Home >Companies >Star issues warning over fake CEO posting on Facebook

New Delhi: Media watchers were surprised on Tuesday to see what appeared to be the chief executive of one of India’s biggest television companies announce his group’s business plans on the social networking website Facebook.

“Star India, a wholly owned subsidiary of STAR Hong Kong, is exploring the possibilities of getting into the print media business in India," said the message on the Facebook page of Uday Shankar.

Shankar is the chief executive of Star India Pvt. Ltd, which operates a bouquet of satellite channels in the country, including Star Plus, its flagship Hindi entertainment channel.

But when asked about the plans, Shankar was perplexed.

“We have no such plans. And I don’t even have a Facebook account," he told Mint on the phone the same day.

On Wednesday, Star India sent warning emails to all the people on the contact list of the imposter.

Deepak Jacob, Star India’s general counsel, said the company is likely to approach the cyber crime cell, but did not give details on the steps being taken to resolve the issue.

Shankar is not the first victim of online identity theft. Last year, a senior advocate sent a notice to get his fake profile removed from Orkut, another social networking site, said Pratibha Singh, the lawyer who represented him.

India’s Information Technology Act, 2000, is not stringent enough to control cyber crime, said Pavan Duggal, a Delhi-based cyber law expert. But a 2008 amendment made identity theft punishable with three years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs5 lakh. The offence is bailable, he said.

Indian jurisprudence has also imported the so-called John Doe concept from the US.

A victim of cyber crime can approach the courts seeking a John Doe order, which allows her to file a case against a person whose identity is not known, said Rahul Matthan, partner at Bangalore-based law firm Trilegal.

With the help of the courts, she can then seek the identity of the person who has been sued from Internet service providers and network service providers.

In 2006, information technology solutions firm Integrix (India) Pvt. Ltd went to court over anonymous emails received by its employees that it said were defamatory and damaging to the company and its directors.

A case was filed against, the email address from where the mails were received.

Email service provider and Internet service provider Bharti Infotel were also sued.

Integrix was allowed to sue an internet protocol (IP) address number as well as “actual allottee/user of the same IP address". The actual allottee of the IP address is the equivalent of a John Doe.

A spokeswoman said Facebook has a team that helps it verify the authenticity of pages on the site. “If an official representative or user identifies a fake, spam or abusive page, Facebook investigates the reported content," she said.

Facebook has 14.6 million unique users per month in India, according to ViziSense, a Komli Media-owned company that monitors website traffic.

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