Monday, January 16, 2012

Why Vinay Rai Did Not Contact The Concerned Websites?

Vinay Rai, the person behind criminal complaint against social media websites and companies like Facebook and Google, has become instrumental in testing the internet intermediary law of India. Presently, Google and Facebook are gripped in the Indian cyber law tangle.

To make the matter worst, not only the executives of parent companies have been personally summoned by the trial court but it has also been proved that Google and Facebook are beneficiaries of the revenue arising out of offending contents. This may make even the subsidiary companies of Google and Facebook liable for violation of Indian laws.

It is not the case that these companies have not protested in the past against the provisions of the Indian laws. For instance, Yahoo had 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 Indian 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 and social media laws of India. But the same has come too late and is too insignificant at this stage.

However, in this entire episode one thing is simply not understandable. Why Vinay Rai did not contact the concerned websites and brought to their knowledge about the offending contents? As per Vinay he did not deem it appropriate to approach foreign companies himself. Rather he thought it fit to invoke the governmental machinery to get appropriate remedy.

Surprisingly, he has been pursuing this matter with the information technology ministry for over a year now. The ministry took no action despite constant reminders and follow ups from his end. It was only two to three months ago that the ministry held an internal meeting on the issue and ordered enquiry.

It seems both Vinay Rai and our IT ministry are guilty of not taking appropriate steps in this regard. Clearly, Vinay Rai did not approach these companies and informed them about the offending contents. Now the only question that remains to be seen is whether the IT ministry has also not contacted these companies in this regard?

If even the IT ministry has not intimated these companies “appropriately”, then this may be as serious lapse on the part of Indian government. In such a situation companies like Google, Facebook, etc cannot be held liable for offensive contents posted by the users. Only time would tell what was communicated and what was not and who is responsible and who is not.