Orkut – to ban or not to ban

May your soul rest in peace! Sympathy pours out on the popular social networking site for Adnan Patrawala, the 16-year-old Mumbai boy, who was abducted and later killed by his acquaintances. His profile has more than 10 pages of RIP messages from teens across the country.

With Adnan’s death, Orkut is again in news for all the wrong reasons. Some police sources say that the conspiracy might have been hatched on Orkut. But this is not the first time Orkut has been under the scanner. It first came into news when the ‘I hate India’ website was discovered. Then the Sena made the anti-Orkut sentiment popular by attacking cyber cafes in Mumbai over an anti-Shivaji community. Brazil, where Orkut gained its initial popularity, is also grappling with cyber crime on orkut. Fake identities, hate communities, crime plans being communicated, fake dates being set up and extortion….the list goes on.

But the site has also helped the police get certain leads in cases. Sabeel Ahmed’s Orkut profile was scanned thoroughly by the police to get vital clues about his activities. The Mumbai police has tied up with Orkut. Orkut would provide them with IPs of suspects. Some days ago, the case of a navy employee who killed his wife, was cracked through Orkut.

The extremists say Ban Orkut. But then, what happens to all that happy networking…meeting old friends, reconnecting with lost school buddies, fun chatting and most importantly the fundamental right of freedom of expression. We live in dangerous times argue the extremists. And all this networking just increases exposure to crime. This reminds us of the initial days of chatting and messenger. Similar crimes were committed through chatting then. And similar demands for bans were made. But did that change anything? Ultimately, it was only when users began to take precautions that the instances of Messenger crime came down. What is needed is probably telling the teenagers what are the risks involved. Educating them about cyber privacy. Of course, Orkut owner Google, needs to be asked to exercise more restraint and try and verify the IPs of users. Orkut does have a method of deleting unpleasant sites by reporting abuse. But the rules should be made stricter and there should be an open communication channel with the website owners.

Adnan’s case will now be the deterrent for other teenagers and a warning bell for their parents. But for his family, there is no second chance. And all we can do is, probably scrap RIP!



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