CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DEBARATI HALDER
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Come Valentine’s Day and social media and digital messaging services like WhasApp or Snapchat are flooded by beautiful heartwarming messages, pictures and emogies. Nonetheless, Facebook, Instagram , Whatsapp YouTube and also some adult networking sites may see more contributions of nude videos, revenge porn, fake avatarsas well by jilted lovers. The other type of messages that one may get to see in these platforms are those from moral policing groups asking people to refrain from ‘celebrating Valentine’s day’ in Facebook, Twitter and other social media . Such message can be ‘shared messages’, can be opinions or even can be clear threats to ‘whoever’ ‘celebrates ‘Valentine’s day’.
The question is, do we have something called Right to love? Can this right be considered to be violated if someone posts messages against celebration of Valentine’s day ? Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) does not specifically speak about right to love, but it flows from Article 16 (Right to marriage and family) and Article 19 (freedom of opinion and expression). All most all countries with modern constitution including India, UK, Singapore, US, Canada, Australia, countries from European union including Germany, France, Spain etc do recognize the right to choose and communicate with dating partner, live-in partner , same sex partners and heterosexual partners for emotional bondage including marriage because these countries recognize right to express opinion, freedom of speech and expression and also right to marriage and family. While right to form family by way of live-in relationships or homosexual partnerships have been recognized by several countries by way of legitimizing the rights of children born out of such union or adopted in such marriages, some countries may not recognize Live-in relationships or same sex marriages in real life .
But right to chose emotional partners and right to communicateto the same on cyber space are not barred by any law. For example, even when Indian Supreme court did not apply doctrine of severability to S.377 todecriminalize same sex union and consider the rights of transgender people to be recognized as 3rd gender people, or even when the US did not legalize gay marriages, Facebook had pages and groups meant for socializing and creation of emotional bonding between LGBTQ people. Right to love is rather an abstract idea which may be expressed when a person starts expressing the love to his/her chosen person on a specific platform. Seen from this aspect, right to love on cyber space may be barred only under specific circumstances, i.e., when the same expression offends the ‘target’ person because he/she may not like to develop any emotional relationship with the person expressing the feelings either because the relationship falls under the concept of stalker and victim, ex lover or spouse where the victim ex does not want to be connected with the other person anymore, or a real life acquaintance including workplace acquaintance who had accepted to be friends with the other person expecting reasonable distance and privacy , or a stranger who may not like to be approached by way of expressing eros. Similarly, positive reciprocation of love on cyber space may not be offensive unless the receiver/reciprocator is knowingly committing any mistake like that of breaking trust of a married partner.
A person may however be deterred from exercising his/her right to love an acclaimed criminal only when such relationship may prove to be hazardous for the security of the nation or for the society at large. But he/she may not be held guilty for such love affair on cyber space when he /she can prove his/her innocence in knowledge about the particular acclaimed criminal. He/she may even claim compensation under certain circumstances when such fraudulent relationship causes damage to him/her as well. But note that I am speaking about being offended from the perspective of the receiver of the message carrying an expression of love and not the bystanders in case such message are posted on some one’s timelines or in a common group or in a page and it is publicly visible. Moral policing groups against celebration of Valentine’s day may go ahead with their propaganda of threats of ‘devastating results’ on the understanding that whoever exercises right to love either by way of expressing love for some one, or by showing a status ‘in love with X’ or by even reciprocating to such message by words or emogies or even by thumbs up should be considered as ‘dangerous’ for the society as a whole. Some radical groups have even come up with warning that people exercising their’ right to love’ will be straightaway married off or they will be warned to stop displaying (exercising their right to) love. Understandably such sorts of warning messages may have been made to create fear in the minds of individuals who may belong to orthodox patriarchal families where love marriages are not allowed or where threats of honor killings exists . Such radical groups are targeting those individuals who may be new generation social media users and whose families including parents may not know their digital whereabouts.
The question is, would such announcements by such radical groups be considered as hate speechor threat speech? There may be varied opinions for this. If the statement/s show that the commentator/s may track the whereabouts of the persons who are expressing their love on Facebook or any other social media on valentine’s day to commit some harm, the speech may be considered as threat speech especially because they may indicate violation of privacy and also intention to commit harm (even if it is arranging marriage, which may be the ultimate the aim of the love birds). Women especially may feel threatened because this may result in offline and online reputation damage, rape threats (especially if it is an inter religious affair) or even grave threats to their lives. Some , including the social media website may consider such speech as absolutely normal because such speech may seem to be very broad to be fitted within the meaning of hate speech or threat speech because such speeches may be ‘general’ and may not target any specific individual, class or community of people. But we must not forget that online mob violence may become extremely dangerous especially when such instigating comments or posts are made. Concerned authorities therefore must not ignore such ‘warnings’.
But I would have been happiest would the moral policing groups turn their attention to evils done on cyber space and send messages to the world including possible perpetrators to refrain from creating revenge porn on the Valentine ’s Day. In my observation I have seen that on such days several jilted lovers, revengeful persons and stalkers may create revenge porn stuff to grossly violate women’s reputation including rightsto privacy.
Let us join hands to prevent spreading of hate and threats through social media. Let us grow love and not hate.
Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2018), “Right to love on social media on Valentine’s Day ” 10th February, 2018, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com