Visato Kiso, Kolkata
With the development and advancement of technology in this 21st century, especially in the field of information technology and its widespread availability and usage, particularly the use of internet has diversified; people have started using internet as a means of communicating their thoughts and ideas on various issues and problems and not merely as a tool to collect information. . The use of social media brought a common platform for all internet users and revolutionized the world to form a cyber society. The politicians and governments are using these mediums to reach out to masses and govern their subjects through e-governance, stars are using these as a medium to connect to their fans and well wishers Wannabes use these mediums to show the world what they do, citizens reach out to their governments, many successful businessmen use internet as an establishment, farmers use internet in various capabilities to increase their productivities and yield better product etc. There is definitely a new internet society which has come up where there is no distinction on any basis, internet has provided everybody a platform to convey their thoughts and creativity, get involved in discussions and debates, review a product, a movie, a song and even a person. Though this platform has provided us with many insightful, collateral collective constructive outlooks and a sense of oneness to the people, it also has its share of disadvantages. One of the most hideous abuses of internet use comes in the form of people who commit crime through computer or internet which is called cyber crime.
Many of us are frequent internet users; in fact, internet has become a lifeline especially the younger generation. As consumers, we are expected to know the implications of internet usage so that we can take full advantage of its use without entangling ourselves with the law or our fellow citizens. Cyber crime can be defined as “Offences that are committed against individuals or groups of individuals with a criminal motive to intentionally harm the reputation of the victim or cause physical or mental harm, or loss, to the victim directly or indirectly, using modern telecommunication networks such as Internet (networks including but not limited to Chat rooms, emails, notice boards and groups) and mobile phones (Bluetooth/SMS/MMS)”. Cyber crime can be categorized into the following:
a. Unauthorized access & Hacking: The act of unauthorized access without the permission of either the rightful owner or the person in charge of a computer, computer system or computer network such as Virus and Worm or Trojan Attack, Email spoofing, Spamming and email bombing etc.
b. Pornography: Act of showing pornography and or involved in shaping attitudes and encouraging behaviour that can harm individual users and their families.
c. Forgery/Frauds: Act of counterfeiting currency notes, postage and revenue stamps, mark sheets etc. forged using sophisticated computers, printers and scanners including bank fraud such as using false or fraudulent claims to solicit investments or loans, carding, phishing and social engineering, targeting consumers and businesses.
d. IPR Violations/ Identity theft: These include software piracy, copyright infringement, trademarks violations, theft of computer source code, patent violations, identity theft, extortion, and theft of classified information.
e. Cyber Terrorism/cyber warfare: Act of terrorism committed through the use of cyberspace or computer resources to attacks and posses military as well as civil installations and establishments, power plants, air traffic control, banks, rail traffic etc.
f. Cyber Defamation/ Obscene /offensive contents: Act of infringement/harming another person’s/office’s/company’s reputation in front of a third party by various means of defamation through words (spoken or written), signs or visible representation on cyber space such as social media platform/forum, social networking sites or groups, e-mails, chat rooms, SMS/MMS or any other websites which can be accessed by anyone. This is also known as Cyber Smearing.
All cyber crimes are planned and propagated intentionally except Cyber Defamation. The legal implications of cyber crimes are covered under the Information Technology Act, 2000. The Cyber Crime investigation cells of the Crime Investigation Department (CID) deals with these cyber crimes in India.
One of the social menace of internet and the most common violation of the law is the cyber defamation. Many a times we post or repost such contents in social media and networking sites casually, unaware of the legal implications of the contents or out of frustration and desperation. As law abiding citizens, we need to be very careful while using social networking sites because cyber defamation is a serious violation of the law as per Indian Penal Code, Section 499 and 500, punishable with imprisonment of two years or fine or both. There have been many instances where people have tarnished and ruined the reputation of others through their views or comments or allegations under the aegis of exposing corruption and freedom of speech and expression. The right to Freedom of Speech and Expression is a fundamental right in the Indian Constitution guaranteed under Article 19(1). As such, Freedom of speech and expression is one of the important pillars of democracy and is indispensable to the unadulterated exchange of thoughts and ideas needed to regulate the democratic machinery in the country. In fact, these free thoughts lead to ideas that formulate public policy and progress as well as built political stability and check abuse of power and corruption by public officials and the likes. However, this mechanism should not be misused through false allegations and defamation because nothing in this world is absolute; hence freedom of speech and expression comes with certain limitations and restrictions in the form of laws of defamation.
In conclusion, we need to educate all internet users, particularly those who use social networking sites, about the legal implications of our actions to avoid unnecessary legal attraction. In this regard, we ought to ask ourselves the Socrates triple filter test questions before posting or reposting any information in the social media, which is a good way to distance oneself from any legal involvement: Is the information about truth? Is the information’s intent good? And is the information useful? If any of the answer is not positive, refrain is a better word.