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Defamation And Virtual World: An Issues and Challenges

The world has changed dramatically since the times of industrial revolution as a result of technological advancements ushering us into the digital age. The Internet has made many things substantially easier for all of us, thanks to countless online communities. Be it interaction or access to information, we've all gotten accustomed to it. These resources, however, can be misused at times. Since users may upload and spread anything through these social networking sites, defamation has been a source of worry. As a result of the advent of so-called trends of sharing or uploading information or images on certain social networking sites and commenting on them, the risk of 'Virtual Defamation' has increased.

Due to web-based deals and daily transactions, the universe selected an online platform for extraordinary growth. The exponential rise of the internet throughout the world has provided any technology-savvy people with a one-click means to express their ideas and thoughts by writing on their own computers, which are easily available to everyone on the same platform as a magazine. This has caused a spike in cyber defamation, which involves injuring a person's reputation in front of a third party through spoken or written communication or verbal representations. In India, the idea of defamation is defined under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code.[1]

India is the lone nation in the world that possesses both civil and criminal defamation laws. Another reason why people's rights should be properly defined is because of this. In India, people are accountable for defamation not only in terms of monetary damages, but also in terms of jail. Millions of individuals might face defamation charges just for expressing a viewpoint that others may consider defamatory.[2]

It is important to note that the definition of defamation and the scope of defences vary by jurisdiction, although all jurisdictions agree that utterances that are ugly, unpleasant, bothersome, humiliating, or hurtful to one's feelings are not actionable.

In a number of judgments, the court has decided that showing the defendant's men's rea is necessary for proving the defamation clause. It is important to remember that even though a statement contains claims against a party, it cannot be considered defamation if it is made with good intention and for a good cause.

Research Objectives
  • To Analysis Defamation in a Virtual/digital space.
  • To Examine the challenges and issues faced in the virtual/digital space while dealing with defamation.
  • Defamation and its provisions in the virtual space

Indian context defamation is used both criminal and civil sense and it is defined under section 499 of Indian penal code. Defamation is considered as the unlawful and purposeful publishing of something about a person, whether in written or spoken form, in order to harm that person's reputation in society.

The following fundamental factors must be present for a statement to be declared defamatory. The defamatory statement must be published, which means it must come to the attention of the party mentioned. Only the plaintiff must be mentioned in the statement. The statement must be false and defamatory.

Defamation is of two types, 1.) Libel(written)which is any form of publication and Slander(spoke/oral) is a any speech or statement said with purpose of defaming or putting down the reputation of person.

Virtual/Cyber defamation
Virtual Defamation has become a severe criminal in recent years as a result of the most of the commerce being conducted digitally. Broad Coverage, Instant Communication, Anonymity, and Identity fraud are all part of it. Defamation produced through sound, video, written comments, and publications over any electronic devices such as mobile phones, laptops, and ipads, as defined by "Any cell phones, computer software assistance, or hybrid of both, or any other tool used to communicate, transfer or receive any text, video, audio, or picture," according to section 2(1) (ha) of the Information Technology Act of 2000. This type of defamation is increasingly frequent, thanks to the ease of faking one's identity, and it's incredibly upsetting for businesses and political parties."[1]

Digital defamation is a sort of cyberattack that involves a sequence of activities involving the victim in cyberspace. The component of this defamation is satisfied with unlawfulness under cyber law if an individual's credibility has been harmed and his or her public image in the eyes of third parties has been tarnished.[2]

Offences related to Socio-Economical factors
Cyber law is a broad word that encompasses all crimes and activity carried out in virtual worlds via the online platform.

Credit card fraud, unwanted access to personal space, terrible crimes such as child pornography, preventing software piracy, stalking, and more are all part of it.

Since frequently, the meaning has been broadened to cover counterfeiting, unlawful gambling, and internet defamation. Because the individual is 'alone' with their device and his presence is almost untraceable, a sensation of phoney intimacy and dictated correspondence is created.[3]

The major reason for the growth in cyber defamation is that the victim is subjected to the least amount of work and expense when posting obscene photographs, remarks, and publications that are accessible to everybody in the world. It allows the user to have easier access to data than he could in the actual world.[4]

The severity of the harm done to society as a whole, as well as the sort of crime committed, are the two most essential factors in socio-economic crime.

