Arnab Goswami, Kunal Kamra and internet governance in India : Where do women victims of cybercrimes stand now? by Dr.Debarati Halder

Picture credit : Debarati Halder

In 2012 the then chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee took a strong a note for Ambarish Mahapatra’s very bold, excessively strong post including a cartoon showcasing Didi and Mukul Roy, who was the then state minister for railways. The cartoon included the railway logo. Mahapatra was arrested in 2012 and later released. In 2015 the courts ordered that Mahapatra should be compensated for the wrongful arrest.[1] Clearly, the court gave a red signal to the West Bengal government for wanting to use executive power to shun critics of the government on internet media. Quite at this time, the courts accepted the arguments of Shreya Singhal for scrapping off S.66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (amended in 2008) which was considered as a draconian law for the bad drafting and equally bad usage of the same by the government. The Supreme Court could have strongly advised for amending the provision which could offer a wonder anti bullying law.[2] But the last stroke was given by the then UP government by arresting a juvenile for his post on internet just before the court could even consider on 66A. The court laid 66A to rest judicially. What lurked on was the issue of usage of government logo in criticism speech.

Why Attorney General of India has to give a consent for contempt of court proceeding for a criticizing speech?  Armed by Shreya SInghal judgement in 2015, many started openly criticizing the government. This is indeed a healthy sign of a strong democracy. In the US the right to criticize the government had remained a celebrated right. Cases like New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 283 (1964) or  Bantam Books, Inc. v. Sullivan, 372 U.S. 58, 70 (1963) has deeply influenced the speech rights which have been taken over by the internet companies including Facebook and Twitter post millennium. First Amendment right to speech and expression became broader over the years giving the internet companies extreme power to deny most of the (non- US) government-backed requests for taking down of contents because according to them such speech did  not violate their policies which were based on US First Amendment guarantees.[3] Twitter however had remained a favorite platform for celebrities, right activists and politicians to express their opinion ‘in short’. This gave rise to use creative, expressive and bold languages to express opinions within 120 words plus ‘threads’. In late September and early November, 2020, social media platforms including Twitter saw a wave of sympathy, hatred and apathy towards the arrest of Arnab Goswamy and his release from the prison on interim bail by the Supreme Court. Goswamy, a journalist and managing director and editor-in –chief of Republic TV, was arrested for alleged abetment for suicide of a Mumbai based designer and his mother.[4] Kunal Kamra, a standup comedian, like many other non-supporters of Goswami had strongly objected for the interim bail of Goswami over Twitter.[5] But this could have been considered as a very normal ‘protest’ by Kamra, provided he would not have pulled in the integrity of Supreme Court of India. His post included a picture of the Supreme Court building covered with saffron color with the flag of the ruling BJP party atop it.  What was wrong in this? (i) Using derogatory remarks towards the integrity and impartial nature of the supreme court while deciding the interim bail application of Goswami ? or (ii) using the picture of the Supreme Court colored in saffron which may indicate its loyalty to a particular community, political party or idealism? Or (iii) morphing the picture of the building by putting the political party’s flag atop the building instead of the tricolor?  

If we take point number (i), we would see that even though the Supreme Court is not a protected entity which should be considered as above free speech especially related to criticism, it has taken strong note against those who had published, posted, uploaded, shared derogatory comments on the integrity of the institution, the judges, personal reputation of the judges and their family members. Justice Karnan’s case is a good example in this regard. This ex-judge of Madras High court was condemned not only by Madras High court, but also by several women lawyer’s associations in India  for sharing sexually explicit and obscene remarks about the female judges and the wives of other judges.[6] The Madras High Court had also asked the social media platforms to remove the contents posted by justice Karnan in this regard. Second and third points definitely attract my attention here as the morphing of the building attracts penal provisions not only from Article 19 (2) of the Constitution of India, which discusses about restriction of free speech under Indian constitution, but also from The Emblems And Names (Prevention Of Improper Use) Act, 1950. The later statute in S. 3 prohibits improper use of certain names and ensembles[7] and this includes emblem and picture of Supreme Court building as well.[8] But we need to note that even though the morphing and re presentation of the building had taken place on Twitter, Information Technology Act, 2000 (amended in 2008) may not be attracted that effectively because of the absence of S.66A .  The issue of Kamra publishing the ‘wrong’ image of Supreme Court is so heavy that it has attracted charges for criminal contempt of court for which the Attorney General of India has consented for initiating the proceedings against Kamra.[9] To a certain extent, this consent may depend on the discretionary power of the Attorney General as well especially when he sees the matter from the perspective of utter disrespect to the institution of Supreme Court. Kamra however maintained that he won’t apologies, neither would he remove his content from Twitter in this regard.[10]

          Here, I cannot hold myself back from mentioning about the plight of millions of women victims of trolling, morphing and revenge porn who may suffer endlessly because of long life of their fake avatars on internet. If only courts and civil society members were much aware about the issue, courts could have taken a strong note of cyber victimization of women as well. But here comes the key player: the web platform.

Twitter in the middle of the storm: Twitter is the platform for the alleged offence committed by Kamra. But quite simultaneously Twitter attracted another ref eye of the government and the courts: Leh, the joint capital of Union territory of Ladakh was recently shown as part of Jammu and Kashmir on Twitter.[11] This indeed attracts a huge public, political and constitutional sentiments after the recent scrapping of Article 370 by the present government of India which made Ladakh (of which Leh is the capital town) a union territory and no more part of Jammu and Kashmir. Twitter was notified and as the existing laws mandate, Twitter may even get suspended if it does not rectify the mistake. But not to forget, including Twitter all the US based social media companies have a wonderful trick to avoid the government and court notices by indicating that ‘they are looking into the matter’. There are hundreds of public interest litigations filed in the Supreme Court on the issue of women and child safety on internet and the responsibility of the internet companies. In almost all cases, all the companies escaped the clutches of S. 69 B (power to issue notice for blocking the website/contents etc) by the very slippery gateway of S.79 of the Information technology Act (exemption from liability of intermediary to certain cases).

