How to deal with the dark side of social media websites
Rapper Chris Brown is currently in the news for deleting his Twitter account after a feud with comedy writer Jenny Johnson. But things really took a nasty turn when fans of the singer began sending Johnson death threats.
Studies in recent years reveal that the number of cyber threats and bullies has gone up. Psychologists attribute this to the anonymity that social media offers, allowing people to reveal darker facets of their personality. "In real life, there is always the fear of retaliation or judgment. But social media websites keep our identities a secret. You can be whoever you want. This allows people to take on those whose opinion doesn't match their own or celebrities who aren't accessible otherwise. But there are also some who just do it to increase their friends and followers," says Sharad Sharma, a psychologist who admits that a stressful lifestyle often acts like a trigger.
Where does the law stand on this issue?
The Information Technology Act, 2000, is the main statute that governs the Internet and social media in India. Section 66A of the Information Technology Act provides for punishment for sending false and offensive messages through electronic communication services.
"The aggrieved person may file a criminal complaint with the police authorities under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act. However, as per recent guidelines issued by the Central Government on November 29, 2012, prior approval from the Deputy Commissioner of Police in rural areas and from the Inspector General in metropolitan areas will have to be sought before registering such complaint. An offence under Section 66A is bailable and the section provides for imprisonment for a maximum term of three years and a fine," says Anish Ghoshal, partner, PDS and Associates, a law firm.
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