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Case Studies Series – 1 – Facebook Crimes

Facebook.com is a very popular online community and social networking website. Facebook users can search for and interact with people who share the same hobbies and interests. They can create and join a wide variety of online communities. The profiles of Facebook members are publicly viewable.

THE SCENARIOS

  • A fake profile of a woman is created on Facebook. The profile displays her correct name and contact information (such as address, residential phone number, cell phone number etc). Sometimes it even has her photograph. The problem is that the profile describes her as a prostitute or a woman of “loose character” who wants to have sexual relations with anyone. Other Facebook members see this profile and start calling her at all hours of the day asking for sexual favors. This leads to a lot of harassment for the victim and also defames her in society.
  • An online hate community is created. This community displays objectionable information against a particular country, religious or ethnic group or even against national leaders and historical figures.
  • A fake profile of a man is created on Facebook. The profile contains defamatory information about the victim (such as his alleged sexual weakness, alleged immoral character etc)

THE LAW

  • Scenario 1: Section 67 of Information Technology Act and section 509 of the Indian Penal Code.
  • Scenario 2: Section 153A and 153B of Indian Penal Code.
  • Scenario 3: Section 500 of Indian Penal Code.

WHO IS LIABLE?

  • Scenario 1: Directors of Facebook as well as all those who create and update the fake profile.
  • Scenario 2: Same as Scenario 1.
  • Scenario 3: Same as Scenario 1.

THE MOTIVE

  • Scenario 1: Jealousy or revenge (e.g. the victim may have rejected the advances made by the suspect).
  • Scenario 2: Desire to cause racial hatred (e.g. Pakistani citizens creating an anti-India online community).
  • Scenario 3: Hatred (e.g. a school student who has failed may victimize his teachers).

MODUS OPERANDI

  • The suspect would create a free Gmail account using a fictitious name.
  • The email ID chosen by him would be unrelated to his real identity.
  • The suspect would then login to Facebook.com and create the offensive profile.