Be it the case of Kunal Kamra or anyone else who may be victimizing anyone including private individuals or the highest courts of judicature, social media companies will remain as they have remained, being the chosen platform of the government to have a handle to encourage accessibility of justice, good governance etc.

Comes the decision of internet regulation by State made laws: Amidst all these pandemonium, the Indian government literally blew the bugle against millions of free speech activists when it announced about the decision for internet regulation by state made laws.[12] The ministry of Information and Broad casting may extend their jurisdiction to internet media if this decision is fructified. The free speech advocates fear that this decision may result in situations like the 1975-77 emergency period where the then prime minister tried to gag the free speech and expression rights of print and television media. Their apprehension is not baseless because this decision comes at a time when police is seen busy to manage issues related several fake news and fake avatars of the ruling and opposition political parties and net streaming which speak about sex .  But this decision, if fructified, may also bring cheers to women victims of misogynist trolls, fake avatar, revenge porn, nonconsensual porn as well.  While many may fear that such regulation may chock free flowing of adult contents, we must not forget that our courts once refused to provide a blanket ban on porn provided it is viewed by the viewer without offending anyone and the content is made legally with consenting adult actors. However the fear and apprehension weighs more than the cheers because the government may not always abide by the court rulings: the best example is, statutorily S.66A is in deep coma, but not dead.

Hope continues for women victims? But the tussle over the moral wrong of ‘to watch or to block the entire content’ or the heavy examples set by Attorney General of India for a morphed photograph of the building of Supreme Court and derogatory comments about the institution itself probably cannot minimize online victimization of women who undergo morphing and are targeted with hate speech on internet vigorously. I hope such strong actions touch the issue of cyber victimization of women and girls strongly. If internet is to be regulated, let it be so judiciously and for proper causes.


[1] See for more in https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/double-the-compensation-of-jadavpur-professor-arrested-for-circulating-mamata-cartoons-court-tells-g-745593

[2] Halder, Debarati, A Retrospective Analysis of Section 66A: Could Section 66A of the Information Technology Act be Reconsidered for Regulating ‘Bad Talk’ in the Internet? (August 24, 2015). Halder Debarati (2015) A RETROSPECTIVE ANALYSIS OF SECTION 66 A: COULD SECTION 66 A OF THE INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ACT BE RECONSIDERED FOR REGULATING “BAD TALK” IN THE INTERNET? Published in Indian Student Law Review (ISLR) 2015 (1) PP 99-128 ISSN 2249-4391, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2650239 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2650239

[3] For example, see https://in.reuters.com/article/us-singapore-politics-malaysia-scandal/facebook-refuses-singapore-request-to-remove-post-after-critical-website-blocked-idINKCN1NF05T, orhttps://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-hate-speech-india-politics-muslim-hindu-modi-zuckerberg-11597423346  

[4] https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/arnab-goswami-arrested-for-allegedly-abetting-suicide-of-interior-designer-say-police-news-agency-pti-2320301

[5] https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/dont-intend-to-retract-my-tweets-or-apologize-kunal-kamra-responds-to-ags-consent-for-contempt-against-him-165857

[6] See https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/2020/nov/10/madras-high-court-orders-removal-of-derogatory-videos-made-by-former-hc-judge-cs-karnan-2221987.html

[7] S.3 of  The Emblems And Names (Prevention Of Improper Use) Act, 1950 states as follows: 3. Prohibition of improper use of certain emblems and names.—Notwithstanding anything

contained in any law for the time being in force, no person shall, except in such cases and under such

conditions as may be prescribed by the Central Government, use or continue to use, for the purpose of any

trade, business, calling or profession, or in the title of any patent, or in any trade mark or design, any

name or emblem specified in the Schedule or any colourable imitation thereof without the previous

permission of the Central Government or such officer of Government as may be authorised in this behalf

by the Central Government.

[8] See S.17 of the Schedule attached to The Emblems And Names (Prevention Of Improper Use) Act, 1950 , which includes the followings in the prohibited list: namely, “The name of the Parliament or the Legislature of any State, or the Supreme Court, or the High Court of any State, or the Central Secretariat, or the Secretariat of any State Government or any other Government Office or the pictorial representation of any building occupied by any of the aforesaid institutions”.

[9]See  https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/dont-intend-to-retract-my-tweets-or-apologize-kunal-kamra-responds-to-ags-consent-for-contempt-against-him-165857

[10] See ibid

[11] See https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/twitter-risks-suspension-over-leh-map-error/articleshow/79201328.cms

[12] See https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/nov/11/india-to-regulate-netflix-and-amazon-streaming-content?fbclid=IwAR11PXTEutFHo6VjsPy7tteOFyRweprK6vALKMNtNpBQZEF5tAeLIQyJejw

Please do not violate the copyright of this writeup. Please cite it as Halder Debarati (2020).Arnab Goswami, Kunal  Kamra and internet governance in India: where do women victims of cybercrimes  stand now? published in Gender & Internet : web magazine for cyber law for women @ https://internetlegalstudies.com/2020/11/14/arnab-goswami-kunal-kamra-and-internet-governance-in-india-where-do-women-victims-of-cybercrimes-stand-now-by-dr-debarati-halder/ on 14th November, 2020

Gender and Internet : Web magazine for Cyber law for women News update for October 28- November 8th, 2020

copyright @Debaratihalder

Thailand uses its Computer Crimes Act to ban 190 websites including Porn Hub as pornography is declared illegal in the country.
https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/thailand-bans-pornhub

Police unearths vicious net of cyber fraud who was operating through fictitious call center to play job fraud duping women and men in India
https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/software-professional-dupes-over-700-job-aspirants/article33033997.ece

Deepfake detection company detects bots on Telegram which undresses women and creates nude images
https://theconversation.com/can-the-law-stop-internet-bots-from-undressing-you-149056?fbclid=IwAR0nbMYiTUCL4gVZtunYs6e8Gv40c9A-47T97hPSprmakqcsKDoh68KgmUo

