Internet has changed the world, for good as well bad. It has become an integral part of our lives. Every information just a click away. With the evolution of mobile phones the internet now everybody is connected to everybody. We interact with people worldwide, information travels faster than ever. Internet has also given new dimensions to business and trade. Social networking i.e. facebook, linkedin, google plus, twitter etc., entertainment, shopping, job and employee search, you name it and it is at your finger tips.
It has also opened doors for the cyber crimes. Well i layman’s terms we can define cyber crime as category of crimes committed using computer, smartphones in cyber space(online). Now computer/laptop/smartphones can also be used as an instrument, or a target or a just mean for perpetuating further crimes. Cyber Defamation is also a type of cyber crime.
Cyber defamation can be due to corporate tactics by rival companies, personal vendetta by former client or employee etc.
WHAT IS CYBER DEFAMATION?
As per section 499 of Indian penal code defamation is the injury that is caused to the reputation of a person(company is a legal entity and hence comes under the definition of person). The injury can be done by words oral or written, or by signs or by visible representations with an intent or knowledge that such words, signs or representation would harm the reputation of that person. Such representation can be made before a single person or public at large.
Hence Cyber defamation is
• publishing defamatory material on internet with the help of computer/mobile phones and
• with intent or knowledge that it would harm the reputation of a person or company
• on some website or forum or by sending emails containing such defamatory material or information or
• by sending SMS through mobile phones
Since the defamatory information/statement/material is available to the entire world hence the loss/harm caused by such act is irreparable. It harms the reputation of a person in an uncontrolled manner because in some cases the defamatory material becomes viral and is shared by a lot of people.
The offense of cyber defamation can be committed by publishing the defamatory material (i.e. comment/post/links/picture/videos etc.):
• on World Wide Web (i.e. websites and blogs)
• on Forums and Discussion groups
• Intranets (local connections)
• through Mailing lists and bulletin boards
• by sending E-mail
• by sending SMS
Why people try to defame on internet?
Apart from easy access to the internet following are the main reasons why people choose to spread hoax and fabricated stories on internet.
• It is cheap (even setting up a website costs very less)
• Users do not have to reveal their true identity while posting on internet
• people are connected it takes less effort to make the defamatory content spread like wild fire
• And it’s damn easy.
somebody posted defamatory material about me or my company, Now what?
Well in such a case when you or your company has become a victim of cyber defamation, Engage a lawyer who has good knowledge of cyber laws, and the following steps can be taken to remove the unwanted/offensive defamatory comments/posts/links/pictures/videos from internet.
• Analysis of the link, content and verify with section 499 IPC, section 503 IPC and section 66A of information Technology act
• Try to contact the poster and get the information deleted
• Try to contact website administrator/owner and negotiate
• Try to approach the search engines to remove the links or push down such links
• Issue legal notice to the poster and/or website owner/administrator and even the search engine companies
• Proceed with cyber cell of the police and register a complaint (try to get an FIR registered)
• Take the necessary legal action against the poster/website by filling a complaint in court
• Initiate legal proceedings against the culprits demanding compensation for damages caused by such illegal act
• Approach court for injunction orders so that the same information may bot be posted again
Can I send the person posting defamatory information about me or my company?
In certain cases YES. Section 500 of indian penal code prescribe a punishment of simple imprisonment upto two years, fine or both.
How much can be claimed from the person/company spreading rumors about me and my Company?
The actual amount of claim depends upon your as well as your company’s status, good name and good will in market and reputation in society along with assumed loss of income and the hardship caused to such defamatory rumors.
In this world of easy access to information, it is imperative for the companies to keep a sharp eye on stories and comments posted on internet.
Where to file the complaint?
A complaint can be filed in local police station, cyber crime cell or a complaint before the judicial magistrate may also be pursued.
Judicial response to cyber defamation?
In Tata Sons Limited vs Greenpeace International & Anr, the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi has Observed:
“It is true that in the modern era defamatory material may be communicated broadly and rapidly via other media as well. The international distribution of newspapers, syndicated wire services, facsimile transmissions, radio and satellite television broadcasting are but some examples. Nevertheless, Internet defamation is distinguished from its less pervasive cousins, in terms of its potential to damage the reputation of individuals and corporations, by the features described above, especially its interactive nature, its potential for being taken at face value, and its absolute and immediate worldwide ubiquity and accessibility. The mode and extent of publication is therefore a particularly significant consideration in assessing damages in Internet defamation cases.”
In case of SMC Pneumatics (India) Pvt. Ltd. v. Jogesh Kwatra, the reputation of a corporate was being defamed by an ex-employee of the company by sending derogatory, defamatory, obscene, emails obscene, vulgar, filthy and abusive emails to its employers and also to different subsidiaries of the said company all over the world with the aim to defame the company and its Managing Director. The Hon’ble Judge of the Delhi High Court passed an ex-prate ad interim injunction observing that a prima facie case had been made out by the company.