The website has since been taken down, but the identity of its creators may not be very easy to find.
New Delhi: The BJP filed a criminal complaint Sunday against a website after it published a report about an alleged video said to show the party’s national general secretary Ram Madhav in a ‘compromising position’. However, the site no longer exists and experts say it may be difficult to find out who was behind the ‘expose’.
Congress MP from Assam, Sushmita Dev, was among those who shared the website’s report, which claimed that the senior BJP functionary and in-charge of the party’s north-east affairs, was allegedly caught in a hotel.
But soon after the Nagaland unit of the BJP vehemently denounced it as “fictitious report” and filed an FIR, the website ceased to exist. In its complaint, the BJP said the “news report is totally false and it seeks to character assassinate Ram Madhav and sabotage the election campaign of the BJP”.
However, the screenshot of the article continues to be shared on social media.
Registration details of thenewsjoint.com (now defunct) taken from The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) that manages domain names says the site was created and registered on 2 January 2018. The site’s expiry date is 2 January 2019.
Since its creation, the site has published multiple stories, most of which have been published in the last two weeks.
“If we look through Google cache, it has published multiple stories about budget aftershocks, Sensex falls by record, Modi Sarkar shuts bamboo budget, etc,” said Pranesh Prakash, policy director at the Centre for Internet and Society.
Anyone could have published the website with the domain name The News Joint, said Madhulika Srikuamar, Junior Fellow, Cyber Initiative, Observer Research Foundation.
“The buyer, for an additional fee, can opt to keep her details private and not reveal her identity online,” she said.
The domain name thenewsjoint.com is registered through a private organisation named DomainsByProxy.com. The use of the private organisation is to maintain secrecy and makes it easy to hide the owner’s actual name and address. So how can it be traced?
“In order to track the original owners of the domain name, the police will have to take the court order and ask DomainsByProxy to hand over the name and IP address of the persons who registered themselves,” said Prakash.
And there’s no way to regulate against such sites as well.
“While there are no specific domestic regulations that govern the registration, sale and purchase of domain names, most restrictions on domain name registration stem from intellectual property protections,” said Srikumar.
In this particular case, it remains unclear whether the website was taken down because of the article on Madhav.
Prakash says it is important to verify whether The News Joint was created to peddle false news, or was pretending to be a genuine news website.
“It can be compared to the broader news environment in India where very mainstream newspapers, especially their Web desks, very often end up publishing news without any regard for journalistic ethics, without verification of the facts,” he said.