New media stresses new regulations in IT Act

Written by Diksha Dutta | Diksha Dutta | Updated: Dec 12 2011, 09:19am hrs
The last week was full of action for the internet world, courtesy almost every minute updated controversial social media contentbe it Facebook or Twitter. While the minister for communications and information technology, Kapil Sibal purposed human intervention in the pre publication phase of online content and the government is planning to draft guidelines for the provisions in the Indian IT Act, we need to step back and have a look at the statistics to see the trend of cybercrime in our nation. Experts opine that rather than having pre publication content monitoring, we need to have specific amendments pertaining to social media and mobile privacy. Moreover, there needs to be a more stringent punishment for cybercrime.

Cybercrime scenario

From August 15, 1995 when internet was commercially introduced in our country till today, there have been only three cybercrime conventions in 15 years. There has been a 700% increase in cybercrime in last 3 years. For every 500 instances of cybercrime in India, only 50 get reported to the police and only one gets registered as an official police report.

The definition of cybercrime and cybersecurity has changed in the last two years as smartphones and social media are getting famous among youth. It is not just about cybercrime relating to person, property or nation anymore. It is beyond this. Pavan Duggal, a cyber law consultant and advocate in the Supreme Court says, The propensity to commit cybercrime has increased tremendously over the last two years. Hackers now do not need highly secured computer systems and networks to hack a mobile or email ID. Nine out of ten smartphone users do not even know that their mobiles require an anti-virus software.

Duggal feels that the IT Act is out of place at present. The actual last amendments was in 2008, though in April 2011 there were more amendments added. Still the Act does not deal with anything on social media criminal activities. It covers mobile phones, but it does not deal with anything pertaining to mobile crimes, mobile privacy or mobile data protection.

Online content is not defined per se under the IT Act. It says data and information in the electronic form, which is a very vast and generic term. The inclusion of social media and mobile guidelines is definitely important in the Act as number of users on the same is shooting. A quick glance: according to social media management firm Omillion, 30 million Indians who are online consumers are members of social networking sites and 20 million of these spend time on social networking sites daily. Over the next six months , 45,000 online Indians intend to join social networking sites each day.

A recent survey by Indiabiz News Research Services also reveals that nearly 76% of youth believe that social media empowers them to bring change to the world they live in. They are convinced that causes for women and movements against corruption can be driven through this medium that is now growing as a source for information. In fact, as many as 28% source information from social media sites whereas around 54 % prefer a mix of print, television and social media.

Existing benefits and concerns

As social media is becoming such an important tool, Duggal says that the government right now is concerned about defamatory content and the content that offends religious sensibilities and both of them are covered under the existing law. If you defamate somebody, it is punishable with imprisonment and fine under Section 500 of Indian Penal Code. Also under section 66 A of the IT Act, there is three years imprisonment and fine for such an offence. Similarly, if one publishes obscene content on any network, under Section 67 of the IT Act he will be punishable with three years imprisonment and a fine of R5,00,000.

Further, rules under IT Act which have come into effect from April 11, 2011 mention that all service providers like Google, Yahoo or Facebook should have terms and conditions that they cannot post any obscene content. The service provider has to remove such content in 36 hours if asked by government or any citizen of India. If not done so, the law says that the service provider is in same category with the co-accused. The affected person can sue the service provider for offensive content upto R5 crore. If the websites does not remove it in 36 hours, the internet company is criminally liable and has to pay compensation. This is effective from October 27, 2009.

The government has been given power to put fine on service providers under the IT Act. Recently Yahoo! had to pay a fine of R10,00,000 for not giving the government some content for national investigation or security.

Thus, as topics like Anna Hazares Lokpal Bill remain top discussion issues on Facebook, it is high time we include clearly defined social media and mobile crime regulations in the Indian IT Act.