Fraudsters, fakes now online

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A few months ago, ace director Rajasenan realized that a fake profile of his had been created with his name, email id and photograph by a total stranger on Facebook.

The perpetrator, understood to be a student, had added nearly 300 girls as Facebook friends, many of whom he had lured after offering them roles in movies.

Rajasenan, who had no Facebook profile, immediately lodged a complaint with the High Tech Cell of the state police.

The High Tech Cell lost no time in contacting the Facebook authorities in California and obtaining the Internet Protocol address of the fraudster.

He was busted and brought to the the High Tech Cell unit at Thiruvananthapuram, where Rajasenan held a long chat with the youngster. He directed the Cell not to take any action against him.

Rajasenan’s is not an isolated case in the social networking world, where hundreds of thousands are being impersonated and duped by internet frauds every year.

The High Tech Cell received 75 complaints of Facebook fakes in 2012. The number was 94 in 2011, 42 in 2010 and 40 in 2009.

The attacks can range from posting just unpleasant opinions all the way up to threats and stalking.

The law says defamation of character is the communication of false information stated as a fact, which brings harm to an individual or an entity, such as a business, group or government.

For it to be defamation, the statement must be delivered in speech or in writing to at least one person other than the victim.

Obviously if it is on Facebook, then it will be written and will meet the criterion.

Despite this it’s a cause for concern that defamation on social networking sites is taken rather lightly.

But the fact is that the Section 66-A of the IT Act, 2000 is a relevant section which penalizes ‘any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device, any content that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or any content which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will, persistently makes use of such computer resource or a communication device, any electronic mail or electronic mail message to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages.’

“The section also envisages imprisonment up to three years with fine, for sending offensive messages through any communication service,” says N Vinayakumar, assistant commissioner of the High Tech Cell. “Not many people understand the seriousness of criminal activities on social networking sites.”

Recently, actor, writer and activist Sajitha Madathil was at the receiving end of a barrage of nasty comments on Facebook.

She was attacked by thousands on the networking site for her role in an ad.
Sajitha had lodged a complaint before the High Tech Cell and the probe is still under way.

Not all celebrities are quick to react. Prithwiraj stayed calm at a time when he was severely abused by the public on Facebook.

Ranjini Haridas, one of the Malayali women who were attacked most through Facebook, is completely impervious to the Facebook remarks.

“I’m a person who handles negative comments very well. In fact I thrive on criticism and use it to improve myself,” she explains.

Ranjini also feels that at the end of the day, such comments do not affect a public figure in any way. “The people who criticize in the virtual world are cowards of the real world.

They hide behind the mask of anonymity. They are crossing the limits through such comments, but I guess it is human nature to abuse celebrities,” said Ranjini.

The High Tech Cell, which probes the cases, usually transfers them to the local police. However, often when the culprits were identified, the complainants would withdraw the complaints after reaching a compromise with the offenders.

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