Many members

of Orkut give fake identities to disguise themselves to ward off

trouble from

mischief-mongers.

A lady doctor based in New Delhi goes to Bangalore and is abducted for ransom. A teenager in Mumbai leaves home for a late night party, but gets into the clutches of abductors. The common link, in both cases, was Orkut, an online community link, according to reports.

In such cases, friends connected through the network go beyond chatting and enter a different orbit of life. While these are generally considered isolated cases, many such incidents go unreported.

The youth need not be blamed for getting fascinated with the Net or online communities. But being addicted to a network is a dangerous indication. It is often the unrestrained access to the Net that provide numerous opportunities for misuse. Many a youth fails to distinguish between purposeful use of the Net and seeking fun out of it.

There are many who have found friends and life partners on the Net. Their decisions probably hinge on mutual trust, but the community link provides a larger platform where several strangers interact with one another.

While the Net is considered a transparent mode of communication, the incidents narrated earlier point out the veil of secrecy that shrouds it. Many members of Orkut give fake identities to disguise themselves or to ward off trouble from mischief- mongers. But such acts do not deter the latter.

It was in this background that that the call for a ban on the site came up from various quarters. But the ban is not the appropriate answer to the problem, says Reshmi, an active member of the online community. There are alternative sites providing similar facilities, she says. Those who fall prey to the tricks played on the Internet can get into danger elsewhere, she observes.

Does the Net provide a venue for committing fraud? If so, how does the law deal with it? IT laws in India are among the weakest, says S. Sampath Kumar, an expert on cyber security measures. The key to network power is the person operating it. Threat to security can come from anywhere, Mr. Kumar says, dwelling on the question of Internet security. Apparently, the rule applies to online communities. In the end, making disclosures on the online network will bring its rewards while being exposed to risks that can come from any part of the world.

R. Ramabhadran Pillai

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