Bonnet Bots Untrue News Service
The government has decided to tax free speech as it runs out of options to control senseless chatter, fake news, and of course, tax deficit. The government stated Thursday that free speech will no longer be unconditionally free. Any public statement construed as free speech, which receives considerable traction in media (the regular or the social kind), will have a fixed one time tax of 5000 in local currency, especially if found to satisfy certain ‘conditions’. The Minister who announced this, was faced with public outrage, whereupon he clarified that only certain statements which have a wide outreach, will be treated as ‘taxable’ under this rule, especially those which are outright false, or even worse, outright senseless, with the exception of ‘satire content’ on sites such as site1.bonnetbots.com, which at least have some entertainment value. Even for the rest of the people, the tax amount will be fixed, and will NOT go up no matter how senseless the statement turns out to be, which came as a major relief to various political outfits and gossip magazines.
There is a big loss of productivity of around a billion dollars due to the workforce wasting time on senseless news
When asked by the blue colored Bonnet Bot, as to why the government felt the need for such an extreme measure, a government spokesperson explained that some people were taking disadvantage of the fact that free speech was free, and using it to spread fake news, or worse, utterly senseless time-wasting ‘stuff’. He explained, “There have been people who have been making statements which appear in media and waste peoples’ time and decrease the productivity of the workforce. This is extremely harmful to an economy which is at such a critical stage. We must act. A tax like this will at least make them think twice before uttering complete rubbish, which seems to have become the norm.”
“This is not just about fake news to manipulate politics. It is also affecting the mundane life of people, even during those scarce times when there is no election going on anywhere in the country”, added the chief secretary. To prove his point, he gave an example of how some page 3 newspapers were making statements about so called ‘celebrities’ which turned out to be absolutely devoid of news content, and even tended to be a complete waste of time for ‘the common man’. “We are fine with regular news which is not a complete waste of time. At least not hundred percent. However some news is about how some celebrity orders Biryani on a certain movie set, or how some celebrity’s brother’s fiancee acted during a pre-wedding function… Who has the time to read this? But people still get caught up, if their eyes fall on such a headline, and there is a serious risk of addiction. There is a big loss of productivity of around a billion dollars due to the workforce wasting time on senseless news about celebrity relatives. And their pets. And their maids, cooks, chauffers and bodyguards. Why, just the loss to the economy due to a certain celebrity’s little son’s pictures is estimated to be 114.73 million dollars” he said. “…approximately” he added later. We have to do something to ensure that people don’t say things for the sake of saying them and don’t waste other people’s time. There have to be some ethics left in journalism of this kind.”
The public seemed to have mixed reactions to the news. While some serious-looking people lauded the government’s efforts to curb senseless statements by some gossip channels, others felt that this law was unfairly biased towards certain media while altogether ignoring corporates. One such person was questioned by the blue Bonnet Bot, and he stated “Corporates sometimes have stupid ideas in advertisements, such as a men’s fairness cream enabling armed forces to perform better. What kind of youngsters are we shaping for tomorrow? Isn’t this a loss to society, and ultimately, the economy? The law purposely does not address such concerns. I am sure this government is pro-corporates and anti-poor.”
Shambu, a temporary driver for a local bar, stated that free speech was a right of the people, especially when they are drunk. That is the time when they really get to say their inner feelings, and if the government is now going to tax some of these statements arbitrarily, that is a serious risk to his profession. Shambu provides services to people who prefer to be driven home after they have drinks at the bar, to avoid certain other high fines of the government. On being asked about the logic for the amount of 5000, he added that it seems fine and in line with other government policies. “The fine for the plastic ban also was 5,000 which nobody could afford. But they consistently maintained it for various motor vehicle violations, which means they are at least consistent, if not logical, while fixing fines” he stated. He further added. “The high fines for drunk driving has given employment to people like me. Who can say that the government is not creating jobs?”
Yazad, a public policy observer, was quite positive on the government’s intelligence. “It is good that they have kept a fixed amount of 5000. Else like the various taxes on income, if this too were a percentage, it would have been a disaster. Free speech being free, any percentage too would have been zero, bringing in nothing for the Government and making a mockery of the free speech tax”, he added thoughtfully.
At the time of going to press, the government was contemplating whether the education cess and other surcharges would apply over and above the fixed tax of 5000 rupees.