Among the many abuses of the great innovation called Internet and World Wide Web is the misuse of the technology for organized defamation like what we used to refer in the physical world as “Yellow Journalism”.
While some adopt abuse through obscenity or abuse through manipulated information which are considered offences under ITA 2000, “Abuse through Defamation” and “Abuse through an Online Threat” are no longer offences under the ITA 2000 because our honourable Supreme Court took a wrong decision in the in famous Shreya Singhal case by scrapping Section 66A which has not been replaced so far.
I have recently come across a “Death Threat” on Whats App which cannot be booked under ITA 2000 and another incident of defamation through postings on some websites/blogs dedicated to defamation, which also cannot be booked under ITA 2000.
Such cases have to be booked under IPC but the evidence is in the electronic form and has to be supported by Section 65B certificate.
Unless the Government of India re introduces Section 66A or its equivalent or files for a review with the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court reviews it and allows the section to come back at least in a “read down version”(Please refer to discussions on Section 66A here), there is no relief to the victims.
Similarly, there is no relief to Cyber Crime victims if the MeitY and the MOF continues to ignore the immediate need to ban Crypto Currencies in India. These issues have also been highlighted in this website in the past.
Now I would like to bring to the notice of the public some websites such as shesahomewrecker.com, fraudsters.online and exposecheaters.online.
These are websites which encourage posting of defamatory content. We have earlier discussed in these columns about the “Glassdoor attack” and also referred to the law in NewZealand to prevent such harmful effects of Social Media misuse. In one dimension of job market we pointed out to “Glassdoor attack” which involved posting of bad reviews about companies by disgruntled employees.
For these websites, and even for the Twitters and Face Books, attracting visitors is the criteria. If this can be done with sensational news often created out of AI robots, they would grab it with both hands. What is lacking here clearly is “Ethics of Business”.
While Internet provides the freedom of expression which can be used effectively when incidents like suspected murders in the cases of Sushant Rajput or D K Ravi or Sunanda Pushkar, Palghar sadhus, Sridevi etc takes place and the Police under the influence of corruption fail to take appropriate steps, there are also instances when innocent persons are harassed through wrongful posts in some of the websites mentioned earlier.
Of course, these issues have to be handled on a case to case basis and we cannot impose censorship that could prevent good use of Internet freedom.
However, in most cases, it is difficult to find the owners of these websites since the Registrars promoted by ICANN have a false sense of Privacy and mask the identity of the business information called “Ownership of domains” as if they are “personal data. Hence even if our neighbor is indulging in slander, we will be running behind companies registered in Panama to request for the Who Is records. Similarly G Mail does not want to reveal the originating IP address for emails that land in my InBox for which I should have the right of information.
In a recent incident we also pointed out that Net4India a sub registrar of domain names and ISP services in India suspended many of its activities inconveniencing hundreds or thousands of web users.
The ICANN is not taking any responsibility for misuse of Internet and its approach to Cyber Crimes is the biggest challenge to Cyber Security at this point of time.
If we want not to depend on ICANN for securing the Cyber Space, it is only the individual countries who have to ensure that the Cyber Space does not become a menace.
In India therefore the responsibility falls on the MeitY to address some of these issues.
Despite our repeated nudges, MeitY has not taken action for resolving the Net4India issue or the Crypto Currency issue. It has earlier indulged in half hearted attempts to amend Section 79 intermediary rules but backed out when Urban Naxalites launched action in the Supreme court. Though it has taken steps to block Chinese Apps, it has not taken steps to block the websites who have made it a business out of defamation.
Now we need to again remind MeitY that reintroduction of “Harassment through messaging” which was present in Section 66A along with the Cyber Bullying, Cyber Stalking, Spamming, Phishing, Cyber threats which were all present in Section 66A but the Supreme Court failed to see as it was after its own desire to assert its support to freedom of expression calling Section 66A as a “Chilling” effect on the society.
We are not sure that MeitY has an ear to listen to these aspects. MeitY appears to be mortally afraid of PIL lawyers who may get a sympathetic hearing by the Supreme Court also. Our Attorney General is more concerned with letting off persons with a history of contempt of Court proceedings rather than protecting the victims of Cyber Abuse.
But it is our duty to record our observations and hope that some Court at least will take note of the vows of Internet abuse when some defamation cases are brought before them like the Baba Ramdev case which was heard by the Delhi High Court.