Offended by a tweet? Live with it – Javed Anwer

It is a sad reflection on India of our times that a tweet can land you in jail. Yes, that is what happened to S Ravi, a small-time businessman. His fault? He tweeted that Karti Chidambaram, son of Union finance minister P Chidambaram, has amassed more wealth than Robert Vadra. Karti obviously found the tweet “offensive”. Cops were roped in and, because the son of a VVIP is a VVIP, they acted pretty fast.

In a country like India where people are murdered on the street, women are raped in daylight and lawlessness is the order of the day, the guy who made the “offensive tweet” was behind the bars within days! And we thought our cops couldn’t act fast.

Well, that’s not the main story though. The bigger issue is Section 66A of the IT Act, which has been invoked against Ravi. Ever since this clause was inserted into the IT Act in 2008, web activists are up in arms against it. Sunil Abraham, director of Bangalore-based group Centre for Internet and Society, told TOI on Thursday that it “goes beyond the constitutional limits on free speech”.

There are several problems with Section 66A. Let me first tell you what it is:

Section 66A of the IT Act says any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device, – (a) any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or (b) any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will, persistently by making use of such computer resource or a communication device, (c) any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages, – shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine.

In typical Indian fashion, it is ambiguous. In all probability, deliberatively, so that people like Mamata Banerjee and Karti Chidambaram can let loose cops on anyone who “offends” them.

I mean what the hell is information with ‘menacing character’? If I enter a virtual chat room and shout “Boo, a ghost is here. I am gonna eat all of you,” will it be considered menacing information?

Causing annoyance? Really… is this what we have come to now? Are we punishing people because they can cause annoyance to others on the web? I am annoyed everyday by many pointless emails I get from PR people. I should better file an FIR against them. Right?

I can go on and on.

Section 66A is also a typical real-world law that fails to understand the virtual world. As I have argued here earlier, the online world is a reflection of humanity with all its banalities and goodness. (Sometimes banalities are more visible because buoyed by anonymity and the tools the web provides, people can be quite nasty in their virtual avatars). But yet because it is all virtual, it is not comparable to similar acts in real life even if the actions on the web can sometimes have real-world implications.

It is also easy to be a lot more careless on the web. People talk nonsense and rubbish all the time on social media sites without meaning it. It has something to do with the nature of the web.

The lawmakers, when they try to put limits on the web or when they try to punish people for online wrongdoings, need to factor in this. And create laws that are logical.

There is no reason for putting someone in jail for three years for an “offensive” tweet. Even molesters in India, if the cops catch them and book them, don’t get three years in jail.

No one in their right mind will say that people are not abused or slandered on the web. Everyday, I get tweets from people calling me names. Celebrities have it worse. But the great bit about the web is that it is a great equalizer. You too have access to the same power that your detractors and haters have. If they have anonymity, you too have it. Unlike in the real world, where you may not be able to ignore something, on the web you can. You can block people on Twitter. If they are saying bad and untrue things about you, you can always clarify your bit. If somebody writes a slanderous blog post, you can take care of it through your response. You too can use the tools that others use against you.

More importantly, if you are on the web, you need to develop a thicker skin. For our high and mighty, used to the servitude from their subordinates, it may come as a surprise; but the reality is that on the web no one gives a damn to how much money or clout you have.

Take the case of Karti. No one knew what Ravi said until he was arrested. He had less than 100 followers. It was like gossip within friends. Once cops got to him, the tweet started circulating. It was retweeted over 250 times. His subsequent tweet about the arrest was retweeted over 450 times.

Karti, meanwhile, got it bad. There were thousands of tweets mentioning his name or twitter profile. Almost all against him. And many of them more slanderous and offending than Ravi’s tweet.

That’s how it is. People, even your real-life subordinates, speak their mind on the web.

Live with it!


About janamejayan

A Viraat Hindu dedicated to spread the message of Paramacharya of Kanchi
This entry was posted in Anti-national Congress Party, corruption India, Crimes India, Persecuted Hindus. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Offended by a tweet? Live with it – Javed Anwer

  1. vaidya kesavaiyer says:

    Our police have become private armies for the corrupted politicians as they act very swiftly upon their complaints and make the common to loiter pillar to post if they go over to lodge their vehicle theft, rowdyism, eve teasing and so on.

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