conceptualised at the Act of Media workshop held at Sarai in January 2016. This book, titled Acts of Media: Law and Media in Contemporary India has been published in 2022 by SAGE-ICAS:MP as part of the open access series on Politics and Society in India and the Global South: The chapters in this volume address the relationship between law and media through different entry points—disputes over media and information systems shaping law, theories of law that incorporate media forms, and law and media co-producing trials. The multidisciplinary nature of this book has facilitated a rich and productive conversation among legal scholars, researchers and lawyers from disciplines such as constitutional law, law and technology, media and cinema studies, legal anthropology and political science:

​During this time, I published a paper titled ‘Law, Language and Hurt Community Sentiment: Behind Hate Speech Doctrine in India’ in Janny H. C. Leung & Alan Durant. (eds) Language, Power and Law: The Invisible Exercise of Power though Language (Cambridge University Press, 2018) 186-204. In this paper, I have developed the ideas around hate speech law and hurt community sentiment that I had been working on at the time and had presented during the Acts of Media workshop. This edited volume includes essays from leading socio-legal scholars including Laura Nader and Peter Goodrich.

During this time, I was also actively involved in running the email list and coordinating the activities of the Law and Social Sciences Research Network (LASSnet), a network of lawyers, legal scholars, and academics from the social sciences and humanities focused on themes related to South Asia and the Global South. LASSnet is co- anchored at the Centre for the Study of law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, and the School of Law, Governance and Citizenship, Ambedkar University Delhi.

​My broader research interests include media law and freedom of speech and expression, law and technology, public and constitutional law in India, and law and sexuality. My PhD is titled “Law and Virality: ‘Combustible Publics AND Crowds’ and the Regulation of Hate Speech Online on Facebook.” In the thesis I investigate how the changing nature of digital harms has inaugurated new institutional sites and infrastructure of regulation of speech online. I am currently a final year PhD candidate at the Faculty of Law & Justice, University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney. I will be starting work as a lecturer at the Adelaide Law School, University of Adelaide, from July 2023. At the Adelaide Law School, one of the areas I am interested in teaching into is law and media.

Research Collections

This archive was built between February 2021 and August 2022 and supported by the collaboration between The Sarai Program at CSDS and ICAS: MP on thematic module 7 entitled, ‘Media and the Constitution of the Political’. This project details how truth-telling is transformed after widespread media proliferation with a focus on public commissions of inquiry into the Northeast Delhi Riots in 2020. The project seeks to understand the nature of political, humanitarian, and legal claims made in the presentation of witness speech and evidence; how to assess the temporality of the report in negotiating these often-competing claims; and what the handling of media evidence discloses about the politics of caution, care, and self-care. In detailing how investigations assemble evidence and articulate the evidentiary value of media, special attention is given to practices associated with open-source investigations, online publication and archiving, and the management of risk associated with such human rights media work. Research collections include fact-finding reports and books, documentary films, collections of film and photo documentation, news reports, web archives, and social media threads.