Social Media Use for Abuse…root cause is Privacy and Anonymity..Solution is on hands..if we care..

Eminent lawyers of the country seem to have taken up a fight against Social Media for enabling “abusive content”.

According to the news reports, they are demanding that Supreme Court should consider “Regulation of Social Media”.

However, we need to point out that Supreme Court should not be diverted from the core issue into getting into regulating social media though this would make a good media copy.

Some time back when Supreme Court scrapped Section 66A of ITA 2000, was a lone dissenting voice stating in no unclear terms that Supreme Court was wrong.The advocates who are now crying hoarse against Social Media had words of great praise for scrapping of Section 66A. (Refer articles here).

Our opposition to Section 66A scrapping was that it was a wrong medicine for the problem which was the wrongful arrest of citizens for innocuous social media activities. The decision was faulty since Section 66A was not meant for addressing abusive posts on Twitter and Facebook but was wrongly blamed. As a result, Cyber Bullying, Cyber Stalking, Harassment through E-Mails, SMS, Spamming and Phishing all went  out of the regulation under Section 66A.

Under the guise of protecting the “Freedom of Speech”, the Supreme Court in this Shreya Singhal judgement gave a “License to Abuse”. What we are observing today has the origin in the perception that “Section 66A was scrapped by Supreme Court because social media abuse was considered as a part of the fundamental right to freedom of speech”.

It is therefore amusing that the same eminent lawyers and the Supreme Court as well as the conventional media are now converging on an attempt to gag the Social Media under some pretext.

If Supreme Court withdraws its Shreya Singhal judgement and reinstates Section 66A, it would be one of the best and easy solutions to reverse the perception.

It must be reiterated here that the arrests of innocent citizens under Section 66A which led to the decision  of scrapping the section was born out of a mis-interpretation of the Police that the section was applicable to “Publishing” in the social media such as FaceBook and the Twitter. The Courts at all levels failed to call the mistake and took to grandstanding as “Champions of Freedom of Speech” and scrapped the section.

Now it appears that the Eminent Jurists are again creating a situation that may lead to another bad decision as regards Social Media.

In the present instance, abuses on Social media can be addressed (in the absence of Section 66A) through relevant sections of IPC provided the electronic evidence is properly presented with Section 65B certification. Hence there is legal protection against misuse of the Social Media except for procedural issues that may require attention. If Section 66A is reinstated, situation would improve substantially.

However, the root problem of Social Media use for abuse is not that there is a freedom to publish anything including irresponsible content but the fact that it can be done “Anonymously”. The same eminent jurists and the Supreme Court are responsible for creating a false impression in the society that “Privacy is protected by hiding one’s identity in social media communications”.

Again, it is not the issue whether “Privacy” is an important fundamental right and needs to be protected or not… but whether the current manner in which we are protecting Privacy through enabling “Anonymity” is the right way to protect Privacy.

All Twitter and Facebook abuses as well as WhatsApp misuse can be stopped if in case of misuse the persons responsible can be identified easily and simply named and shamed. But we are not prepared to do it because we feel “Privacy” right is being curtailed by making the identity of Social Media users hard to get at except with an FIR or Court direction.

We track the location of users of Computers and Mobiles to the last meter to display restaurants around us or for hailing a cab, but we are not prepared to track the location of the social media abusers.

The Twitter and Facebook IDs are dependent on the e-mail IDs of the owners and its use pattern. Similarly, website IDs are dependent on domain name registrations which again are linked to e-mail IDs.

Hence behind most of the issues that we face today and call Cyber Crimes or Social Media abuses, there is a hidden e-mail ID. If Google happens to the biggest e-mail provider, then it is the reason for most of these crimes being encouraged and abetted by the false sense of Privacy protection that the society is now supporting.

I have recently raised a query with Google why it should not take the mandatory consent of the recipients of Gmail to automatically know the originating IP address of the sender. If as a part of the Gmail setting, I declare that all incoming emails should be accepted only if the originating IP address is revealed to the recipients, Google can put in a system where the senders would be notified that their email will be delivered to the destination address only if they permit revealing the originating IP address to the addressee.

This is a simple technical correction which the Supreme Court can mandate if they are really concerned about the social media abuse.

In a similar manner, the dynamic IP address of the ISP or the owner of a mobile  should also be automatically revealed at the request of a recipient of an e-mail or SMS or Call for which ISPs can put in a system where by the request is made by an identified citizen of India (say under his Aadhaar identity) and a declaration that he is in receipt of an e-mail or mobile communication from the person whose identity is being sought and a further assurance that if his request is on false grounds, he may be prosecuted for “Breach of Privacy under false pretensions”.

This is also a simple technical correction which the Supreme Court can mandate if they are really concerned about Social Media abuse.

I therefore call upon the honourable Chief Justice of India, Mr Dipak Sharma and responsible advocates mike Mr Harish Salve that they should consider these suggestions.

I request readers who re rightly connected, to pass on this request to Mr Harish Salve and Justice Dipak Mishra since they are unlikely to be otherwise informed about the “Solutions” and would be bogged down with the “Problems”.


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About Vijayashankar Na

Naavi is a veteran Cyber Law specialist in India and is presently working from Bangalore as an Information Assurance Consultant. Pioneered concepts such as ITA 2008 compliance, Naavi is also the founder of Cyber Law College, a virtual Cyber Law Education institution. He now has been focusing on the projects such as Secure Digital India and Cyber Insurance
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