Goa Police in India arrests actress Poonam Pandey for shooting nude video which she had posted on social media
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/hindi/poonam-pandey-arrested-in-goa-for-shooting-nude-video/articleshow/79065441.cms

Plight of “Punita” : A common tale of ‘powerless’ women victims of trolling by Dr.Debarati Halder

First published @https://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/2020/11/plight-of-punita-common-tale-of.html?spref=fb&fbclid=IwAR2_sKM13spiQ4r6CletmvaLG8z7orClpR7MQOIHhnahcTMl1O678NhnY_c

In 2012 “Nirbhaya” a young female paramedic was brutally gang raped in a cold December night in Delhi, India. Within a few days the police nabbed the offenders and arrested them. All 6 of them were from northern parts of India who came down to Delhi for making their living. All of them were working as transport workers including driver, conductor, cleaner etc. Within a few days of their arrest, the victim died because of the impact of the assault and internal injuries. The charges against the accused were enhanced from rape to include murder under the Indian Penal Code. Among the 6 accused persons, the prime accused committed suicide. Even though the case was taken over by fast track trial court, it took around 10 months for the trial court to convict the accused and award death penalty to the surviving 5 accused. The death penalty was upheld by the Supreme Court of India in 2017. In between one of the accused pleaded to be considered as minor and was declared as minor and hence was dealt under the Juvenile justice administration system. However neither the Supreme Court, nor the high court prevented the accused persons from exercising their rights to appeal against the capital sentence. The Supreme Court considered this case as rarest of rare cases. Except the minor, other convicted accused did not however succeed in their respective pleas to the Supreme Court to reverse the sentence to life imprisonment and the President for mercy petition.[1]  All four of the adult convicts were hanged in the wee hours of 20th March, 2020. Immediately after this the Covid 19 lockdown was clamped strictly almost all over the world preventing several litigants, victims to approach the courts as courts also suffered due to pandemic.

None of the convicted persons in NIrbhaya case came from socio-economically forward class. Except one, others did not complete their basic education as well.[2] Some researches including the controversial India’s Daughter documentary[3] claimed that lack of education could have been the main reason to defy the laws for violating women in this regard. While almost all such researches and findings were concerned about the perpetrators, not many looked into the fate of the wives of such sex offenders who may not have received primary education and may not have been allowed to access justice for themselves because of being women and living in patriarchal societies. Punita, wife of Akshay Thakur, who was one of the convicts, tried her level best to convince the courts and the society at large in her own way  that if her husband was hanged, she and her minor son would have to die. On the final day of hearing she was seen shouting, crying, beating herself and fainting before the Supreme Court building. Her actions attracted media and she was probably encouraged to continue to do what she was doing because that would add more TRP to the stories that were being made on Nirbhaya sentencing. Soon she made headlines in almost all domestic and foreign news channels and she was center of debates for and against death penalty. Simultaneously she was targeted by internet trolls vigorously.[4]

In the recently held 9th international victimology conference organized by Jindal institute of Behavioral Sciences[5] I had addressed the issue of cyber victimization of Punita through my paper titled “Critical analysis of the case of wife of Nirbhaya rape convict: therapeutic jurisprudence & cyber victimological perspectives”.  While the media could successfully (and probably rightly) generate public sympathy for the rape victim and her family, they generated extreme hatred to Punita because she was apparently ‘supporting her husband’. The internet platforms added fuel to the fire in this hate campaign. If one sees the news reports on Punita Devi on the social media handles of the news media channels, one would get to see that the comments posted about her and opinion generated on her created extremely negative profile of hers which would go a long way to prevent her from getting any job in any private or public sector. It was a visual victimization of Punita on cyber space which still exists on cyber space and will be existing forever. In my earlier research on visual victimization of women on cyber space, I had observed that the victims of such visual victimizations may now know about their online victimization because they may never get access to the internet and digital communication media as their urban counterparts may get, which may eventually help the later to reach the criminal justice machinery to remove these contents.[6]

 Women such as Punita are often seen as ‘co-accused’ by the public at large. Coming from socio-economically backward communities and being educationally challenged, most wives of sex offenders in several Asian countries (where patriarchy rules), may not be allowed to access justice for themselves. Apparently she approached the family court in her native district for divorce because the Hindu Marriage Act under S.13B(2ii) allows women to get ‘quick’ divorce under special grounds which includes conviction of husband for rape, sodomy, bestiality etc.[7] But she was too late in approaching the court. She did not want to live as a widow of a hanged rapist. She preferred to be a divorcee. Women in such situations are blamed by the families and public at large for failing to satisfy their husbands sexually and materialistically which may have encouraged the later to go ahead for raping and sexually assaulting other women. These women cannot go ahead for divorce while the trial is on because this would not only attract social taboo, it will also push such women to extreme poverty: they have to leave the matrimonial homes, they may not be accepted in their parental homes and they may not get any financial support from anyone.

How can Therapeutic Jurisprudence help?  Justice Krishna Iyer  a legendary judge who introduced new paradigm to reformative justice in India mentioned about applying Therapeutic jurisprudence in the prisons for reforming the prisoners in 1970’s.[8] But after him we did  not get to see the use of the term by the judges while dealing with reformative criminal jurisprudence in India. In numbers of my researches however I have shown that the concept of Therapeutic Jurisprudence has submissively influenced the Indian judges.[9] The spirit of Therapeutic Jurisprudence may help wives of sex offenders especially in countries like India. In my earlier research  titled “Free Legal Aid for women and Therapeutic Jurisprudence: A critical examination of the Indian model”,[10]  which was published In the edited book volume titled Methodology And Practice Of Therapeutic Jurisprudence Research edited by Stobbs Nigel, Bartel Lorana & Vols.M , I had observed that women especially from socioeconomically backward communities may not be permitted to access justice even if the legal counseling  is freely available through free legal aid clinics. This situation may be improved by vigorous campaigning by legal aid volunteers and law students. The law students, practitioners and judges must be sensitized about Therapeutic jurisprudence and law’s therapeutic effects which may bring tremendous change in women empowerment. Wives of sex offenders go through tremendous traumatization primarily because they feel cheated in their marriages and then feel threatened when it comes to social security for them. As such, mental wellbeing of these women are least taken care of when the court decides to charge the husbands, i.e. the accused in sex offences. In my presentation in the international victimology conference mentioned above, I have proposed that courts must consider to parallelly counsel such wives through free legal aid cells so that they may be made aware about their rights for divorce, matrimonial alimony, child custody and maintenance for child.

