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
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. 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.
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. 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.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. And as per the provisions of Sec.8 of the PHA, 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.
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%.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.Cybersmile Foundation, a help centre to increase awarness, had performed a research to find out the kind of misuse happening in cyberspace of UK. 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.
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.
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.
The act of pressurising young children to take part in sending images or content that are sexual would also amount to cyberbullying.
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. 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.
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. 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:
Insulting behaviour, or
Behaviour likely to intimate or humiliate an individual.
The Conservative Government added this to the Digital Economy Bill during its final stages.
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.”
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.
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 @ email@example.com
As the entire world went under lock down, we saw a huge surge of online activities since the first week of March, 2020: several organizations changed their work policy to accommodate work from home policy through cyber space. Schools turned to virtual classes. Universities and colleges sought for conducting webinars, online essay competitions, quiz competitions etc to engage the students. Higher education system also opted for online pedagogy which included online thesis submission, evaluation of the same, online viva voce for Ph.D and Master’s degree evaluation, conducting online sessions on different degree courses, and so on. Resultant, there was a tremendous growth of demand of online meeting platforms which were considered as least essential during normal times. It is but obvious that such platforms started failing participants especially in regard to privacy issues. The WHO guidelines made everyone to rely on online banking, online e-commerce and related transactions and this gave a golden opportunity to the fraudsters to loot people who had to suddenly adapt this digital life culture without properly knowing about digital hygiene, cyber safety issues etc. the government on the other hand insisted on uploading health apps which would give a clear way for mapping and surveilling health of users and also let the user know about the health data (even though in a very minimum scale) of other users residing in near vicinity.
Parents, schools, universities and colleges, administrators, police and the courts have remained busy in ensuring that the dangerous pandemic does not engulf the entire society, the homeless and jobless migratory laborers reach their home place (amidst much chaos) and hospitals and health clinics mandatorily open their doors to patients who may be Covid positive. But no law, government orders or policies may control the minds of people and adolescent children who are either up to take revenge in a sophisticated and ‘smart way’, or to sexually gratify themselves or may have adolescent inquisitiveness about sexual issues. It is not only the Bois Locker room that attracts my attention here: millions of issues of online violence of women and girls have been surfacing now.
I take this opportunity to discuss here what are the women’s rights that had been codified by international instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), International Covenants on civil and political rights, socio-cultural -economic rights , Convention on elimination of all sorts of discriminations against women (CEDAW), EU Convention on Cyber Crimes etc. Summing up the rights created/guaranteed /expanded, the following Rights may be considered for understanding how these are supported/violated on the cyber space:
Right to lead a dignified life : This right has been considered as a prime rights as an independent right as well as within the broader meaning of right to life. Right to dignified life may essentially imply that no woman should be considered as a mere sexual object : she should not be subjected to inhuman treatment at home, at workplace or at cyber space. The labour market should not treat her as mere body for sexual enjoyment. She should not be subjected to flesh trade under any circumstances and the workplace should ensure her right to dignified life irrespective of her work profile.
But is this right being upheld on cyber space? several researchers and practitioners including myself had researched upon several patterns of online harassment of women and this may include gender bullying, trolling, doxing, online flesh trade, unauthorised access to device, data, profiles etc, cyber stalking, creation of fake avatars for wide defamation, non-consensual image capturing and sharing, voyeurism, revenge porn, creating and sharing obscene contents targeting women and girls etc. Be it gender bullying, trolling, doxing or cyber stalking, or creating fake avatar or gratifying revenge taking mentality or sharing non-consensual images, it may be seen that women are denied a right to lead dignified life on cyber space. consider the recent case of one TikTok user who had been charged for creating videos showcasing physical assaults, sexual assaults to women and allegedly instigating for physical violence targeting women. Neither Facebook, nor Twitter, nor Instagram, nor YouTube, nor TikTok have taken any measure to control such showcasing of violence and harassment of women. TikTok is flooding with thousands of videos showcasing harassment of women: some show women being beaten, some show women being touched inappropriately, some also show women in indecent manner especially when it come to sharing non-consensual images at public functions, public places etc. YouTube however leads in such cases if I talk about “funny videos” : there are ‘funny wedding falls”, “funny crying brides” “funny garland exchange scenes” to vigorous trolling of women who may show case their culture, homes, cooking skills etc. Several women have also reported cyber stalking by their male colleagues and supervisors at workplace as well. As a cybercrime victim counsellor, I have received hundreds of cases where women have been victimised by way of creating fake avatars, majority of which are of the nature of revenge porn. The laws created to safeguard the right to lead a dignified life for women have also failed them several times: during this lockdown, police may not be able to assist women who may report bullying, doxing or trolling or creation of revenge porn or sextortion etc unless it is attracting a bigger interest like that of Bois locker room case. Several women had been turned down by the police by making them understand that these are trivial offences and the police may not be able to assist them in spite of the fact that such offences may be considered as cognizable.
