|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
Bloggers beware! Big Brother's watching
Tony Tharakan in New Delhi | November 09, 2005 13:50 IST
Mind what you write, bloggers! The days of carefree blogging are over. As more and more blogs get into the public domain, the danger of being sued can only increase.
For those new to the Internet, a blog, short for web log, can be described as a sort of online diary, with the latest entry along with date stamp appearing on the top of the web page.
Experts estimate the number of online blogs to be close to ten million and a Technorati portal report recently revealed that up to 70,000 new blogs are being created daily.
Given the rising popularity of blogs, it's no surprise this new medium of communication is already generating its share of controversies.
Last year, an Indian media giant succeeded in closing down a blog following a series of posts criticising the newspaper.
More recently, a leading B-school handed another blogger a legal notice for his musings on the institution.
Similar cases abound even in the US, with at least two bloggers being sacked by their respective companies for what they revealed on their blogs.
"The right of a blogger to express himself freely cannot be bamboozled or gagged under threat of litigation," says cyber lawyer Pavan Duggal.
"However, the aggrieved party can take recourse to legal remedy-- seek damages or an injunction on the blog."
In the meantime, some companies have started incorporating blog policies in their job contracts, in a bid to regulate employee blogs, which could express opinions or reveal something damaging.
"Though still on an ad hoc basis, this trend of fixing the 'dos and don'ts' of blogging is sure to pick up since the companies want to protect themselves," says Duggal.
The fact that blogging is not covered under the Indian IT Act, 2000 also seems to be a deterrent for the online community with bloggers clueless as to their rights and liabilities.
"There needs to be clarity on the legal framework of blogs. Even the government's proposed amendments to the Act do not talk about blogs," adds Duggal.
The recent controversies raised the heckles of the blogging community with many wondering whether the Constitutionally-enshrined right to freedom of expression was valid anymore. But cyber lawyers seem sceptical about blogging rights.
"Blogging is okay as long as it does not infringe on someone else's rights or shows him in a bad light. If so, then it comes under the ambit of defamation and not under freedom of expression," says IT law expert Puneet Mittal.
A plethora of blogs can be found online on just about any topic-- some even cribbing about workplaces, nasty colleagues and vengeful bosses.
For eM (thecompulsiveconfessor.blogspot.com), one of India's most popular bloggers, writing about her colleagues almost proved to be her undoing, though she claims to have escaped unscathed.
"My co-workers found the blog and some rather blunt things I had said about them. I realised that I couldn't just write about everything. I changed the URL and some other tracking devices and stuck to writing about my personal life. Lesson learnt!" she says.
Some, however, have managed to escape the wrath of employers even after their cover was blown.
"I have not faced any problems from my company because of the blog. Even though I do write under a pseudonym, a lot of people do know about my blog and what I write about. But it helps that I don't blog about work, mine is more personal," says Shyam Somanadh, one of India's pioneer bloggers.
Sometimes, blogging under a pseudonym may seem safer since it's difficult to sue a person without knowing his identity - but anonymous blogging is likely to be more vociferous in its posts.
"One should remember that anonymity only separates the real life identity from the blog identity - it does not protect the personality built up over the blog, and that is still subject to criticism. Criticism delivered online usually stings harder because it is devoid of the nuances of voice or body language," says blogger Kiran Jonnalagadda.
Celebrity bloggers should know. They seem to be ones most affected by the relative anonymity the Internet provides.
After she won the Cinefan film festival award in July, actress Trina Nileena Banerjee's blog fell prey to a deluge of nasty comments forcing her to shut shop and start anew under a pseudonym.