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Elucidation Of Cyber Defamation: A Critical Dilemma In Cyberspace

With great power comes great responsibility a popular phrase from the Spiderman storylines aptly reflects the dilemma of technological use and its probable misuse.
Societal preferences regarding activities taking place in their everyday lives have evolved as a result of the internet's accessibility. The manifesto, or the capabilities afforded by the internet, have made social interest more accessible than it has ever been.

However, the widespread demand for social media networking sites has resulted in an increase in the amount of difficulty created by the misuse of electronic communication. The removal of barriers to liberty to interact has given unrestricted potentiality, predominantly on social networking sites, to people who generally post ambiguous comments or information about other people that harms that person's reputation and goodwill; this act can be classified as trolling, which leads to cyber defamation.

Bloggers and Internet users may now publish false information about a person or business more easily and profitably than ever before in today's social media era. Though some internet information is censored for pornographic or legal concerns including other unsuitable aspects, the majority of information remains unregulated for offensive information.

The risk of 'Cyber Defamation' has grown as a result of the emergence of so-called trends of sharing or uploading information or photographs on several social networking sites and commenting on them. Therefore, consumers, sharers, and probable victims must consequently get a deeper understanding of the world of online defamation and defamation laws.

The Difference Between Defamation & Cyber Defamation:

Defamation is a comprehensive term that refers to a false statement conferred as a fact that causes harm or damage to the character of the person being defamed. It entails undermining a person's prominence in the eyes of a third party.

It is the unjust and purposeful publication of information about a person, whether in written or oral form, to harm that person's reputation in society.

Defamation is categorized into two kinds:
  1. Libel
    derogatory statement that is published in writing.
  2. Slander
    recognized as a defamatory statement made orally (spoken).
    However, Defamation does not necessarily follow a fundamental defamatory assertion. The making of such comments is a prerequisite for demonstrating defamation.
    Cyber defamation is regarded as any conduct that takes place online or in cyberspace. It typically happens when a computer is linked to the internet and is used to misrepresent a person's entity.

    An online broadcast, even if it's on an adult site, that's only seen by a few individuals nevertheless meets the conditions for publishing.
  3. Statement of facts
    A plaintiff cannot substantiate whether the defendant's defamatory statement was truthful in his or her internet defamation.
  4. Opinion
    The defendant might claim that the claimed rat contamination is only an opinion. The law protects people's opinions. As a result, the applicant is barred from filing a defamation suit.
  5. Modification
    edited photographs that mention persons or corporations are clearly defamatory and are often shared on social media.

    Although cyber defamation is a revolutionary phenomenon, the classic definition of defamation is harm done to a person's esteem in the eyes of a third party, and this harm can be done by spoken or written discourse, as well as indications and visible portrayals.

    The statement must be oriented at the plaintiff, and it must be made with the goal of damaging the prestige of the person against whom the remark is made. Cyber defamation, on the other hand, is a character assassination of someone using a new and significantly more efficacious approach, such as the use of current electronic gadgets. It refers to the dissemination of derogatory information about another person in cyberspace or via computers or the Internet.

Analysing Cyber Defamation Vis-Á-Vis Ipc & It Act:

Defamation can be deemed both a civil and a criminal offense in India, and sufferers can pursue legal redress through the Indian legal system.
  1. Indian Penal Code, 1860
    • Section 499[1]:
      Defamation is defined in this section. The offense of defamation is committed when a person wants to hurt or has reason to think that their action will cause injury to another person's reputation by the use of words uttered or intended to be read, or symbols or apparent depictions produced or published. Defamation can be directed towards many people, such as a corporation or a group of people.

      With the passage of the Information Technology Act of 2000, the concept of defamation was expanded to include speech and documents in electronic form.
    • Section 500[2]
      For the offense of defamation, this section stipulates a moderate punishment in prison of up to two years , a fine, or both.
    • Section 469[3] is concerned with forgery. If someone fabricates a document or narrative to undermine a person's esteem. This offense is punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine.
    • Section 503[4] relates to the crime of criminal intimidation through the use of electronic communication to harm one's esteem in society.
  2. Information Technology Act, 2000
    • Section 66A[5]
      In the year 2015, the Supreme Court overturned this provision. The section outlined the consequences of transmitting "offensive" texts by computer, mobile phone, or tablet. As the government did not define the term "offensive," the government began to use it as a tactic to restrict freedom of speech. The Supreme Court rescinded the whole provision in 2015.

A person can file a complaint with the cyber-crime investigation cell if he or she has been disrespected in cyberspace. It is a branch of the Department of Criminal Investigation.