Further, I have also proposed that courts must suomotu consider to pass restraining order for the media houses regarding airing the images of grieving wives, who may or may not be accompanied by their children. These women do not make any ‘drama’ to stall the execution of sentences for supporting their husbands. They express their anger, frustration and fear for their own future which is dependent on the longevity of their husbands. Unfortunately their expression of fear, frustration etc are hugely consumed sadistically by the society at large and due to the non-ending presence of the clippings on the internet, such women may be profiled in a negative way. I have proposed that the scope of Right to be forgotten must be expanded in such cases which the courts must take up extending the power of judicial intervention for ensuring the privacy rights of women. Interestingly many courts across the globe are shifting burden to the website companies for not removing objectionable contents especially when it comes privacy of women and children. India has laws for website liabilities in this regard under S.79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000(amended in 2008). This provision read with Information Technology (reasonable security practices and procedures and sensitive personal data or information ) Rules 2011 mandates that web companies shall be held liable if they do not take down objectionable contents within due time. This brings two major points to be considered: who reports it? Whether this can be considered as ‘protected speech and expression’. Indian judicial understanding regarding freedom of speech on internet is expanding and courts have started using judicial discretion to not to consider each and every speech as speech falling outside the purview of Article 19(1)(A) of the Indian constitution which guarantees freedom of speech and expression as a fundamental right. It is obvious that women such as Punita would not know about such legal jurisprudence. The courts therefore must consider adding this issue in the bag of ‘reformative and rehabilitative considerations’ when awarding the sentences (including life sentence or capital sentences).  This may go a long way to prevent secondary victimization of the wives of sex offenders who are ‘innocent victims’ of the entire situation.

It is therefore hoped that if the issue of online as well as real life victimization of the wives of the convicted sex offenders are seen from the Therapeutic Jurisprudential aspects, the rights of women to access justice, rehabilitation and privacy may be secured.


Prof(Dr) Debarati Halder, LL.B, LL.M, Ph.D(Law)(NLSIU) is a Professor at Unitedoworld School of Law, Karnavati University, Gujarat, India. She is the founder of Centre for Cyber Victim Counselling (www.cybervictims.org) and the India chapter head of International Society of Therapeutic Jurisprudence. She is the pioneer in introducing Therapeutic Jurisprudence as a part of credit course in legal education in India. She can be reached @debaratihalder@gmail.com

[1] See for more in PTI(2020) Nirbhaya case convicts to be hanged at 5.30 a.m. as Supreme Court dismisses plea against rejection of mercy petition. Published on March 20.2020 in The Hindu. URL: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/nirbhaya-case-convicts-to-be-hanged-as-supreme-court-dismisses-plea-against-rejection-of-mercy-petition/article31114747.ece Accessed on 21.03.2020

[2] For more, see in Profiles: Who were the Delhi gang rape convicts?. Published in https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-23434888#:~:text=Courts%20convicted%20six%20people%20for,student%20in%20a%20moving%20bus. On March 20. 2020, accessed on 21.03.2020

[3] For more, see in Banned film India’s Daughter shown in rapists’ slum

. Published in https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-31865477 . On March13. 2015, accessed on 21.03.2020

[4] For example see the comments @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzwPrx1l9Hg Accessed on 29.10.2020

[5] The conference proceedings and my presentation are available @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9__aYyD9cA

[6] Halder D., & Jaishankar, K. (2014). Online Victimization of Andaman Jarawa Tribal Women: An Analysis of the Human Safari YouTube Videos (2012) and its Effects. British Journal of Criminology, 54(4), 673-688. (Impact factor 1.556). DOI: 10.1093/bjc/azu026.

[7] Section 13(2)(ii) in The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 states

 “A wife may also present a petition for the dissolution of her marriage by a decree of divorce on the ground………. that the husband has, since the solemnisation of the marriage, been guilty of rape, sodomy or bestiality”

[8] See for more in Md Ghiasuddin vs State of AP . reported in (1977) 3 SCC 287. Available at: http://www.indiankanoon.org/

doc/1850315/,

[9] See Halder, Debarati, Why Law Fails to Be Therapeutic in Spite of Therapeutic Judicial Efforts: A Critical Analysis of Indian Legal Education From the Therapeutic Jurisprudence Perspective (October 28, 2018). Unitedworld Law Journal, Vol 2, Issue: I, ISSN: 2457-0427, (2018) pp 173-182, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3274175

[10] Halder, D. (2019), Free Legal Aid for women and Therapeutic Jurisprudence: A critical examination of the Indian model. In Stobbs Nigel, Bartel Lorana & Vols.M (eds.), Methodology And Practice Of Therapeutic Jurisprudence Research. USA: Carolina Academy Press.

“Netizens” by Dr.Debarati Halder

copyright @debaratihalder

During the COVID-19 19 lock down period between march 2020 to almost the end of October 2020, we have seen steep rise of cybercrimes especially cybercrimes against women. These crimes included different patterns: economic crimes, data privacy infringement, child sexual abuse online and creation of widespread hatred. Social media platforms like twitter, Instagram etc., had been flooded with hate messages, fake news, obscene messages etc. but it would be wrong to think that only web-based platforms had been used to creates online harassments or cyber crimes at large. Handheld phones are not spared either. Communication conveyed over phone had been threatening, unwanted and had also taken the nature of bullying. Both the receivers and perpetrators are nothing but Netizens. The concept of Netizens is fiction based just like the concept of cyber space, which finds it roots in the fiction called Neo romancer.

Individuals who live, survive in internet, on the internet and gain infotainment and use internet for connectivity are known as Netizens. The simple connotation of this term could be citizens of net.

