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.
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'.
Bottomline: 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.