Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The orkut party ends

At least for the kind of folks who used it as an online emotional dustbin.

Indian Express reports: Anti-Shivaji forums or anti-Ambedkar postings or 'hate India' campaigns on Google’s social networking site, Orkut, have been confounding authorities for quite some time now...But not any more.

The Mumbai Police is finally equipped to track down such offenders and bring them to book. A single e-mail between the DCP in charge of the Enforcement Branch and the California-based company will now nail such persons.

With cases pending in various courts both for 'global' grouses (you have insulted my country/ religion) as well as individual-specific complaints (you have maligned my name), google simply could not ignore the anonymous offenders on both orkut and blogspot.

So in early February, the police met with representatives from Google and reached a 'working agreement' whereby orkut has agreed to provide details of the ip address from which an objectionable message or blog has been posted, and the Internet service provider involved. An encrypted code has also been agreed upon for such communication to prevent people from posing as the Mumbai Police and laying their hands on such information.

According to today's Mumbai Newsline, one such request made is with respect to a community called ‘Hate India and what about you?’

"There are several slurs against Hindu gods and goddesses, which could hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus. We contacted the Computer Emergency Response Team in New Delhi, and have blocked the community. Now we are going to track down the culprits," said Deputy Commissioner of Police, Enforcement, Sanjay Mohite.

According to information posted on the community, it was created by someone in Karachi, Pakistan on May 21, 2006 and has 904 members.

"But it could be a false location. It could easily have been created in Mumbai or Pune. We have approached Orkut to provide us details of the IP address used to create the community, and the service provider used," said Mohite.

I don't know what they mean by 'blocked' because a few minutes ago I accessed it. There are comments which use actual obscenities there.

Now many bloggers will make this a 'freedom of speech' issue. But that freedom is somewhat like having the license to drive a car. You can't commit a hit and run and then take refuge behind your freedom to drive a car. And of course you can't get an anonymous license.

Similarly, you have to be responsible for what you say online.

The trouble is this: you may say something you don't really mean in the course of your life. But there is no permanent record of the same in the real world. So you won't be dragged to court for it.

Online, a comment made in a rash or heated moment could come back to haunt you.

Secondly, in the real world, professionals are held liable for the content they publish or broadcast. They are trained to follow systems and processes. Online, it's everyone from age 11 upwards with an opinion and a mousepad.

So then?
Personally, I believe it may be a good idea to take action in a few cases to set an example for which deters future juveniles (in age or thought process). The question however is, how much importance do we need to accord to 'global' complaints vs those filed by individuals.

In better times we could - and should have - ignored the first variety. These online wars of pichkari proportions would quietly fizzle out. But in times when defacing statues can result in riots and deaths, I guess one can't take too tolerant a view.

Expect policing on religion and Ambedkar related issues. One can only hope it does not extend to people expressing themselves on politics/ politicians/ bureaucrats/ corruption/ general state of the world and so on.... Phir to hum mein aur China mein kya fark.

But if it comes to that, I am sure our courts will offer necessary protection!

Far more important, in my view, is the protection offered to individuals suffering from harassment by anonymous bloggers. Finally, television channels can stop having shows on 'are bloggers responsible just like the rest of us'. An issue which had become very personal after well known names and faces found themselves ripped apart on anonymously authored 'media blogs'.

Again, people in positions of power always have stuff being said about them behind their backs. But to have derogatory, speculative, false and obscene things said about you online - where there is a permanent record of the same - is a different thing. A hurtful thing. And one you are completely helpless about.

Guess that's the end of the Irresponsible Online Gossip Monger. Or the 'Let me harass my Ex Girlfriend/ Boyfriend'. The key thing once again is 'malicious intent'.

And of course, truth is a universal defence against anyone randomly claiming 'I have been defamed'.

One hopes the police uses this new found key to the google locker with intelligence and caution. Those of us who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear anyways.


  1. Hi Rashmi,

    This is indeed good news for some. For example, it will definitely put a stop to people creating obscene and defamatory profiles of other (particularly ex-GF's) on orkut.

    However, I am worried about "freedom of speech" aspect here. What happens when in my blog, i severely criticize a politician Mr. X or Miss Y for whatever reason?

    And what happens to the (harmless??) communtities on orkut like "Worst Actor" or "most stupid leader" etc?

    I just hope that this "law" is used for its intended purpose and it does not end up being misused by influential people for their advantage (after all thats what is the fate of all laws isnt it? Remember immunity for example?)

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. "Half knowledge is dangerous"
    perhaps this is a little hard for some to digest.

    Everyone can be tracked by their IP address assigned by their ISP, so the whole illusion of being annonymous on web is wrong.

    What was needed was some ordinance / law to punish those who misuse internet.

    I have personaly dealt with "Mumbai Cyber Cell" and they are proud of their 100% success rate in catching cyber criminals.

