“Web logs are the prized platform of an online lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel and invective. Their potent allies in this pursuit include Google and Yahoo.” So wrote Daniel Lyons some years back, in a classic Forbes cover story titled ‘Attack of the Blogs’. As the Senior Editor of Forbes then, Dan was simply expressing his extreme frustration at the utter nastiness of the Internet community, which seemed to have a super-majority of calumnious commentators, who thrived on the faceless protection that the net provided in order to leave shamefully slanderous and defamatory comments left, right and center. Cut to the present, and the situation has sickeningly worsened. Not just globally, but perhaps more so in the Indian perspective. Take a quick ‘surf’ across various pages of the Internet and it would not be hard for one to realise that every fourth or fifth page is filled up with some or the other pejoratively aberrant content against respectable individuals and companies posted by untraceable, incognito and spiteful writers. From four-letter words to bigoted slanders to sexist comments to racist attacks to clearly inflammatory and libelous material, the net is now so completely full of criminally damnable statements that one starts wondering why the authorities haven’t woken up to act on this issue with the greatest speed. In case of profiles of meritorious organisations or individuals, this ratio of deprecating content put up by abusive users often shoots up to almost every second page. Internet hooliganism, as I describe it, is the most contemptible character of the modern technology era, where it doesn’t matter how respectable you are or what your organisation is, or how you sincerely worked throughout the past many decades – irrespective of all that, you will be attacked anonymously with false statements that will make you cringe for a lifetime and with almost no hope for any recourse. As per a 2011 report titled, ‘The Internet and Corporate Reputation: What you need to know’, conducted by law service firm Olswang and social media analytics company WindFall Media, “60% of the companies that had been victims of untrue allegations or rumours on the Internet said the allegations were likely to have an impact on the company’s share price.” As the 2010 Pulitzer Prize winner Kathleen Parker of Washington Post mentions in one of her articles, “The freedom granted by [Internet] anonymity and a virtual audience may have been a boon to democracy, affording everyone a voice, but it has been a plague on decency.”
The question is, why is all this not controllable? When a person talks negatively and falsely about you in public, the law provides for such a person to be immediately pulled up by both law enforcement and judicial authorities. Then why cannot the same rules be applied over the Internet, when someone posts flagitious and gutter-worthy comments about you or your corporation? Because of three key reasons, which go hand in hand!