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