Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cyber Law On Social Media And Networking Sites In India

Social media and networking sites have a crucial role to play. Now even governments across the world acknowledge this importance of social media websites. India is one such country that is currently trying to deal with social media sites. However, we have no dedicated social media laws in India. It has even been reported that guidelines for social media contents monitoring in India would be issued very soon.

However, till now we have no social media policy in India. Even we do not have dedicated social networking laws in India that can take care of the misuses of social platforms. However, the framework and guidelines for use of social media for government organisations has been recently suggested by department of information technology. Theses guidelines provide an Indian social media framework for governmental departments and organisations that employees of these organisations must follow.

Social media is considered to be an Internet intermediary as per Indian cyber law. The recent controversy of Internet censorship in India has once again reiterated the importance of effective social media laws in India.

Cyber law due diligence in India has become very stringent. This applies to various fields and to multiple stakeholders. For instance, cyber due diligence for banks in India is now a well known requirement for banks in India. However, Internet intermediaries are the most widely covered stakeholders in this regard. Intermediaries liability for cyber law due diligence in India is really tough.

Indian government is very keen in regulating the contents of social media in a constructive manner. This occasionally results in censorship of Internet in India. Further, Indian government is now openly acknowledging surveillance of Internet traffic in India.

Recently Internet intermediaries in India have been asked to pre screen contents before they are posted on their websites. India wants companies like Google and Facebook to censor users’ contents before they are posted.

In a related incidence, Yahoo has filed a petition raising the questions regarding the right to privacy of a company that stores sensitive data of its customers and users and to what extent authorities can coerce it to part with the information considered necessary to either track terror perpetrators or thwart future attacks. The Google’s outcry for lack of Internet intermediary law in India is another example of growing dissatisfaction towards Indian cyber laws, especially Internet intermediary laws of India.

However, social media sites have certain techno legal obligations and liabilities as per Indian laws. For instance, social networking sites are liable for online IPRs violations, including online copyright violations in India. Although we have no law on the lines of online copyright infringement liability limitation Act (OCILLA) of United States yet the “safe harbour” provisions protecting intermediaries are not available under certain conditions as per Indian laws. Social networking sites must be aware of these limitations while operating in India. However, if social media sites are working within the framework of Indian laws, unreasonable e-surveillance, Internet censorship and websites blocking should not be by Indian government.

The corporate environment of India is changing rapidly as per global; requirements. Corporate laws in India are proposed to be streamlined with the introduction of the proposed Companies Bill 2011. The foreign direct investment (FDI) in India has been liberalised in many sectors. Even FDI in pharmaceuticals sector in India has been liberalised. Securities and Exchange Control Board (SEBI) has also proposed an electronic Initial public offer in India (E-IPO in India). These steps are pointing towards and open and transparent governmental functioning and not e-surveillance and Internet censorship oriented model.

Internet censorship in India can create problems for not only FDI in India but also for the growth of various sectors including banking sector of India. An integrated modern banking law for India is already in pipeline and an e-surveillance model of India would not be beneficial for the same.

Perry4Law and Perry4Law Techno Legal Base (PTLB) strongly recommend that Indian government must enact strong and effective social media laws, e-governance laws and e-commerce laws in India. Social networking laws in India must be so drafted as would benefit all the stakeholders.