Monday, December 20, 2004 Once Again

We agree with much opinion in Indian media -- much like Pragmatic's -- that the law needs to be clarified so that it creates appropriate legal space for e-commerce to flourish in India. We also think the newly clarified law should lay down clear provisions and responsibilities on e-commerce service providers so as to address compelling State interests -- e.g. curb on exceedingly reprehensible conduct like peddling of child pornography.

While no e-commerce service provider can possibly police all transactions on its website -- rather, it can undertake to stop any illegal activity brought to its attention -- it can, and should be made to, monitor and disallow activities that exceed pre-defined red lines.

For example, if stolen goods are being peddled via, an after the fact curb on the activity (i.e. after some transactions have occured) still suffices because the perpetrators can be traced, and victims can be recompensed. In other instances that clearly transgress all possible redlines -- e.g. peddling of child pornography or solictation of murder -- after the fact curbs are insufficient -- because the victims can never be recompensed. Here, the only available approach is to curb the activity before any transaction is listed, or completed.

There is no reason to believe that technology does not exist to achieve this. If e-commerce service providers still offer lame excuses against even this basic requirement, then it's clear they place their profit needs ahead of even the most compelling of State and Societal interests. This is unacceptable.


Floyd said...

Little more need be said, as your post is spot
on. Certainly there is a clear difference between
lesser crimes like theft, versus acts that cause
immediate harm to society. Furthermore we can assume
that as technology advances, there shall be less
and less of an excuse for websites to allow these
slimy acts to occur. As for Bajaj's defenders .
.. these people seem not to consider points of view
contraindicating their own. They should cultivate an
objective viewpoint and show some respect for others'
mental outlook.

Suresh said...

"There is no reason to believe that technology does not exist to achieve this."

As a technologist, I can assure you that only one thing is true: no matter how good the technology gets, someone will find a way to break it. Security is a good example, and viruses/spam are another. To expect a technological solution to the problem of illegal sales on auction sites is akin to expecting a technological solution to breaking and entering.

All you can really do is raise the bar by making the penalties high enough, and making the user agreements strong enough. Anything more will compromise the huge benefits that auction sites do have to offer....

Floyd said...

Okay genius, let's see your design for software that will detect all forms of appeal to prurient interest, and will magically determine the difference between wicked sex involving 17-year-olds, and legal sex between people a few weeks older. As a starting point, you may want to have it scan a paragraph's leftmost column of vertical text from top to bottom.

Your blog's comment section has been hosting its own reprehensible conduct for the past two days. Do you have any plans to surrender yourself to the proper authorities?