But this term has not found any acceptance in any legal statute, international documents speaking about right to access internet, right to be forgotten or even cyber safety, e commerce. This is a popular nickname for all those who use internet, who have been born in the era when internet was booming and those who are connected to each other through information-digital communication technology. Often, we do get to hear that people belonging to the older generation who adopted internet and digital communication technology (because otherwise they could not have survived due to global digital revolution), are called as net immigrants because they may have get accustomed with the digi-culture. But would not prefer to use this term. Worldwide e-governance growth has involved every citizen to become netizen. Digitization by the governments of birth, marriage and death registrations, social security related data, bank data, school data, workplace data, health data, court data and above all internet and digital communication technology consumption data for the purpose of e-governance has therefore made everyone irrespective of age, gender, class, creed etc, netizens.

Netizens play a great role in shaping the livability of themselves as well as other netizens including women and children netizens on cyber space. Laurence Lessig, a pioneering professor on cyberspace regulation predicted that internet will be a virtual livable space with ‘market’ and it would become necessary for State to carefully frame laws to regulate cyber space. His findings stand firm forever. Netizens are important stakeholders for profit generation for internet companies. They also earn by living on the cyber space. By saying this, I however can not ignore the fact that netizens may use internet and cyber space as a whole for ethical as well as unethical profit gain. Consider the positive profit gaining strategies: legal e-commerce activities, earning from content development, etc. The illegal profit gaining part is heavier. Millions of netizens sell and consume data that may have been generated, stored, processed, trafficked in illegal ways. Data of women and girls are the hot priority in this regard. Almost all stakeholders would unanimously agree that cybercrimes against women and girls are rising because of the unmonitored behavior of several netizens.

As such, if we quickly look into the existing constitutional and legal frameworks of different countries, we can see that almost all countries have knowingly or unknowingly developed certain rights and duties for netizens. These rights and duties are universal in nature and may include freedom of speech and expression, right to privacy, right to access justice, right to information, right to live a dignified life and right to be forgotten. Simultaneously the duties may include duty to respect others rights on the cyber space as well as in real life, duty not to incite hatred, not to infringe privacy, copy right of other netizens including organizations and government data etc. the prime duty of every netizen however is to help the victim of online abuse by reporting right violation because if they remain mute spectators, they would become bystanders and add to visual victimization of the victim/s.

We can also see that existing laws have extended penal provisions to charge the netizens for their wrong doings on the cyber space which may affect lives of others in real life.  But major problem lies in the jurisdictional issues. Netizens are ubiquitous especially. Netizen from one geographic region may reach out to other netizens situated another geo location. Initiating criminal proceedings against netizens in such cross border criminal cases  becomes a huge problem  for the criminal justice machinery especially in the absence of treaties to extradite offenders. The international laws and rules also play a major role in charging netizens for offences which may not be considered as indictable offence in the country where the netizen is residing and operating from.

It is expected that the international organizations and States must come together for working towards creation of universal rules for regulating the activities of netizens. This may help all to live and be remembered in a wonderful cyber space.

Please do not violate the copyright of this writeup. Please cite it as Halder Debarati (2020) ‘Netizens’. Published @https://wordpress.com/posts/internetlegalstudies.com on November 3rd, 2020

Gender and Internet : Web magazine for Cyber law for women News update for October 10- October 27th, 2020

Image courtesy: Internet

Row over Plus size black female model’s photo of self ‘body celebration’ gets deleted after Instagram removes it understanding it as a porn content. Facebook and Instagram are now up to amend nudity policy after understanding the plus size model’s explanations.
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/oct/25/instagram-row-over-plus-size-model-forces-change-to-nudity-policy#:~:text=Instagram%20row%20over%20plus%2Dsize%20model%20forces%20change%20to%20nudity%20policy,-Facebook%20amends%20code&text=As%20campaigning%20victories%20go%2C%20forcing,policy%20is%20no%20small%20feat.

Man sends threatening messages to several while on divorce proceedings: federal prosecutors accuse him and charge of cyber stalking in USA.
https://toronto.citynews.ca/2020/10/23/kushner-friend-charged-with-cyberstalking-during-divorce/

Video of former high court judge of India making threats to female family members of other judges and a woman judge surfaces on WhatsApp and YouTube. Women lawyers urge Chief Justice of India to take action against the former judge.
https://www.theleaflet.in/women-lawyers-ask-cji-to-direct-removal-of-video-where-former-justice-karnan-makes-threats-of-sexual-assault-chennai-bar/#

Thailand plans to initiate legal action against internet giants including Facebook and google for not removing contents inspite of notifications from government.
https://telecom.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/thailand-to-start-legal-action-vs-facebook-google-twitter-over-content/78280210

Florida man accused and charged for cyber sexual harassment, voyeurism, cyber stalking woman. The man reported harass his victim because she was ignoring his calls.
https://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/crime/martin-county/2020/10/26/man-accused-video-voyeurism-stalking-sexual-cyber-harassment/6044429002/

woman lodges complaint to police in Gujarat, India against sextorion and threat for revenge porn against ex boyfriend. Man in turn moves high-court to quash the FIR as malicious.
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/love-goes-sour-man-moves-gujarat-hc-seeking-rs-50000-spent-on-dating-back/articleshow/78713044.cms?fbclid=IwAR2fjPtD4MR1jajtyeHBYJ9–M2vBfmF3pqHa8GezKzlDg3f4NT3HMbCJdA

Man poses as popular actor to allure teens for porn racket: gets arrested under various provisions of POCSO Act in India.
https://m.timesofindia.com/city/chennai/when-play-turns-to-misdeeds-for-young/amp_articleshow/78798883.cms?fbclid=IwAR2zC-9DWYBSD02hYTsd50fACweuYNwBNo-mBbgyy8nfk6Uj4G1ECjGciNk

Gender and Internet : Web magazine for Cyber law for women News update for September 21- October 10th, 2020

Picture credit: Internet

Cricket players minor daughter gets rape threat over poor performance of the father.
https://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/column-ms-dhoni-s-daughter-gets-rape-threats-after-dream-11-ipl-2020-loss-rigorous-imprisonment-strict-punishment-the-only-way-to-curb-this-menace-2848806

