SOCIAL MEDIA AND ONLINE DEFAMATION BY VEDIKA GAGRANI

INTRODUCTION:

Since times immemorial humans have existed and survived each other through corporation and communication. They have constantly tried to enrich their communicating skills , starting first with symbols, paintings and then advancing towards alphabets and letters through the centuries. The key to their survival was their own form of communication which they carried and passed on to the later generations. As times advanced, humans started understanding the symbiotic relationship with each other as well as their fellow mates in different parts of the world more comprehensively. To give stimulus to this advancement, they worked together towards evolving a standard form of communication universal to all so that a proper and a uniform channel is established for all to have their convenience with. In the later part of the 19th and the 20th centuries, there came devices like computers and telephones which helped the world to quickly form a huge social network with people even forming connections to lands miles away. 

THE INITIAL BLOSSOMING OF SOCIAL MEDIA:

Humans are known to be social beings and to survive and co-exist they need to harness their social skills from time to time. For this purpose, it was the need of the hour that all be provided with a broad digital platform to interact on and also carry forward their business and social life to a higher level. This advanced the coming of applications like Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Instagram, Snapchat and thousands more to provide an easy window for global networking. These applications have tremendously assisted in reducing the need of a person to be physically present to maintain his/her network. All of this in turn has created a dependency for the humans to survive through connections and communication.

PURPOSE OF SOCIAL MEDIA: 

On the baseline, there are essentially four major conventions upon which social media revolves and develops itself as suited to time, popularly known by the epitome SLIM , detailed out below:

  1. SHARING: With the help of social media, you can share your own ideas, thoughts, perspective on various political as well as apolitical issues at ease and in your own use of expressions. There are several outlets that have been developed specifically for people to share their ideas and thoughts for everyone to see, this way, your content also finds a large audience and the level of exposure also gets enhanced. Therefore, sharing on social media has its own perks and privileges which helps humans increase their interactive skills.
  2. LEARNING: Since social media helps facilitate sharing , it also acts as a tool for people to learn anything new. With unlimited information available on almost any topic , it has become quiet easy to acquire knowledge just by the use of fingertips without having to actually search for the information of your like by visiting the libraries or book stores. The immediacy of the information flow allows you to get the gist of the latest news almost as it happens.
  3. INTERACTING: One of the strongest pillars supporting the existence of social media is its interactive nature. Millions of people across the globe use social media as a medium of interacting with each other no matter where they are and are using it to break the traditional barrier of time and distance that exists between people.
  4. MARKETING: This is one of the most widely used conventions of social media. With the increasing digitisation as well as with the influence of technology , people have also started marketing their products online since it helps reach the global population quicker, provide a stronger base for marketing and also helps a lot in increasing sales and promotional activity.
PRESENT DAY SCENARIO OF THE SOCIAL FORUM:

Only a decade ago, social media was like a budding trend, still in its primitive stage, beginning to evolve to its form today. Since the whole world is now technology based, internet and social media have become a paramount part of our lives today. Both social media and internet have succoured in expanding the boundaries of connectivity and content further beyond what one could have imagined in the early 2000s and have changed the face of the globe completely. With so much of content being written, blogged , posted and reacted upon daily, the degree of human involvement in these have also risen.

Now a days, the help of social media is taken in almost every activity that one performs from starting a business, to its marketing, to concluding the contracts of sales and purchases and also to stay in touch with the customers in order to generate a feedback. Not only the business world but also the scientific world also is extracting its share of benefits from social media by using all that is available to explore all that can be made available for the humans to take another big prodigious step towards the future. In terms of hearing about the day to day happenings which earlier was a herculean task, social media has provided us with the privilege of hearing the whereabouts of any part of the world within seconds.

The most unforgettable impact of social media has been on the teenagers and the young adults globally. This extract of population is a smart and an all time consumer of media and it sure affects them both directly and indirectly. On the outline , some of the major positive sways of social media on the attitude and behaviour of the people is that it helps them to develop an interest in political as well as apolitical issues trending at the moment, seeing other people jot down their viewpoints and interpretations, it provides a helping hand to them to develop their own framework and express themselves freely. Also, since celebrities and other popular and imminent personalities use social media as a way to let the people have a glimpse into their choices and lifestyle, it can also help people take up a healthy lifestyle by getting influenced by them and follow their steps.

But, as is always said, WITH POWER COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY, therefore while social media is providing us with a basket full of concessions, it still has a negative side to it if it goes into the wrong authorization or is misused against any entity or person. Just like every coin has its two sides, social media too has another side to it which has developed itself through time. Largely the negative effects of media are more towards teenagers and young adults as compared to the infants or the old age strata of the population.

The evils of the media cannot be overlooked or neglected in any way, these negatives if not timely and properly handled can cause severe harm to the child growth potential. In the business world , generally the strongest threat that media possesses is a potential harm and damage that it can cause to the company or to the business and put its reputation at stake. Through all of these, a variety of social media crimes have come into picture like Cyberbullying, hacking, stalking, frauds, money laundering, online defamation, ransomware, child abuse, identity theft and many more. Of these cyberbullying, hacking, frauds and online defamation are more prevalent.

