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Cyber Crimes and Information Technology Act

The new millennium saw a transition in the form of internet culture - a new way of living. The internet has become an integral part of our daily lives, providing new avenues for communication, making friends, chatting, talking, sending messages, social networking, exchanging news and views, playing games, connecting with the government, and conducting e-commerce.

The expanding usage of the internet has resulted in the emergence of a new category of crimes known as cyber crimes, which are defined as crimes committed with or through the use of a computer in cyberspace and may include the following:
  • causing damage to the computer or computer network
  • committing theft of computer data or software
  • gaining unauthorized access to computer data
  • extortion
  • credit/debit card fraud
  • fraudulent stock transfers, electronic funds transfers, and e-commerce transactions
  • internet hacking, which involves the theft of data, passwords, and credit card details from the internet.
  • sending threats, defamation, extortion, and intimidation via e-mails
  • publication of pornographic material
  • illicit gambling
  • pirated software
  • data theft
  • cyberstalking

Information Technology Act

In India, the Information Technology Act, 2000 (No. 21 of 2000) was enacted to provide legal recognition for transactions involving electronic data interchange and other forms of electronic communication, commonly referred to as e-commerce, that involve the use of alternative methods of communication and storage of information to paper-based methods, and to facilitate electronic filing of documents with government agencies and other entities, colloquially referred to as e-governance.

The Act has been amended by the Information Technology (Amendment) Act 55 of 2002, the Information Technology (Amendment) Act 10 of 2009, and the Finance Act, 2017. (Act 7 of 2017). This Act is a comprehensive law intended to promote the appropriate use of the internet and related technology for e-government and e-commerce. Additionally, it defines criminal and civil punishments for cyber offences committed in India.

Cyber Laws and Cyber Crimes

The confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information in cyberspace are critical components of a safe cyber environment. Allowing intermediaries to intervene only on the basis of individual complaints about defamation or being the target of unfair reporting will have a chilling effect on free speech. If legalized, this type of meddling would result in the privatization of censorship, putting free expression at risk. The 2009 amendment to the IT Act recognizes the intermediary's role as a mere facilitator of information exchange or sales.

Under section 79 of the Act, anyone who has been affected by the internet posting of defamatory material may bring a takedown reference.

Section 69A authorizes the Central Government to restrict access by issuing instructions to any intermediary if the Central Government determines that doing so is necessary for the sake of sovereignty, among other things. The 2009 Information Technology (Procedures and Safeguards for Preventing Public Access to Information) Rules govern the subject.

Social media platforms and the Information Technology Act

According to a press release issued by the Government of India's Press Information Bureau on 25th February 2021 regarding the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, it was noted that widespread use of mobile phones, the internet, and other technologies has also enabled many social media platforms to expand their footprints in India.

These platforms are also heavily utilized by the general population. Certain portals that do an analysis of social media platforms and have not been contested have provided the following figures for the user base of India's major social media platforms:
  1. 53 Crore WhatsApp users
  2. YouTube subscribers: 44.8 million
  3. 41 million Facebook users
  4. The number of Instagram users has surpassed 21 million.
  5. Total number of Twitter users: 1.75 million
These social media platforms, sometimes known as social media intermediaries, have enabled everyday Indians to express their creativity, ask questions, keep informed, and freely share their ideas, including criticism of the government and its officials.

Additional platforms include online news and digital media sites, as well as over-the-top (OTT) services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. OTT stands for 'over-the-top,' suggesting that the content provider delivers television and cinema content to consumers via the internet at their request and according to their preferences. As a necessary component of democracy, the Government recognizes and respects each Indian's right to criticize and dissent.

India has the world's largest open Internet society, and the government actively promotes social media companies to establish operations, conduct business, and earn profits in the country. They will, however, be held accountable under Indian law and the Constitution. Digital India has evolved into a movement aiming at empowering everyday Indians via the use of technology.

On the one hand, the growth of social media empowers citizens, but on the other hand, it creates some significant difficulties and consequences that have multiplied in recent years. These concerns have occasionally been aired in a variety of venues, including the Parliament and its committees, judicial orders, and civil society dialogues in various sections of the country. Similar concerns have been aired elsewhere, and the issue has become global in scope.

Recent Concerns
A number of exceedingly alarming trends have been reported recently on social media platforms. Numerous media sources have created fact-checking procedures in response to the constant propagation of fake news. Women's dignity has frequently been jeopardized by the extensive use of social media to post altered photos of women and content associated with revenge porn.

The abuse of social media to settle business disputes in flagrantly unethical ways has become a major cause of concern for businesses. Through platforms, we are seeing an increase in instances of harsh language, libelous and obscene content, and willful disregard for religious sensitivities. Over the years, the increased use of social media by criminals and anti-national groups has created new challenges for law enforcement organizations.

These activities include recruiting terrorists, spreading obscene information, causing strife, committing financial fraud, instigating violence, and disturbing public order. It was discovered that there is currently no robust complaint mechanism in place through which regular users of social media and over-the-top (OTT) platforms can make a complaint and have it resolved within a certain time frame.

Due to a lack of transparency and the absence of an effective grievance system, users have been fully dependent on the whims and fancies of social media platforms. Frequently, a user who has spent time, effort, and money developing a social media profile is left with no remedy if the platform restricts or deletes the profile without providing an opportunity to be heard.

As social media intermediaries evolve, they frequently transition from pure mediator to publisher. These Rules find the optimal balance between liberalism and a moderate framework of self-regulation. It is based on current regulations and statutes in the country that apply to all forms of content, whether online or offline.


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