Website designer held not liable for developing website meant for soliciting customers for prostitution because he was engaged in designing by contract.
https://www.livelaw.in/news-updates/karnataka-hc-quashes-criminal-case-against-website-designer-163581?fbclid=IwAR1hrk39pDDJW_KEb_eOGFA-InJHB81TGg6V2L0x-65jVhk5Emztyxl1eCY

Facebook moves Supreme Court of India to challenge Delhi Assembly’s jurisdiction to summon its officials : stand of the social media company becomes more strong to challenge the government orders
https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/facebook-moves-sc-challenging-delhi-assembly-s-jurisdiction-to-summon-its-officials/story-P8pGYAp3UDJCuqpL0bQtCP.html?fbclid=IwAR0pj_FieeLt71Tigj4onab2swcavM1Ty3SYF_4iZFUOljqDkyuqFp5wWfI

Recent international survey suggests online abuse of women and girls have not taken a back seat inspite of new legislations and increase in awareness campaigns.
https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/oct/05/most-girls-and-young-women-have-experienced-abuse-online-report-finds?fbclid=IwAR0mD3fBK84AFvBGz-Ix64_vKw_m5TGq-hdBegaHn9GTqxOI_ZAb1oWmK8I

Key leader of notorious Dark overlord hacker gang, which used to extort money for confidential documents of private individuals as well as companies and targeted women and girls in this, gets extradited to US from UK, gets 5 year jail term and slapped with fine.
https://www.theregister.com/2020/09/22/british_dark_overlord_extortionist_jailed/?fbclid=IwAR35V1jSgJTcQqWte3fn1WCkrjElLkIErcHhJ6j5yGMpsxm9QsLVeI8hMdQ

Telegram groups being used for sharing instagram photos of women with vulgar derogatory comments and then to share these photos notorious dating apps for creating fake profiles.
https://www.edexlive.com/news/2020/oct/05/bois-locker-room-2-telegram-group-shares-pictures-of-women-from-instagram-and-objectifies-them-15031.html

Gender and Internet : Web magazine for Cyber law for women News update for 2020 August 25-September 19,2020

Image courtesy: Internet

US successfully extradites Ghanaian woman who is charged for million dollar business email frauds and romance scams targeting elderly people.
https://www.myjoyonline.com/news/crime/ghanaian-woman-extradited-to-us-to-face-over-10m-fraud-related-charges-and-sakawa/

Reports suggest most of the porn sites lack in internal policy to remove illegal deepfake porn clippings: court rulings fails to restore justice for victims for noncooperation of porn sites.
https://www.wired.com/story/porn-sites-still-wont-take-down-non-consensual-deepfakes/?fbclid=IwAR1JvtkQ0oNfVxyKIc1pw0LSknfZA_fhzuL58JAHD6DSP3revvpe-Lgv3CU

Federal investigation agency, Pakistan teams up with Facebook to check cyber crimes against women
https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/716664-fia-facebook-agree-to-collaborate-on-cyber-crimes-againt-women-children

Sextortion case lodged against youth in Bangladesh under Pornography Control Act. He used to harass adult women by threatening to release secret images/clippings of them on worldwideweb.
https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/dhaka/2020/09/19/youth-arrested-for-blackmailing-women-with-fake-pornographic-contents

Hacker who hijacked several computers including android systems in handheld devices, captured and stole intimate photographs of women. Gets strict punishment and retraining orders from the court under various provisions in UK.
https://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/18733117.westcliff-man-jailed-hacking-sharing-hundred-intimate-pictures/

Irked by increased tendency of passengers and journalists (including civil journalists) to click co-passengers including celebrity passengers, DGCA, India sends strict notice to airlines threatening to take strict legal action if the later fails to prohibit all( on board while embarking or disembarking) from photographing. It also says, accused passengers may face travel ban too.
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/airline-crew-who-fail-to-stop-photography-on-board-could-face-termination-passenger-could-be-banned-dgca/articleshow/78074151.cms?fbclid=IwAR1axpjdH2JRZqPDfH2KtgRkRthDTvjuaeZm8kj8iL8Zy_ETgWTIqkbOnmU

Covid test results of female celebrities get leaked. Privacy infringement reaches new height in India
https://www.ndtv.com/entertainment/why-asks-angry-amrita-arora-after-sister-malaikas-covid-test-result-is-shared-online-2291659?fbclid=IwAR3EjV9hKJdrA7aJ3J0u1YO1i0ueXjmxZ5K_iXkhw3mu-_27wpMzeJ14gjY

Teen girls are allured by fake female profiles on instagram to share obscene images only to face sextortion in India: police nabs the kingpin in Gujarat, India
https://ahmedabadmirror.indiatimes.com/ahmedabad/crime/rajkot-cyber-crime-cell-nabs-two-youths-exploiting-teenage-girls/articleshow/77869226.cms?fbclid=IwAR3eafGLxK7dMm8N821gYB4jPb9TFmDCImq8JHK5B1e9_jQIShlvhwaQa4w

Gender and Internet : Web magazine for Cyber law for women News update for August 16-August 24,2020

Image courtesy: Internet

Highcourt in Adamawa, Nigeria sentences woman for 10 years imprisonment for impersonating Senator .
https://dailypost.ng/2020/08/20/yola-court-jails-2-women-for-impersonation/

Phone of Australian actress gets hacked, her personal photos gets leaked over internet: victim files case under Australian revenge porn law which prescribes criminal penalty for upto 7 years of jail term.
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-8645783/Actress-Olympia-Valance-confirms-target-ongoing-revenge-porn-attack.html

Bengali women attacked on social media on account of Rhea Chakroborty’s alleged involvement in the case of Susahnt Singh Rajput’s unnatural death.
https://www.deccanherald.com/national/east-and-northeast/ssr-case-bengali-women-abused-on-social-media-commission-seeks-report-from-kolkata-police-874801.html

(Repost) Centre for Cyber Victim Counseling brings out detailed report on use and misuse of WhatsApp in rural and urban places in India (first posted on www.cybervictims.org)

CYBER BULLYING, CYBER SECURITY AND THE CYBER LAWS OF UK – AN ANALYSIS OVER THE YEARS by Reshmitha.G.Sarma

Picture courtesy: Internet

Opinions are that of the author and Gender and Internet : Web magazine for cyber law for women does not hold responsibility for the opinions of the author

INTRODUCTION:

The internet is a different world altogether, a world that keeps changing and updating faster than change itself. This world of technology is causing a transformation on the society by driving growth, facilitating connection of people and providing to the world, a medium of communication and cooperation. It is evident as to why the internet has had such a dramatic growth over the past decade.