In Shreya Singhal v. Union of India[6], the whole of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act of 2000 was quashed as a breach of Article 19(1)(a)[7] and was not preserved by Article 19(2)[8]. The Information Technology (Procedure & Safeguards for Blocking for Public Access of Information) Rules 2009 and Section 69A are both constitutionally valid.
In addition, Section 79[9] is admissible if Section 79(3)(b)[10] is further read down, and so on.

How To Tackle Cyber Defamation?

Anyone who has been the victim of online defamation can file a complaint with the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal's Cyber Crime Investigation Cell.[11]

These Cells have locations in New Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Gurgaon, Pune, and other cities. They are in charge of all crimes involving cyberspace, as well as offenses involving computers, computer resources, the internet, and so on.

Nonetheless, it is important to note that filing a cyber defamation case against someone is a serious matter since the act of making a complaint puts the accused's reputation in threat. Furthermore, the complainant bears the burden of showing that he or she has been defamed, and if he or she is unable to do so, the defendant has the right to sue for defamation, false and frivolous complaints, and damages.

The Judicial Stance On Cyber Defamation:

In the first such case involving cyber-defamation, SMC Pneumatics (India) Pvt. Ltd. v. Jogesh Kwatra[12], the High Court of Delhi granted an ex-parte ad interim injunction restraint, where a disgruntled employee sent racially offensive, defamatory, vulgar, and disrespectful emails to the company's fellow employers and subsidiary companies all over the world with the intension to defame the company and its managing partner.

Furthermore, the Petitioner in Kalandi Charan Lenka v. State of Odisha[13] was tracked online and a fraudulent account was created in her name. Additionally, the perpetrator sent vulgar texts to friends with the objective of defaming the Petitioner. The High Court of Orissa concluded that the accused's actions constitute cyber defamation and that the accused is accountable for his defamation offenses committed through the use of false obscene photographs and language.

In the latest case of Swami Ramdev & Anr. v. Facebook Inc. & Ors.[14], Justice Pratibha Singh recently issued an order to disable all defamatory content shared online against yoga guru Baba Ramdev, with no territorial limit, asserting that if the content is posted from India or is stored on an Indian computer resource, Indian courts ought to have international statutory authority.

Moreover, Baba Ramdev has not demonstrated any significant prima facie evidence of irreparable harm, according to the court. In its appeal, Facebook claims, among other factors, that the global takedown order violates national sovereignty and international comity by interfering with other nations' defamation laws. Furthermore, the aforementioned ruling also undermines the immunities granted to them in other jurisdictions.[15]

The aforementioned cases show several aspects of cyber defamation and the legal remedies available to deal with it. However, in cyberspace, there are several limits that existing international rules do not confront. Nevertheless, if a complaint is submitted in a reasonable timeframe and in the appropriate forum, cyber defamation and the consequent loss can be minimized.

Conclusion:
The ease of communication has drastically enhanced with the introduction of the era of the internet. However, there is a catch to such luxury. Because of the ease with which data and information may be transferred through the internet, it has become a crucial hotspot for defamation.

Despite the fact that there are laws prohibiting people from publishing defamatory materials online, most users are unaware of these regulations or are too reckless to detect whether such information is defamatory or not. When free speech contradicts a person's reputation, it is necessary for the State to impose a limit, lest free speech becomes a powerful tool in the hands of certain individuals.

There are no distinctions in our culture, and the internet has given them with a platform to express their opinions, participate in debates, and assess a product, a movie, a song, or even a person. Though this platform has blessed us with intuitive and well-read individuals, it has also brought us with cyber defamation bullies, so we must be cautious with what we write online. According to the Indian Penal Code, making an inflammatory message over the internet can put one in prison.

End-Notes:
  1. Indian Penal Code 1860 499
  2. Indian Penal Code 1860 500.
  3. Indian Penal Code 1860 469.
  4. Indian Penal Code 1860 503.
  5. Information Technology Act 2000 66A
  6. (2013) 12 SCC 73.
  7. Indian Const. art 19, cl. 1(a)
  8. Indian Const. art 19, cl. 2.
  9. Indian Penal Code 1860 79.
  10. Indian Penal Code 1860 79, cl. 3(b).
  11. National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal (June 11, 2021 9:30 PM), https://cybercrime.gov.in/.
  12. BLAPL No.7596 of 2016.
  13. 2017 SCC OnLine Ori 52.
  14. CS (OS) 27/2019.
  15. Karan Tripathi, Facebook Appeals To Delhi HC DB Against Single Bench Order For Global Blocking Of Content Against Baba Ramdev, LAW LIVE (Oct. 30, 2019, 6:50 PM), https://www.livelaw.in/news-updates/facebook-appeals-delhi-hc-db-single-bench-order-global-blocking-of-content-baba-ramdev-149354?infinitescroll=1.

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