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Technology and social media: From boon to bane

Tuesday, 13 May 2014 - 7:45am IST | Agency: DNA
Cyber crime police say rise in incidents of social media misuse suggest ignorance among majority of it being illegal

Technology, considered to be a boon for all, is also something that is misused a lot. Social networking sites, which play a vital role in connecting people from all over the world, are among the most abused by people.

From the death of a very senior and renowned Bollywood actor to that of India's famous playback singer, which forced her to take to Twitter to inform her fans that she was hale and hearty, are just a few examples of how people misuse the social media platform to spread rumours.

Last week, the Dombivli railway police booked a man for writing lewd comments on a 16-year-old girl's photo which was being circulated on WhatsApp.

An instant messaging service for smartphone users, WhatsApp is one of the tools which is used often by people to spread rumours. Recently, a Chembur resident posted news about the death of a senior actor and even gave the time of the funeral. Getting suspicious, another WhatsApp user complained to the police who then took action against the person responsible for the original post.

The rate at which such incidents are happening seems to suggest only a few know that misuse of WhatsApp or any other social networking platform amounts to violation under the Information Technology (IT) Act. As on December 2013, WhatsApp claimed it has 400 million active users, clearly indicating its popularity.

The recent case of a TYBcom paper being leaked on WhatsApp and bogus messages being circulated against actor Aamir Khan regarding the source of donations for the second season of Satyamev Jayate are just a few more examples of how people misuse technology.

Senior inspector Mukund Pawar of the Cyber Crime Investigation Cell (CCIC), said, "Spreading rumours via social media is an offence under the IT Act. Most are spread through WhatsApp. We usually do not receive many cases regarding rumours spread on WhatsApp. However, if we do get complaints, we will definitely look into them."

Most complaints the CCIC receive are of obscene messages being sent on social media sites or WhatsApp. When it comes to rumours, people usually ignore them and don't bother to lodge a complaint.

Cyber expert Vijay Mukhi said, "Like Facebook, WhatsApp owners are not very cooperative with the police. The application does not require a person to verify whether the user is genuine or fake. For example, I can buy a SIM card using fake documents and then put some name and start using it. A message on WhatsApp is circulated to thousands of users within minutes. Hence, to trace it back to the first sender is next to impossible."


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