Technology today is moving faster than the law. Therefore, the evils and issues of the tech world have also moved way faster than the laws to deal with them. Is the law is equipped enough to manage cybercrimes or is there a need for more?

Discussing the laws currently available to fight crimes online, fake news and to protect ecommerce transactions, advocate Talish Ray said, “Online is increasingly getting into spaces of our real world. Today, the issues have gone beyond consumer matters, I hear about company talent acquisition—where the first thing that they do is stalk you on social media to be able to check whether you are the right person or not.”

CHANGING TECHNOLOGY AND LAW

“I have also heard of people getting fired because they gave an excuse to skip work and then put up pictures of partying which the HR picked out. In this scenario, all laws that are applicable in the real world are as much applicable in the online world like the Consumer Protection Act is as applicable to a brick-and-mortar shop as it is to Amazon and Flipkart. But we also have the Information Technology Act 2002.”

“Ray also spoke about issues with the IT Act and said that it was put forth to be able to regulate e-commerce. As far as the internet is concerned, it is changing faster by the second, but the law is notoriously slow. Investigating agencies are slow because it is a matter of enforcing one’s rights and responsibilities. As far as trolling, fake news and cybercrimes go, there are existing laws but there is a bit of a lacuna there as our understanding of the medium itself has changed.”

DIGITAL MEDIA AND FAKE NEWS

Fake news has today become the Indian media’s worst bugbear. Noted journalist Pankaj Pachauri, who started GoNews—an app-based media TV channel—talked about regulation of news. He said, “Initially when I decided to launch my news channel, I went to the secretary of I&B ministry and asked him what are the things I need to do and he told me there are no regulations. But voluntarily we thought that we have to be responsible, ethical and part of a system. So then we applied for membership of News Broadcasters Association, which at that time was exclusively for TV news.”

“That sort of changed the outlook of NBA when it started letting digital platforms be a part of it. It was important for us because NBA sets out an ethical standard for news.”

ALSO READ: Fake News: Shoot The Messenger Or The Medium?

HOW DO BIG MEDIA HOUSES DEAL WITH FAKE NEWS?

Trushar Barot from the BBC said, “Particularly in the last two-three years, it is going through an immense internal transition around how we approach the subject ourselves. For many years, BBC has had a certain standard of journalism and editorial ethics so everything we produced — whether it is TV, radio or online — will have that standard and that was our responsibility.”

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Laws applicable in real world applicable online too.
  • Technology progressing much faster than law and enforcing agencies.
  • News regulation is key. It also helps if big news organisations share why they are not publishing certain news because it is inaccurate.

He explained: “For many years I ran a team where a team would find pictures, videos etc. on social media, do some verification checks and if it turns out to be accurate, then we would publish it. But in that process, we found out that several images, videos etc. were false. Then we would send out messages across the organization, warning everyone to not use or publish those stories. So internally a lot of fact-checking etc. happened consistently. But we never went out and told our audience that BBC is not reporting a particular news while you may have seen it elsewhere because it is inaccurate.” But Barot revealed that only recently, BBC has sort of opened up in that area and started going closer to its audience by telling them what news is inaccurate and BBC is not publishing it.

Since trolling, fake news and cyberbullying happen mostly through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, Pachauri is of the view that we need to hold these networking giants accountable too. “They are getting the masses from India and they have become new countries in themselves. They have their own ethical system. But the next time we have a lynching because of fake message in India, we don’t need a new law, not even the IT act, we only need to put in Section 120 B of criminal conspiracy against one of these companies like a test case,” he said about holding social media responsible for crimes building out of them.

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