Computers and the internet have made it easier for individuals to communicate and work across large distances for a variety of reasons, including business, education, and culture. However, the tools that allow for the free flow of information across borders also result in an alarmingly high rate of irresponsible behavior. Any technology has the potential for both helpful and harmful applications. It is the legal system’s and regulatory bodies’ responsibility to keep up with cyber/ technological advancements and guarantee that emerging technology does not become tools of exploitation and harassment.
It addressed certain fundamental issues, such as the legal recognition of electronic records and digital signatures for contracting and presenting evidence. However, significant legal issues have developed in a variety of situations. Users can share content in the form of text, photos, videos, and audio via the World Wide Web. Websites are built and updated for a variety of reasons, but they can also be used to spread objectionable content like pornography, hate speech, and defamatory materials. Authors and artists’ intellectual property rights are frequently violated by the unlawful distribution of their works. There has also been an increase in cases of financial fraud and deceit involving internet commercial transactions.
Furthermore, the digital medium offers the benefit of anonymity and fictitious identities. If they believe they will not suffer any consequences, errant individuals get more brazen in their aggressive behavior. There have been numerous allegations in recent years of internet users receiving unsolicited e-mails that contain vulgar language and are harassing in nature. Those who submit personal information on job and marriage websites, as well as social networking sites, are frequently targeted for ‘cyber-stalking.’ Women and kids who post their contact information are particularly susceptible, as lumpen elements such as sex-offenders might use it to seek potential victims.
In many circumstances, photographs or videos are created without the consent of the people involved and then shared in cyber-space for economic advantage in an unethical manner. The transformation of well-known people’s photos into pornographic content is a common practice. Such actions are both an affront to an individual’s dignity and a flagrant invasion of privacy. However, enforcing criminal laws against them is fraught with complications.
In theory, statutes dealing with ‘obscenity,’ ‘defamation,’ ‘cheating,’ and ‘copyright infringement’ are adequate for prosecuting offenders. Nonetheless, identifying the offenders in the first place presents a number of challenges. Criminal laws normally apply to a specific geographical area, yet website information can be created and uploaded from anywhere in the world. Even if the source of the objectionable content is identified, the authorities will encounter significant practical challenges in prosecuting criminals who are based in other countries. Even in the case of culprits in a local jurisdiction, there are issues due to the structure of the internet’s information flow. To mislead investigative authorities, end-users might publish content using fictitious identities and proxy server locations.
The government has the authority to prohibit websites from just distributing pornography and hate speech. However, broad prohibitions on all types of websites would be inappropriate. Additionally, it is critical to make a distinction between intermediaries such as Network Service Providers, website administrators, and individual users when determining who is liable for illegal activities. Liability cannot be imposed automatically on internet intermediaries when specific persons engage in heinous behavior. This is analogous to punishing individuals who construct roads for the reckless and irresponsible driving of others who run vehicles on those roads.
It is critical to distinguish between middlemen and end-users because, in many circumstances, websites that broadcast generally acceptable content additionally enable users to distribute material independently. This trend toward reliance on user-generated data has grown in popularity since it enables quick regular updates on pertinent information. However, it is also feasible for end-users to publish inappropriate content without the knowledge of the website’s or forum’s administrators. Investigators must stay current on new advances in web-based programs in order to quickly locate the actual criminals rather than pursuing an intermediary.
The Information Technology Act, Section 79
It provides a defence for ‘Network Service Providers’ who can claim that they were unaware of objectionable content distributed via their services. While the limitation of responsibility was important to prevent businesses from being discouraged from offering internet connection, the underlying issue remains unresolved. As more people are victimised via the digital media, it is our moral obligation to address the misuse of information technology.
While our legislation attempts to address some of these issues, the regulatory agencies must keep up with the rapid development of new tools and technologies. In an ideal world, we should seek to strike a balance between service providers’ and end-users’ interests. However, disagreements about the content of such laws and regulations may arise from time to time.
To hear and resolve such claims, the Cyber Regulations Appellate Tribunal (CRAT) was established. As a result, the Tribunal’s composition should represent the technological and judicial skills necessary to settle such issues. It goes without saying that people serving on the tribunal must be up to date on the newest innovations in the field of information technology (IT), while also being cognizant of policy considerations and the imperative to preserve the free flow of information in society.
Democratic values such as ‘freedom of expression and speech,’ ‘freedom of association,’ and ‘freedom to pursue an education, an employment, business, profession, or trade’ must also be protected in the online realm. Of course, numerous more legal issues have developed in connection with conversations and transactions made via computers, it is encouraging to see that a number of law schools have created specialised courses in this field. The immediate objective, however, is to familiarise our investigators, prosecutors, and judges with various information technology (IT)-related challenges.
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