Online defamation, also known as cyber defamation, refers to the act of making a untruthful statement about an individual or organisation on the internet, with the intention of damaging their reputation or causing harm to their personal or professional life. This can include posting defamatory comments, reviews, images, or videos on social media, blogs, forums, or other websites.
Online defamation is considered a form of libel, which is a written or published false statement that harms the reputation of the person or entity being targeted. The statement must be proven to be false, and must also have been made with malice, meaning that the person making the statement knew it was false or acted with reckless disregard for the truth.
Online defamation can have serious consequences, including loss of business, job opportunities, or personal relationships. Victims of online defamation can take legal action against the person responsible for the false statement, and may be able to seek damages for the harm caused to their reputation. Online defamation sometimes may have an impact on the economy of a country depending upon the information and person on whom it has been published.
Who does the defamation :
- Social Media News Channels – Marketplace has emerged where public shaming is a commodity and shame is an industry. Now a days Money is made on the clicks, the more shame the more clicks the more the advertising revenue.
- Disgruntled employee – Sends derogatory, defamatory, vulgar and abusive emails to the company’s superiors or to the management.
- Ex-Friend / Ex-Spouse – Obscene messages are being sent to the friends/ family by the culprit and even some post messages on porn sites claiming her as a prostitute etc.
- Political Rivalry – Defaming opposite party with false content and false context.
- Religious Rivalry – Trying to manipulate perceptions and creating a false propaganda.
Free Speech vs. Defamation :
Freedom of Expression and Speech, as provided under Article 19 (1) (a) in our Indian constitution, provides that all citizens shall have the right to freedom of expression and speech, but this freedom is subject to reasonable restriction. Any comment or remark which hampers the reputation of another person would invite liability under the law of defamation as prescribed below.
Earlier, we had Section 66A for filing defamation, but unfortunately it has been struck down as they felt it violated the right to freedom of expression. Besides, we have (a) Section 499 of the IPC Act: Have spoken, or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible or publish any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such a imputation will harm the reputation.” (b) Section 469 of the IPC Act: “Forgery, intending that the document or electronic record forged shall harm the reputation of any part, either individual or organisation.” (c) Section 503 of the IPC Act: “Threatens another with any injury to a person, or reputation, or property.”
What’s on social media now a days :
Engagements, divorces, and baby bumps are announced on social media, many of us are going official on social networks declaring relationship statuses, expressing opinions, confessing mistakes, and announcing sexual identity like I am a gay, this is something that was uncommon a decade ago.
With the above expressions online defamation and trolling has both short and long-term effects on freedom of expression. Online defamation and abuse may result in emotional and physical stress, erosion of individual and brand identity, credibility, financial and other repercussions. In the recent past, technological abuse by bots is happening through replies and comments.
Social Media intermediaries should be proactively monitoring the content posted on it and take appropriate actions against such users who post such defamatory content and have efficient grievance redressal mechanism to address the victims.
Laws around Defamation :
(a) Indian Penal Code (IPC) – Sections 499 and 500 of the IPC deal with defamation. (b) Information Technology Act, 2000 – (i) Section 67 dealt with offences related to communication through electronic means. (ii) Section 66C – Identity Theft. (iii) Section 66D – Cheating by Personation
Report defamation on social media :
What to do, if you are victim of Online Defamation :
- First file a request on Social Media Platforms (See above)
- Alternatively file a complaint on https://www.cybercrime.gov.in
- Report to CERT if its doing something that effects the sovereignty of the nation etc. https://www.cert-in.org.in/PDF/Report_Contribute.pdf
Social media usage tips :
- Enable Two Factor Authentication (2FA) for all your email and social account. Use a strong and complex passwords having special characters, numerical and capital letters.
- Never share sensitive/personal information on social media platforms. (Financial, login credentials, organisation and personal information) as your identity could be compromised
- Block cookies and configure privacy settings to control information sharing
- Configure privacy and GPS/location settings for your social media platforms to control information sharing
- Avoid clicking on suspicious short links send via SMS, WhatsApp and Messenger (from unknown contacts, first check its phishing or not https://isitphishing.org/
- Consent should be treated same way, both offline and online for all purposes.
- Use message applications that have end- to- end encryption.
- Use a Virtual Private Network or incognito or private mode when needed.
- Connect with known friends only
- Stick to facts, avoid opinions that could be construed as facts.
- Don’t retweet or like or report to someone else’s potential defamatory material.
- Fact-check information before sharing any news or information online, make sure to fact-check it from reliable sources.
- Think before you post, before posting anything online, whether it’s a comment, photo, or video, think carefully about how it could be perceived by others.