Cyber Laws have been defined as the laws of the Cyber Space. Though Cyber Space emerged as a border less society with a strong foundation based on anonymity, pseudonomity and freedom of speech, over the last decade the nature of Cyber Space particularly from the perspective of regulation has undergone a sea change.
Today the Cyber World has an estimated population of 6.67 billion bigger than any physical country. If this is recognized as a borderless society of its own, it is a huge Country bound by technology with a culture and commerce of its own. However, the physical society has so far not recognized the possible independent existence of this cyber world and has always looked at Cyber World of Netizens as a partial extension of the Physical world of Citizens of different countries. Hence we continue to create artificial boundaries for Netizens and define a state of Netizen as linked to a physical state. hence we have Netizens of India separated from Netizens of USA or another country. This artificial boundary is created with a mapping of the physical citizenship of the Netizen.
When Cyber Laws are formulated, they are driven by the culture of the physical society of the law making state. Hence there are different Cyber Laws in India as compared to Saudi Arabia or Canada. Some countries support Privacy more than others and some countries hate obscenity more than others. Though there are areas of common acceptance, the different laws supported by different enforcement agencies create problems of jurisdiction and interpretation which are often creating barriers to development.
The growth of Internet along with E-Commerce and E-Governance has already made the e-society exert influence on the physical society to such an extent that today any Citizen who would like himself to be away from the Networld cannot do so. He may either chose to live on the otherside of the digital divide denying himself of all the advantages of the digital world but with the liabilities arising from the existence of Cyber Space. For example if a DDOS attack immobilizes his Bank, he cannot even go to the branch of the Bank in his city and withdraw cash by the good old cheque across the counter. He cannot influence a legislation that his Bank should maintain a non cyber environment to suit his requirements since the Banking laws of the country has been modified to suit the convenience of those Citizens of the Country who are also Netizens and who want Internet Banking and Mobile Banking as part of their privileges.
Thus today’s regulations are being driven by a community other than the Citizens of the Country. These are the persons whom we can recognize as a hybrid entity between Citizens and Netizens who may be appropriately called CiNezens.
While Citizens focus on governance in the Physical space, Netizens focus on Governance on the Internet Space, this new breed of CiNezens try to formulate a legal structure which integrates the needs of both the independent societies.
We often find conflicts between the physical and net societies particularly when new laws are being framed. For example, while the net society brings in laws such as “Unique Digital ID for all”, Privacy practitioners see it as a violation of human rights. While the net society tries to introduce privacy and proxy registration of the domain names or supports anonymity on the net, the law enforcement in the physical society has reasons to frown.
Lack of understanding of this process of emerging legislation is often the reason for a conflict amongst different sections of the society. In case we need to bring harmony between the two societies, bridge the digital divide without burdening of the unwanted regulations on parts of the society, there is therefore a need to recognize the existence of CiNezens distinct from Citizens and Netizens.
Ideally it should be the choice of an individual if he wants to be Citizen alone or chose to be a CiNezen. Probably some would like to be Netizens alone but it appears that we soon will have laws that will criminalize adoption of Net Avatars, obtaining e-mail IDs in different names etc which mean that existence of a Netizen unconnected with his physical identity is perhaps not an option available to the society in future.
However whenever we make Cyber Laws, it would be better if we recognize that different countires may have different demographic configurations and therefore the laws may have to be dovetailed to their specific demographic status. For example, a country like Japan, USA or South Korea with nearly 75% internet penetration can adopt a Cyber Law which may not be relevant to a Country like India with a 7% penetration.
When law makers try to force harmony of Cyber Laws by international conventions and pressures, the demographic differences need to be taken into account.
In the recent Copenhagen summit on Climate related regulation there was a recognition of the difficulty in having a single law for all countries. Similarly, even when we formulate Cyber Laws or Copyright laws for the digital media, we need to recognize this difference. For example, if India tries to emulate USA and brings in a DMCA clone here, then there is a possibility of a conflict. Just as Mr Jairam Ramesh had the resolve to stand upto the pressures of US in the Climate negotiations, Mr Kapil Sibal should also show the same resolve before the Indian Copyright law is amended at the instance of the global players with commercial interests.
May be..whenever we make laws in future for Cyber Space we need to question, is it appropriate for the 93 % of the population to whom Interent has not yet reached? or at least, Is it designed to be fair to those 93%? Are there any safeguards to prevent the misapplication of the 7% oriented laws on the 93% population?