Expert advice on cybersecurity, cybersafety and cybercrime. Using real incidents, I explain why cyber risks occur, what form they take, and how they affect cybercitizens as individuals, employees, citizens and parents. Opinions expressed in this blog represent my personal views
The use of
Section 66 A of the Indian IT Act to arrest a businessman, who tweeted that a
cabinet minister’s son was corrupt, drew sharp condemnation from twitter users
and the national press as it appeared Orwellian. The main issue was ironically
not on the use of the law, but on its definition which allowed its use in lieu
of other provisions to tackle defamatory statements. People feared that the
current definition would be used to instill fear and censor free speech online.
Section 66A of the Indian IT Act 2000
amendment 2008 states “
Any person who sends, by means of a computer
resource or a communication device,—
(a) any information that is grossly
offensive or has menacing character; or
(b) any information which he knows to
be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger,
obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will,
persistently by making use of such computer resource or a communication device,
electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance
or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about
the origin of such messages, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term
which may extend to three years and with fine.
As a layman
reading the law, I felt the definition to be comprehensive enough to address a
wide range of cybercrimes, but not specifically able to distinguish between the
very petty and the more severe cases without going to the courts.
Laws are made
to accommodate the normal behavior and misbehavior of people and should not be
so encompassing that the definition in itself is difficult to interpret. There
is an anti social part in all Internet communication that all netizens are
willing to live with, such as those messages which results in annoyance, ill
will and inconvenience.
that the section could be furthered refined to target cases where people are
unduly harassed by vicious and relentless online messages which affect the
emotional behavior of victims, leading to depression, fear and suicides. Such communications
which include vulgar emails, death threats, blackmail, hate, sedition, and the posting
of a victim’s obscene pictures must be exemplified.