Times of India, a leading News paper in India recently took up a campaign aimed at legislative immunity for Internet Intermediaries. Accordingly, a sensational article titled “Recipe for killing Internet in India” was carried by the news paper on October 17th 2007. This was followed by an editorial on October 18th titled “Don’t Chain The Net” .

These articles were picked by media all over the world and an opinion is being created in the global Netizen community that India is trying to pass laws to punish Internet Service Providers for all the content that is whizzing past their network in nano seconds. If one scans the Net, we can find harsh criticism being passed against the so called proposal.

Naavi.org which is India’s premier Cyber Law portal has been quick to point out that Times of India report was wrong and probably motivated by considerations other than journalistic ethics. The reasons why Naavi.org comes to this conclusion has been detailed in the article “Please do not try to manipulate public opinion with planted stories” (http://www.naavi.org/cl_editorial_07/edit_oct_18.htm)

It has been clearly mentioned in the article that presently, Internet Intermediaries in India are exempted from liabilities under the principle Cyber regulation called Information technology Act 2000 (ITA 2000) if they exercise “Due Diligence”. In other words, only in the event  an Intermediary is “negligent” and facilitates commission of a crime, he would be liable. Otherwise he is not. This is the position now and what is proposed to be continued.

What has raised the controversy is that the Government of India had undertaken a review of ITA 2000 and one of the suggestions that had been made was that “An Intermediary shall not be liable for any law in force in India except when he has conspired or abetted in the commission of an offence”.

This proposal which was presented in the Information Technology Act 2000 Amendment Bill 2006 to the Indian Parliament was rejected by a committee of Parliamentarians and the Bill has been returned to the department for revision.

However the vested interests who are interested in running Internet business without responsibility are up in arms against the rejection of the amendment and are trying to lobby for reintroduction of the immunity clause.

To achieve their ends, stories are being planted in news papers and the said Times of India article is one such attempt to mislead the public with false information and false interpretation.

The article “Recipe for Killing Internet” was authored by Mr Manoj Mitta who had also authored an article  on 29th June  2006 titled “Changes in IT Act would’ve cost Airtel” . Naavi.org had then reacted with the follow up article Beware of a Renewed Attempt to Push ITA-2000 Amendments (http://www.naavi.org/cl_editorial_06/edit_june_29_itaa_2005.htm)

In this article it had been clearly pointed out that Times of India report was wrong and deliberately tried to mislead the  public to think that it would have been in the public interest for the proposed amendments to have been passed expeditiously.

It is interesting to note that there is a renewed attempt once again not only to lobby for “Intermediary Immunity” but to substantiate it with fraudulent arguments.

I would like Times Of India to recall their own stories of how You tube has been accused in Philippines of having assisted in the raising of funds for Al-Qaida and, How  You Tube has agreed to install Copyright Filters as its due diligence responsibility against use of their site for copyright infringement. What is being suggested through Mr Manoj Mitta articles is to make You Tube not responsible for implementation of “Due Diligence” measures to prevent such crimes. This would encourage rogue elements to continue exploitation of social networking sites, job and matrimonial websites and sites for promoting terrorism, sites for cheating public through Internet.

While I am fully in support of freedom of speech, I also feel that there is a need to promote responsible use of Internet. If promotion of such responsible use of Internet is opposed by leading publications such as Times of India, then it would amount to public dis service.

We strongly condemn the anti community attitude of a major publication and request the Times of India Ombudsman and the Press Council to take corrective action. Otherwise this will be a “Recipe for Killing Journalistic Ethics”.

Naavi of www.naavi.org

October 21 2007

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