Different norms needed for cyber offences, says Sibal


Defending the provisions under Section 66A of the IT Act that criminalises "offensive" behaviour using a computer or other electronic device, Information Technology Minister Kapil Sibal on Friday said the norms for civil behaviour on the Internet and social media, when it gets defined and codified, would have to be different from the ones in real life or in print media.

Sibal was speaking in the Rajya Sabha, requesting CPM's P Rajeeve to withdraw a private member's Bill seeking to make amendments to Section 66A in order to stop its abuse.

Sibal argued that in "real world" or even in print media, the offender is known and not anonymous, making it easier for the offended to approach the courts. This was not the case in the cyber space.

"...in the print media, the identity of the person is always known, the correspondent who writes the piece is always known. If it is the Express News Service, or the Times of India News Service, or some other news service, they are under the Press Registration Act. We know who the publisher is, we know who the editor is, we know who the resident editor is. So, obviously, therefore, we can identify not just the publication but also the individual. Therefore, the liability can easily be fixed," Sibal said. "But this is not so in the social media. Most of the time, the social media is opaque. We do not know the identity of the person because under the rules of social media, the person concerned need not reveal his or her identity."

"All civil intercourse must be subject to Constitutional prescriptions, there can be no doubt about it. And nobody can say that the social media is outside the Constitution... But the limits of exercise of freedom of expression in the social media are yet to be prescribed... It is subject to prescriptions; it is subject to restrictions; it is subject to defamation, it is subject to decency, it is subject to morality; it is subject to public order," he said.

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