This article would discuss the different pitfalls of the cyber space, the impact of technology on the youth of the United Kingdom, different preventive mechanisms prescribed by laws and policy guidelines of the UK to address cyber bullying.  Cyberspace is a virtual medium on the internet having the major function of forming a network that would facilitate the process of communication.[1] It is the  transforming business that keeps the growth spurt very efficient and effective in its own manner.
It has helped economies opening up their markets, reduce the optimum cost of investment in commerce and collaterally even enabling people to benefit out of their business while they are on the move. Cyber space has been a very promotional platform of fresh thoughts, innovative business models, increasing input of ideas and an enormous source of growth. With all these amazing characteristics to cyber space, it also proves to be the devil’s workshop. Unfortunately, though the UK economy strives to help increase the efficiency of its people using the cyber space, there are risks. An increasing number of adversaries are hunting for opportunities to use the cyberspace as a platform to steal, destroy or compromise very critical data on the internet. As a step to avoid these threats, United Kingdom Government laid down plans for measures to keep the users of UK safe from cyber-bullying.[2]

CYBER BULLYING – A CRIME?

Cybercrimes contain all criminal offences that are committed with the aid of communication devices. This can be the Internet, the telephone line and the mobile network and so on. Cyberbullying, on the other hand is the use of electronic or online communications by someone to threaten, intimidate, harass, defame or even maliciously contact another person without their consent.[3] Both types of bullying and cyberbullying may happen simultaneously but the advantage with cyberbullying is that it leaves a record as proof of the activity which would prove to be an evidence in future.[4]There is no legal definition of cyberbullying in the UK law but there are other laws within the meaning of which cyberbullying and harassment on social media or other platforms be brought under. Moreover, there is no specific anti-cyberbullying legislation in UK. Although, since 1998, the law of the UK has mandated that state schools are bound by law to have anti-bullying policies in their place. Independent schools, too have laid down requirements of such nature, since 2003. And despite these unclear applications, cyberbullying in itself is not an offence in the UK. The provisions of the Protection from Harassment Act (PHA), however, prohibits individuals from pursuing a course of conduct that either amounts to harassment, or that they should know amounts to harassment.[5] And as per the provisions of Sec.8 of the PHA[6], every individual has a right to be free from harassment and any one pursuing a course of conduct that amounts to harassment in any form within the meaning of Sec.1, would amount to an offence. It is within the meaning of this section that the offence of cyberbullying is construed under. When the perpetrator uses a technology or social media as a medium od conduct to harass, stalk or abuse another person, it is said to be harassment within the provisions of Sec.8.[7]

The Teaching and Learning International Survey carried out every 5 years, depicted an increase in bullying in the schools of England. These acts indicated to be driven by students ranging from online bullying, trolling to harassment and other problems on social media. The survey further revealed that 14% of students faced issues on the basis of hurtful material posted by other students compared to an international average of 2%. Further, around 27% pupils received unwanted contact online, every week  in the mode of cyber bullying as compared to an international average of 3%.[8]The lack of regulation with regard to this aspect of cyber space was cited as the reason for such happenings, leaving the schools with the responsibility of finding their own response. It has also been observed that the misuse of social media, hinders the learning process apart from proving to be an emotional harm and hence suggested that it be addressed at a wider level.[9]Cybersmile Foundation, a help centre to increase awarness, had performed a research to find out the kind of misuse happening in cyberspace of UK.[10] Their statistics show the following data:

  • 29.6% of respondents aged 25-34 have undergone homophobic abuse online.
  • 31.5% of respondents aged 18-24 have seen bullying on the basis of religion, online.
  • 40.6% of respondents between the age group 18-24 had seen racist abuse online.
  • 55.1% of all respondents have faced abuse on the social media: Facebook.[11]
  • Kinds of cyberbullying :

Cyberbullying is a form of bullying, but the term has a wide scope to contain within itself different forms of cyberbullying that people face. Some common methods of cyberbullying to which people fall a prey could be categorised as follows:

  • When a person is subjected to abusive messages or efforts to contact them or a group of people via an online portal, it is online harassment extended within the meaning of Sec.2 of Protection from Harassment Act, 1997.
  • When a person is called out, labelled or shamed for any of their acts in the past, by the nature of their being, by the way they dress or by virtue of their sex, race or any other characteristic amounts to online shaming.[12]
  • Keeping someone away from certain activities online like groups, games etc.
  • Other activities falling within the meaning of cyberbullying are trolling someone on social media or other chat rooms, building up some sites or pages that corners a particular person, encouraging someone to self-harm by way of trolling or spreading hate against the person or sometimes even taking part in an abusive poll.[13]
  • The act of pressurising young children to take part in sending images or content that are sexual would also amount to cyberbullying.[14]

THE LAWS IN UK :

OECD’s report on the Life in Digital Era, reflected an alarming information on the problems of cyber-bullying present in the schools of England.[15] While reflecting on the way of life in the digital age in UK, the OECD report stated that the level of inequality of uses is relatively high, which means that not everyone makes full use of the breadth of possible online activities. In addition, the risks for children are substantial, with 37% of extreme Internet users among 15-year-olds, the second highest share in the OECD.[16]

This report of the OECD depicted the fact that people are prone to implicit risk of being exposed to cyber-bullying on the digital platform, especially children. The governments in UK have repeated the general principle that what is illegal offline, is illegal online.[17] The Government, Parliament and The Judiciary of UK have invested a lot of thought and time in carefully keeping the world of digital network a safe place.