2.Right against discrimination on the basis of gender, color, creed, race etc: This is considered as a prime right under CEDAW. But women have been vigorously targeted defying this very right. Consider the case of Sara Baartman, who had been an exhibit on the topic of racial and gender discrimination for over two hundred years now: She was bought by white businessmen from South Africa to earn money over showcasing her body shape which was am matter of huge sexual curiosity in Europe during 19th and 20th Century. She died in 1815. But the so called civilized society did not leave Baartman even after her death: her mortal remains and skeleton were kept in Museum of Man in Paris which further attracted visitors to see her mortal remains including her genitalia. It was only in 2002 that the civilized society decided to finally put Sara to rest, but not before making her as a symbol of racial porn icon which still floats on internet. The same lust for black, Latino, Asian, women still can be seen on porn sites which earn huge revenue from the consumers of armature porn, racial porn, black porn etc.
Leaving aside the sexual gratification part, internet and cyber space also host loads of contents and pages which are discriminatory in nature. Almost all the web companies host (knowing or unknowingly) several pages where women from different age group, of different color, belonging to different race, caste or creed and nationality and socio-economic background are constantly bullied, virtually dissected and routinely harassed. Several of such women may not even know that they are being harassed on the cyber space by way of creation of contents which may be in the nature of bullying, trolling, creating racially/sexually abusing still/video contents etc.
3.Right to livelihood: This is the most interesting right that needs to be discussed in this context. Internet has provided different ways of livelihood to women: be it earning money by showcasing different types of skills on YouTube, or by promoting particular brand/s of cosmetics or spices or clothes or electronic items etc, or by being a blogger, content writer etc, women did get a platform to earn money. This however also includes acting on porn platforms. Interestingly, the laws existing in different jurisdictions (barring certain countries), do not hold women criminally responsible if they participate in creating sexually explicit contents which may fulfill certain legal conditions: for example, the said content is created through proper legal mechanism with full consent of the actor, the content creator/host has certified that the same is strictly meant for adult entertainment purposes and has explicitly displayed age restriction in the opening page of the content, has not used any child for creating such contents and has taken due diligence to restrict sharing of such contents to children . But if seen from the perspectives of privacy infringement and related shaming/doxing/defamation perspectives, it may be seen that users of internet may go beyond the aims of tech companies (who would promote the platforms for using it for earning livelihood), to block right to livelihood for women. Thousands of women may have lost their jobs, or job prospects because of revenge porn or nonconsensual porn contents that may have shared knowingly to have unethical gain by perpetrators. The Intellectual property rights of women who may have tried to earn a living by showcasing their skills on the internet, have never been recognized or may have been violated grossly. Again, profiles of some women may also have become a regular source of income for the perpetrators who may illegally use such profiles to dupe others.