  4. Have to disagree here Rashmi. If the 'I hate India' community is illegal, the 'I hate Himesh Reshammiya' community should also be sued for libel/slander.

    The driving a car analogy is ridiculous. Indians who love India have the option of not visiting the 'I hate India' community. A person who gets hit by a car doesn't have the option of choosing to not get hit by the car (assuming that it was the driver's mistake, which is what you have assumed).

    On top of all this, orkut has the facility of 'report this community as bogus'. Extra intervention is simply not required, unless someone started a community saying something like 'Collect funds to buy arms to attack India' or suchlike.

  5. maam
    I really want ot know that if some fake account which has been created on orkut how do we get rid of it.

    Because one person has created my friend fake account and its annoying because no action has been taking on that account even after reporting abuse on the same fake orkut account. How do we know the authenticity of the same very account

  6. as they say ' ur freedom doesn't mean u can hurt someone else ' i guess this applies here too. And the power of being anonymous is something different, u may be able to say something which u strongly feel when u r anonymous cos then u r not responsible for ur words, but ofcourse its a NO if it hurts someone else's sentiments

  7. Hi Rashmi
    It been a good news even going through mumbai mirror I found a news that orkut is treated a arm to sue any one, today school an college student are using it and shoting to their principle and and unrespectable professor and teacher and now the matter has goine to cyber crime see what happen next I think its a enjoyable ite that each and every person has a right to say about wrong and right duties.

  8. I find it difficult to agree with a line of argument that includes this:

    "Those of us who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear anyways."

    That can, and is used, to justify the most egregious violations of privacy.

    Sorry, I may not have anything to hide, but it's mine to hide or reveal. I don't want a patriarchal big brother sifting through my activities.

    India still has the presumption of innocence, does it not?

  9. aren't we giving too much importance to very trivial things , we should be proud of our religion/community/country and its heritage and should stop bothering if some random jobless idiots post crap about it...
    By creating a cell to look into this and try to nab them and all , i feel we are giving them too much importance ! when they are just worthless piece of junk who are not worth noticing...

    on other hand this could help end harassment of individuals and bring to book "let me harass my Ex Girlfriend/ Boyfriend' kind of ppl too

  10. why do you link a statement with links which have little relevance to the idea you are trying to convey,

    for example "become very personal" is linked to NDTV's news site on the same article.

    Bad Bad!!! way of increasing hits for other sites, you can very well post a whole list of related articles/links at the end of the article.


  11. Personal harassment and slander ought to be punishable if there is clinching evidence of harm and the perpetrator's identity.

    About public issues, there should be absolutely no censorship. I don't think even anti-national sentiments should be repressed unless there is a criminal action plan. Let's divorce freedom of expression from action?

    You car analogy is woefully off-target. Also, it's only the politicians who will be scouting for inflammatory content to gain cheap publicity, we should not give them the slightest leeway . Civil society is in no way affected by online articles on public issues.

  12. Seriously, is it something to go after, after all??
    Creating profiles and maligning people is different and should be brought to book. But communities??
    A simple search for I hate Pakistan throws up 64 entries, while an I hate India search throws up 50.
    Every other city/state, religion/caste and language in India has an "I hate" community..
    Who's more into it?? Guess we need to look at ourseleves first before pointing fingers at others...
    Also, there is always the option of reporting as bogus, although am not sure how effective it is.
    But then, its a networking portal. How often does one go looking for "I hate" communities, unless one has absolutely nothing else to do?
    If one wants to join an I hate community, its his/her problem...
    I don't see it being worth spending tax-payers' money on..

  13. vaidya said:
    I don't see it being worth spending tax-payers' money on..

    Completely agree. I hope tax-payers see that politicos are just getting brownie points here with little effort or result. Expect hassles for enforcement agencies and web based businesses.

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. the tone of the post goes against your general refrain for higher freedom of speech.. and increased personal freedom and honestly looks very country intuitive to the normal stand you take up..

    somehow does not appear normal and looks more doctored...

  17. Misleading Title . orkut party has only started for good people.

  18. Yea, the party has started for some and ended.

    Started fot the cops, and ended for the crime commiters.

    I liked this,
    Again, people in positions of power always have stuff being said about them behind their backs.

    Yea, only the ones in power are defamed on Internet sites. Normal people arent at all cared.

    I back this move, Google has actually has done a good thing by giving away Ip addresses.

  19. This once again speaks of the fact that India is indeed HINDUstan. Police is so concerned about hate groups targeting Hindus, but no one is bothered about the propaganda going on against Sikhs in the form of Sardar Jokes on orkut, various blogs and other websites all over the internet. If India is a true democracy as the govt. claims, they should be concerned about minorities too. Not just what Shiv Sena tell.

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