The severity of the injury is never obvious, and it is also never indisputable. The nature of the offence is distinct in terms of how it is planned and carried out using advanced methods. Incarceration is inescapable whenever there is public harm through digital space that is not in the form of positive aggressions.

Issues and challenges related to law and legislation on defamation in its Virtual/digital platform.

Our ever-increasing reliance on the Web on online communities has resulted in a slew of legal complications in the nation. When it comes to online pages like blogs or other media sites like newspapers or magazines, the most difficult component of defamation might be identifying the individual who has intended to hurt our reputation or the third party who has seen the defamatory comment. This is due to the fact that bloggers might be open or opt to remain anonymous in order to protect themselves.

According to Section 66A of the Information Technology Act of 2000, any person who sends or receives any data through any electronic device that is defamatory, grossly offensive, or menacing in nature, does not contain any truth, but is responsible for causing annoyance or inconvenience, and the origin of the sender is not easily detected, shall be punished with three years in prison and a fine.[5] This statute criminalises defamatory remarks and obscene material, as well as giving authorities the authority to examine any location without a warrant. The most recent modification gives authorities the authority to restrict or prohibit websites that include defamatory information.

The IT act,2000 also gives power to the government to remove any objectionable material whether written or spoken to be removed under 30 hours.

Defamation is punished by two years in prison and a fine under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code. [6] Section 469 concerns about forgery, and if a person is caught generating fraudulent papers that have no genuine or legal value with the goal to injure another person, they will be sentenced to three years in jail and a fine. [7] Section 503 of the Indian Penal Code addresses criminal intimidation by digital means in order to hurt the integrity and tranquilly of any individual by infringing on their reputation[8].

Defamation is defined "Because only reasonable restrictions are imposed to reduce the unlawful use of expressions that harm the dignity of human reputation," according to Article 19(2) [7] of the Indian Constitution, constitutional restrictions on freedom of expression can be imposed without infringing on Article 19(1)(a) "because only reasonable restrictions are imposed to reduce the unlawful use of expressions that harm the dignity of human reputation."[9][10]

In a court of law, to prove defamation section 64 and 65 of the Indian evidence acts is used. That's are Courts will accept any electronic record that has been recorded, printed, or copied on paper or media in the form of a document. In court, emails and internet discussions, as well as screenshots, are admissible[11].[12]

The case of D.K. Malhotra, SMC Pneumatics (India) Pvt. Ltd. v. Jogesh Kwatra, popularly known as the first case on virtual defamation, is discussed here. The High Court of Delhi granted an interim injunction and awarded ex-parte, prohibiting the defendant from defaming the plaintiff in both the virtual and real space, after a fellow employee sent grossly offensive, lewd, disrespectful, and demeaning emails to the corporation's fellow employers around the world with the intent of defaming the company image, which included the head of the company (M.D).

Kalandi Charan Lenka v. State of Odisha[13], is case which dealt with case of online stalking where in the petitioner in this case was the subject of internet stalking by a phoney account, which resulted in a faked identity. Under the meaning of internet defamation, the case entailed forwarding of obscene remarks to friends. The High Court of Odisha ruled that the accused's actions constitute digital crime and that he is responsible for defamation for the phoney communications, indecent photographs, and word.

The integration of digital technology in the Present Scenario has resulted in easily accessible method of functioning. Everyone's life has been influenced by social media, where everyone may write, share, and read comments. This also amounts to cyber-defamation, which has far-reaching consequences for many organizations with legal bodies.

There have been several legal bodies to deal with cybercrime and the permissibility of digital data as evidence, which has made things easier. The onus of proof has always been on the defendant, thus there are still revisions needed for swift remedy in cases of cybercrime.

The ease of access provided by the internet allows anybody to share, publish, and retrieve documents, which might amount to defamation. There is currently no proper strategy to tackle defamation that pertains to cybercrime. Because of the large amount of information available and the ease with which it can be used, the internet has become a highly important source of electronic-based defamation that impacts all types of trade and corporate companies.

The benefits of globalisation frequently come with drawbacks, such as hackers and cybercriminals interfering with various users' personal space with the nefarious goal of defaming the reputation of individuals and organizations, with damages varying depending on the degree of defamation caused.

  2. Jeremy Cohen et al., Perceived impact of defamation: An experiment on third-person effects, 52 Public Opinion Quarterly 161 (1988).

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