Soon after Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi's interview to a television news channel, the then Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal, re-tweeted (and later retracted) a trending post comparing the two prospective prime ministerial candidates in waiting. Perhaps, what Kejriwal did not realise was, had any of the two candidates in question filed defamatory charges, he and his tweet followers could be fined under libel laws and provisions in the Information Technology Act, 2000, if proven guilty in a court of law. A tweet is a digital footprint admissible in a court of law as evidence.
Like Kejriwal, millions of Indian social media users -mostly unknowingly - are treading on thin ice when it comes to their legal rights and liabilities on the social media. The Indian legal system could soon see a spate of libel and defamatory cases initiated largely from the social media, given the explosive growth in users over the last couple of years. There are over 200 million internet users in India, and most of them are getting connected online through the social media. More so, as Indian e-commerce business gains traction, or as political parties in an election year discover the power of the social media to influence voters.
That is already the case in many developed markets. Earlier this month, a music teacher in Australia was awarded damages worth for defamation on Twitter and Facebook after she was targeted by a former student. According to reports in the UK media, more than 1,700 cases, involving abusive messages sent online or via text, reached British courts in 2012.
"In India, awareness about social media law is still a grey area. That is why users commit crimes innocently," says Advocate Prashant Mali, cyber law & cyber security expert. According to Pavan Duggal, a leading cyber law expert, there are at least a dozen Twitter-initiated defamation cases in various courts across the country. Experts say Indian law enforcement agencies are still struggling to convince intermediaries, such as Twitter Google or Facebook to readily share physical evidence, or remove objectionable content. While all the laws in the physical world, such as the Indian Penal Code and Consumer Protection Act, apply to the social media as well, the Information Technology Act is seen as the mother law that governs the space.
|SOCIAL MEDIA LAWS|
RIGHTS & LIABILITIES OF USER/CONSUMER