Time for a statutory warning?

Posted: October 12, 2010 in blogging
Tags: , ,

Facebook India users who indulge in personal and defamatory attacks and post offensive messages could face punishment up to three years under the various sections of the Information Technology Act. “

Will social networking sites, taking a leaf out of tobacco companies’ books, post such a warning on their sites, sometime in the future?

One of my former bosses once gave me some advice which I have never forgotten. He was talking of the importance of the ‘send’ button on a keyboard of the computer. He said whenever you are angry about something or someone (even if it may be your immediate superior or even your boss) and want to fire a mail to someone in authority, go ahead and write it. But don’t send it. Instead, he advised, save it in the Drafts folder and let it lie there till you cool down.

He believed that we often write things in the heat of the moment that we end up regretting it a few minutes later. In the case of an email there is no time for regret. Once you click on the ‘send’ button it’s gone and then you’re left to perspire over the consequences. So why not just wait for things to cool down. If you think you still feel strongly about the issue and want to send the mail, go ahead by all means. So write it, save it but don’t send it, was his advice.

So it does make me wonder how people are so itchy-fingered when it comes to posting offensive messages and emails, without considering the implications. When they are hauled up they fall back on the tried and tested “I’m sorry, it was done in the heat of the moment. It won’t happen again.” If someone feels strongly about something why not go up to the relevant authority and discuss it or in that case send an email requesting an appointment to discuss the issue?

Which bring me to an interesting report in today’s DNA on page 9, that talks about whether a student can be held guilty for posting profane messages against a teacher on social networking sites. No say child rights groups. Yes say lawyers, quoting the IT Act.

The DNA report states that a Chandigarh school suspended 16 students for three months after they had posted offensive messages and pictures of a teacher on Facebook. Child rights groups are, of course, up in arms against this decision. They believe children should be counselled when they do such things, because a lot of things are done without malicious intent and are just an outlet for their frustration. I’m okay with that, because I know a lot of children do things without thinking and social networking sites like Facebook have given kids the kind of freedom to express themselves in so many ways that we never had in our days.

Child rights groups believe a student has the right to air his or her grievances against a teacher, institution and the system, while lawyers quote Section 66 of the IT ACT which can send an offender to jail for three years. This particular IPC section was probably formulated to check transgressions by company employees and not minors, but the fact that it’s there should by act as a deterrent. But it doesn’t. Numerous companies have today blocked access to personal emails and social networking sites at the workplace. Companies like Infosys are monitoring comments on social networking sites, and employees who rant about their managers can face disciplinary action.

Today Facebook or Orkut has become an extension of a friend and confidante, with a really big mouth! Apart from the sometimes downright rude updates, I also read stuff like “In a relationship” or “In a confused/complicated relationship” etc. Does the world need to know? Updates on social networking sites have all kinds of stuff – from rude messages to poetry to short stories to nasty cracks against the administration. The strange thing is that most of these comments are from people aged 18-25. And some of them are quite funny.

To an extent, I’m fine with this too. There are times when one needs to unwind. We also need to keep pace with technology and as parents and teachers we also need to understand where our children are headed! So far so good! But school children are those under the age of 18. What does one do when those above the voting age indulge in such indiscreet behaviour?

  1. It’s a good thing to keep one’s self under check, but having a body keeping a check on us is insane. It talks of how we don’t know where to draw the line. Insulting the administration, a teacher or someone in authority on a public forum or going berserk with comments of the negative kind is ridiculous. It’s a way of expressing what you feel, with the hope of gathering support from other like minded colleagues.

    Well, let’s hope that the day when Facebook gets blocked altogether isn’t so close.

    P.S – NOW was to go live today. But there seems to be a problem with the backend. Archana is in talks with the designer/engineer.

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