  • A New Code :

According to Sec.103 of the Digital Economy Act, 2017 , the Secretary of the State is required to issue guidance to the concerned social media providers with regard to the kind of action which is appropriate to be taken against:

  • Bullying,
  • Insulting behaviour, or
  • Behaviour likely to intimate or humiliate an individual.[18]

The Conservative Government added this to the Digital Economy Bill during its final stages.[19]

A NEED FOR SPECIFIC LAW?

Some of the laws used to prosecute online harassment predate the widespread use of the internet and social media. In recent past, a number of parliamentary committees have investigated this question, and come to different conclusions. The House of Lords Communications Committee published a report on Social media and criminal offences in 2014, which concluded that although much of the relevant law predated social media, it was still “generally appropriate”:

“Our overall conclusion is that the criminal law in this area, almost entirely enacted before the invention of social media, is generally appropriate for the prosecution of offences committed using the social media.”[20]

But owing to the changing conditions and rapid increase in technology along with threats, the government has by virtue of the Computer Misuse Legislation and other provisions, have set up a wing under the National Crime Agency which focus on critical cyber incidents to take action on the criminals for their activities. Even other departments of the country such as UK Police, Europol, FBI and The US Secret Service, put in their actions with regards to cybercrimes.

CONCLUSION:

Despite all actions being taken owing to past incidents, cyber bullying is still a very prevalent activity across the world on social media. Rape threats, revenge porn, trolling, harassment and other activities still continue to terror the lives of people despite the country striving to keep its online platform a safe space. With growing advancements and infrastructural developments in technology, it is the need of the hour to ensure that the acts of people are kept on a leash to prevent people from adverse conditions and to ensure a safe cyber space for everyone.


  • Reshmitha G. Sarma is a student of Final year – B.Com., LLB (hons.), SASTRA Deemed University. She can be reached @ reshmitha96@gmail.com

[1] Cyberspace, TECHOPEDIA, Sep 2012

[2] Online Harms White Paper, Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and Home Office, Business Regulation, Government of UK, (Apr 2019), https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/online-harms-white-paper

[3] See, Types of cyberbullying, NATIONAL SOCIETY FOR THE PREVENTION OF CRUELTY TO CHILDREN (NSPCC), https://www.nspcc.org.uk/what-is-child-abuse/types-of-abuse/bullying-and-cyberbullying/.

[4] See, Cyberbullying: What is it and how to stop it, UNICEF| for every child, https://www.unicef.org/end-violence/how-to-stop-cyberbullying

[5] Protection from Harassment Act, 1997, Act no.c.40, 1997, UK Public General Acts, Sec.1

[6] Protection from Harassment Act, 1997, Act no.c.40, 1997, UK Public General Acts, Sec.8

[7] ibid

[8] OECD (2020), TALIS 2018 Results (Volume II): Teachers and School Leaders as Valued Professionals, TALIS, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/19cf08df-en.

[9] Sean Coughlan, England’s schools ‘worst for cyber-bullying’, BBC NEWS, June 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/education-48692953 

[10] What is cyberbullying, THE CYBERSMILE FOUNDATION, https://www.cybersmile.org/advice-help/category/what-is-cyberbullying

[11] ibid

[12] See, Types of Abuse – bullying and cyberbullying, NATIONAL SOCIETY FOR THE PREVENTION OF CRUELTY TO CHILDREN (NSPCC),  https://www.nspcc.org.uk/what-is-child-abuse/types-of-abuse/bullying-and-cyberbullying/.

[13] See, Types of cyberbullying, NATIONAL SOCIETY FOR THE PREVENTION OF CRUELTY TO CHILDREN (NSPCC), https://www.nspcc.org.uk/what-is-child-abuse/types-of-abuse/bullying-and-cyberbullying/.

[14] ibid

[15] OECD (2019), How’s Life in the Digital Age?: Opportunities and Risks of the Digital Transformation for People’s Well-being, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264311800-en.

[16] ibid

[17] See, HC Deb, Culture Media and Sport Committee, Online Safety: Responses to Committee’s Sixth Report of Session 2013-14, Jul 2014, HC 517 2014-15, page 11, Feb 2015, https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmcumeds/517/51702.htm.

[18] DIGITAL ECONOMY ACT, 2017, Act no. c.30, 2017, UK Public General Acts, Sec.103

[19]  HC Deb Apr 2017 c1124, HL Deb Apr 2017 cc1491-1493, https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2017-04-26/debates/52706430-B069-4DDA-B0F1-52916F6A4588/DigitalEconomyBill.

[20] House of Lords Communications Committee, Social Media and criminal offences, Jul 2014, HL 37 2014-15, para 15

Gender and Internet : Web magazine for Cyber law for women News update for August 1-August 15,2020

Happy Independence Day, 2020 (Picture courtesy : Internet )

Egypt prosecutes women influences of TikTok for “violating family values” under “draconian” laws addressing cyber crimes
https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/08/egypt-survivors-of-sexual-violence-and-online-abuse-among-prosecuted-women-tiktok-influencers/

Police arrests fraudsters in India including two women in a case of online sex racket. Customers were shown photographs of women to allure them to pay money.
https://english.mathrubhumi.com/news/crime-beat/online-sex-racket-busted-in-thrissur-2-women-among-10-arrested-1.4972414

Stakeholders file Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court of India to take action against social media accounts involved in indecent and illicit trading, revenge porn etc.
https://www.barandbench.com/news/litigation/pil-supreme-court-act-against-social-media-accounts-online-trade-of-illicit-content-revenge-porn

Appeals court in UK rules that using of automated facial recognition technology by police violates privacy related laws.
https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2020/08/police-use-of-facial-recognition-violates-human-rights-uk-court-rules/?fbclid=IwAR26Erw5vPf3Sbe6_jSt7K94vCZXTd-TrXlVS5szbVyfBPT5FbsFzXJNLjg