DEFAMATION:

It essentially means an act of making false/ untrue statements about another which causes harm to his/her reputation. It can also be put in other words as an attack on the reputation of another through false publication.

There are two means through which defamation can take place. The first form is what is known as Libel, which takes place in a situation wherein false statements harming the reputation of a person or an organisation are made in writing. The second form, that is Slander takes place when such false statements are spoken orally. Both of the above cases, a legal action can be taken if it causes any injury to the reputation.

*The elementary or the quintessential form of defamation is enlisted under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code.

There have been multiple cases wherein the courts have laid down that mens rea or guilty intention is important to be proven to take the claim of defamation.

COMPREHENDING ONLINE DEFAMATION:

Both the internet and the social media are a great platform for the people of the society in general, but can also be subjected to certain unethical trends which can immensely affect the lifestyle and the livelihood of many. The internet is chock-full of interesting web sites where someone could intentionally or accidentally leave a potentially defamatory comment or post. The harm caused to a person by publishing a defamatory statement about him on a website is widespread and irreparable as the information is available to the entire world. Cyber defamation affects the welfare of the community as a whole and not merely of the individual victim. It also has its impact on the economy of a country depending upon the information published and the victim against whom the information has been published. When this type of defamation takes place online, it is known as online defamation/ character defamation. Online defamation can also take place in these two ways:

  • Libel: The written or published (pictures, video, & media) communication of a false statement to a third-party, which ultimately causes harm or damage to another’s reputation.
  • Slander: The spoken and verbal communication of a false statement to a third-party, which ultimately causes harm or damage to another’s reputation.
ESSENTIAL CONSTITUENTS FOR CLAIMING ONLINE DEFAMATION:

In order to rightfully claim a case on online defamation there are certain elements that are required to be proved, listed out as follows 

  1. The false statement was published by the defendant and the statement was communicated to a third party or to a third person.
  2. Through the statement, it is easy to identify that it was intended towards the plaintiff.
  3. The statement harmed the reputation of the plaintiff in the minds of the right-thinking members of the society.
HOW CAN ONE BE EXCUSED FROM ITS LIABILITY?

There are several factors which when proved, can help a person escape the liability prescribed under online defamation. These are as follows:

  1. When the statement perceived to be defamatory is true in reality: Truth is an absolute defence when it comes to escaping any sort of liability qualified under the title of defamation. If the statement in communication is true or is an established reality, then the claim of defamation does not stand.
  2. If the statement is privileged in nature: Being privileged here means that it is protected and recognized privately by law. To name a few, government officials, members of Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, Parliament etc or any other public authority has an absolute privilege of being protected and not charged even though they may end up saying or publishing something defamatory against any other person or any existing entity in the discharge of their duty. This protection even extends to the point wherein if in an instance a reporter has made any defamatory sentence but the public documents on which he/she relied while doing so are itself not a hundred percent accurate, they will still have the privilege of being protected even though the statement/s directly harm someone’s reputation.
STATUTORY CLAUSES SUPERVISING CYBER/ONLINE DEFAMATION:  

Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 makes punishable the act of sending offensive information causing injury, criminal intimidation or insult.

Section 66A of the IT Act says that any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device: –

  • Any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or
  • Any content 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 makes by making use of such computer resource or a communication device,
  • Any 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.
HOW THE GOVERNMENT IS EXTENDING A HELPING HAND:

In case of online defamation, the aggrieved party can file a complaint to the CYBER CRIME INVESTIGATING CELL. It works as a branch of CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION DEPARTMENT (CID) and has been set up in multiple metro cities of the country. These cells have the absolute power and authority to investigate the crimes pertaining to the internet as well as the computer systems, networks etc. They also have the jurisdiction to investigate higher level technology-based crimes.

PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES THAT YOU CAN TAKE:

Since the government is doing its best to protect us and safeguard our interests, it becomes our responsibility as citizens as well to take some safety measures beforehand in order to help secure ourselves. A regular read to all updates and posts regarding the type of crimes and misuse of data as well as personal information  can also go a long way in terms of reducing the number of crimes since people will be aware and alert. Also, people can take the initiative of carefully reading the privacy policies as well as terms and conditions of any online site or anything that they are registering to on the internet so that they have the basic knowledge of what is their data actually being used for.

CONCLUSION:

We have gone through a number of ages; the stone age, the age of the industrial revolution, the digital age, and now we have finally entered the sphere of the social age. With social media becoming a major and a crucial component of our lives , it is very important to note that it is a double edged sword. Social media has had such a grave impact and influence on all the domains of our lives that it can make us or even break us. While it is important to be updated with the recent happenings and stay connected to everyone through whichever medium possible, it is also a paramount concern to note that too much of it or a misuse of it can also cause great troubles. Social media is the essence of the new era dawned upon us and since we humans have always evolved to new changes through the thick and thins of time, we will continue to evolve to the new facets of social media too and will continue to embrace it and make use of it to the very end in every way possible.

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