Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan on Saturday said the government could place restrictions on websites that exclusively circulated pornography and hate speech, though it would not be right to clamp blanket bans on all categories of websites.

Addressing a national seminar on the enforcement of cyber law here, Mr. Balakrishnan said it was also important to distinguish between intermediaries such as network service providers, website operators and individual users for placing liability for wrongful acts.

“Liability cannot be mechanically placed on Internet intermediaries, when it is specific individuals who engage in reprehensible conduct. That would be comparable to punishing the persons who build roads for the rash and negligent driving of other persons who operate vehicles on the roads.”

The distinction between intermediaries and end users was important because in many cases the websites that ordinarily post acceptable material also allow users to circulate content of their own. The investigators need, therefore, to stay abreast with the latest developments in web-based applications so that they could quickly identify the actual perpetrators instead of going after an intermediary, he said.

He wanted the Cyber Appellate Tribunal, set up to look into cyber related disputes, to reflect on the technological and judicial expertise needed to resolve such disputes. Those who served on the Tribunal must be familiar with the latest developments in the field of Information Technology, while also being alert to policy concerns and the need to ensure free flow of information.

Democratic values such as freedom of speech and expression, freedom of association and the freedom to pursue an occupation, business, profession or trade must be promoted in the online domain as well.

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