Workshop on Social Media, Data Security and Copyright
International Media Ethics Day – 19/09/2014
Dept of Communication, St Joseph’s College Autonomous, Bangalore
In association with Centre for International Media Ethics &
Indian Journalists Welfare Foundation
SCAENA, a workshop on social media and data security hosted by the B.Voc section of the Communication Department of St. Joseph’s College – in association with the Centre for International Media Ethics (CIME) and the Indian Journalists Welfare Foundation – on the World Media Ethics Day.
Following a prayer song by students Ankur Peter & Sanjana Bhatt and a brief introduction by Fr Richard Rego SJ, Head, Communication, Mr. Na Vijayshankar (Naavi, as he is popularly known) and Mr. M.D. Sharath, Dy SP Cyber Crime Police addressed the gathering.
Mr. Naavi is the founder secretary of CySi, founder trustee of IIIT Law, Chairman of the Digital Society of India, editor of the monthly e-mail newsletter ‘Cyber Laws For CxO, and founder of pioneer virtual cyber law educational institution http://www.cyberlawcollege.com, Mr. Sharath is the DySP of the Cyber Crime Police Station, a division of the CID and head of the CID forensics laboratory. He holds a Masters degree in law, a post-graduate diploma in cyber law, and was awarded the Chief Minister’s gold medal in 2008.
Mr Naavi took the students through the role of social media in mass communication and the implications of their usage.
He spoke about the use of Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp for businesses, the differences and similarities between print and virtual media and the integration of the same – web versions of magazines and newspapers, online publications, etc – the rise of the concept of blogging, which removed the old editor-reader model of publishing, difference between personal and mass communication, and the debates within the ethical framework.
He also spoke on the relatively sudden, drastic changes in how we use media to communicate, and the need to change the modes of journalism and publication to keep up with this and ensure safety of the masses.
Because of the fast nature of this transition, application of laws can also be confusing – laws made for print journalism being applied to virtual media can end up with disastrous consequences because the same rules cannot apply to both.
He discussed the implications of a simple thing like hyperlinking can have, citing cases like the trisha video case, where an anonymous comment on a blog containing a link to a defaming video nearly caused a complaint to be filed against the blog owner.
The case of a web designer who used the algorithm of metatags, to his advantage, the person concerned used fonts with a colour identical to that of the page background to insert keywords that the human eye would not see but the search algorithm would pick up. He used his competitor’s name in these keywords, and he was slapped with a copyright infringement case.
Mr. Naavi pointed out how, although there are advantages to the instant access and sharing that the Internet allows, a challenge faced every day is that of retracting a statement or article once it is published on the web. A common problem is the false security provided by the “delete” content/account option: people impulsively post what is on their mind believing that they can always remove it. They don’t consider the fact that once something is on the Internet, copies, screenshots, archives and forwards are saved, and it can have huge negative effects, either immediately or later.
More debatable copyright infringement hyperlink-related cases include the Newsbooster.com case filed against the website by virtual newspapers because it hyperlinked specific articles according to what a user searched for, and the news companies objected because it apparently reduced the number of advertisement-hits they would get on their own homepages.
The attendees learned about steganography, a lesser-known method of data exchange where content is hidden behind pictures. This has been used by terrorists in the past and is not easily detected.
Many more cases were discussed where individuals unknowingly got themselves into trouble because they were unaware and their content was misinterpreted; Mr Naavi explained sections of the IT Act and Copyright Act which deal with this; these often end up working against social media users.
He concluded with a few guidelines to avoid these dangers – consciously not posting impulsively, checking the source before hyperlinking it or forwarding, keeping in mind international laws when travelling abroad or sharing data. We need to be aware of the legal issues entailing it before downloading or advocating it. simple precautions can go a long way in staying safe side of the online world.
Mr. M.D. Sharath, DySP, dealt with issues from impersonation, defamation, suicide, “hypertexting”, depression, substance abuse, poor sleep patterns, poor academic performance disastrous impulsive posts, and even murder. With the help of case studies and shocking statistics reflecting every imaginable issue stemming from the virtual world, Mr. Sharath drove home the point of risks involved in the enticing world of social media.
He explained a few more laws and emphasised the ambiguity that comes with their wordings, using strong examples.
He said that 75% of cases that come to his desk are specifically Facebook-related; he said that thousands more cases remain unreported. From a 9th standard schoolgirl to an IIM student, people from various walks of life have ended their lives over things like failed virtual relationships and cyberbullying.
Discussed at length were the cases of a crook impersonating as a film producer on Facebook to obtain obscene pictures of unsuspecting people hoping to make it in the film industry, a gang in Hyderabad who compromised an ATM machine and with each swipe, cloned the cards of hundreds of people, a Russian hacker who hacked and released 4.93 million Gmail passwords, and the infamous case of the arrest and detainment of two girls after one posted a comment on Bal Thackeray (Mumbai politician) on Facebook and the other “liked” it – all from both the side of the alleged offender and the law/law enforcers.
The Mumbai case was debated at length; Mr. Sharath revealed that it was not only Section 66(A) of the IT Act (which, when applied, is bailable and does not allow for immediate arrest) that was exercised in that case, but also Section 259 of the IPC (religious hatred) – and the IT Act was wrongly emphasised by the media. Media manipulates information and law enforcers manipulate or misinterpret the law – increasing the need for caution as well as action by the democracy.
Mr Sharath increased awareness about a greater threat for the future – now, it is only data that is being misused, but research has shown that it is possible for pacemakers to be hacked and this can be used as a tool for murder.
The workshop wrapped up with a question and answer session; doubts regarding various areas of security were cleared. The guests emphasised the importance of understanding the interpretation and implementation of laws, and making the voice of netizens heard.
The seminar brought awareness that the risks and possibilities are endless; the Internet is no child’s playground, and we are all vulnerable whether we know it or not. Attendees are definitely safer and smarter now. SCAENA was the first of many such awareness programs that could help safeguard our data and perhaps even save lives.