4.Right to legal aid and fair hearing: Every individual has an inherent right to access legal help, free legal aid and fair hearing. This applies to perpetrators and victims, men, women, children and people belonging 3rd gender as well. If we speak from the perspective of cyber crime victims, it may be seen that women victims may not always be given proper hearing for different types of online harassment cases. As mentioned above, several types of harassment may be seen as trivial offences. Many of the harassment are neither recognized by laws as criminal offences as well. Even though several international stakeholders including UNICEF has also acknowledged the patterns of online criminal activities like revenge porn, doxing etc, the same could not be added as criminal offences by several Governments for reasons known best to them. This has definitely hampered creation of proper legal and criminal justice infrastructure where the police had remained untrained for dealing with such sorts of victimizations. There are however, several attempts to address certain types of online harassment by pulling legal understandings from different provisions which are not necessarily meant to address the said harassment : for example, the concept of bullying and trolling have been addressed by expanding the scope of defamation and criminal intimidation laws, issue of non-consensual image sharing have been largely covered by voyeurism and copyright laws and the stakeholders have tried to cover revenge porn under the voyeurism, creation/sharing of sexually explicit contents etc. None of these could actually yield fruitful results all over the world. Resultant, we get to see less reporting of the online criminal activities targeting women and even lesser conviction rates.
5.Right to privacy: This may be said to be the basis of all other rights discussed above especially from the perspective of rights on cyber space. The more the digital communication technology progressed, the human society had seen more privacy infringements. The web companies at the beginning had put more emphasis on the negligence of the users/contributors to protect their privacy while the former argued that their platforms provide for privacy and safety setups that are user friendly. But soon it was seen that neither the data bank of the hospitals, the government departments, banks, nor that of the web companies are safe. Women including women users of cyber space are sandwiched between the privacy infringing individual perpetrators, and also the web companies. Privacy on the cyber space has become a myth now. With the growing rate of capturing nonconsensual images and sharing the same on online platforms without permission, it is evident that the concept of privacy on cyber space has expanded its scope to cover the issue of privacy on physical space as well.
But everything is not always dark. NGOs working on awareness building could reach a milestone where women have started understanding that such online harassments actually violate their basic rights. The more the victims would use the reporting mechanism, the more the courts and the law makers would understand the pressing need of making laws and ensuring proper implementation of the same. It is expected that such awareness may lead to larger human rights movements.
years YouTube has won millions of hearts in India as a social media platform
especially among women. This is because unlike other social media websites, YouTube
has provided a platform to earn money based upon views and subscribers.
Contents uploaded by users may be varied: it can be home decor, power point
presentations of simplified versions of undergraduate subjects, subject lectures
by professional teachers or amateur subject experts, cooking recipes, Do It
Yourself (DIYs), home organisations, daily routines of home makers, technological
solutions, how to do stuffs etc . Several women have used YouTube to earn money
generated through the revenue that YouTube promises once the user can reach some
criteria like getting 1000 subscribers or 4000 watch hours etc. 
YouTube however would not lead the user to create contents that may earn more
watch hours or subscribers. Users may go for market survey to understand which
sorts of videos may attract more views, ,more subscribers etc. mostly new users
including men and women may try to create videos on anything that they feel
proper to share to the world. YouGTube , like Facebook and Instagram has
features for allowing users to create videos for private sharing. This enables
the users to share the video which may be watched only by those whom the
creator chooses. The users may however go for wide circulation of their contents
by not only making the videos public, but also by going live whereby the users may directly communicate
with their subscribers or may share information while live. Even though going Live may be a feature specifically
for improving the relationship between the user and his/her subscribers, live
videos can be watched by the world wide audience even if they are not
subscribers to that particular user. Here, YouTube may not play a vital role to
restrict uploading and sharing the contents unless the subscribers or viewers may flag the content as inappropriate. In short, YouTube may actually provide a wide
platform to share anything including bullying videos, mashed up videos, child and
woman abuse videos, birthing videos, adult sexual interaction videos and so on.
While the adult sexual videos and birthing videos may not be universally accessible
unless the user logs in to his/her YouTube accounts, other sorts of videos are accessible
to all irrespective of age. YouTube however uses the due diligence clause to
escape from any third party liability by providing notification which restricts
children from viewing adult sexual contents or violent contents which may
traumatise children. Hardly this has any
practical implication because children may access these videos by using email
ids which may be created on the basis of fake age , or may even log in through
their parents’ or friends’ email /YouTube ids.
attention here is however attracted to the contents shared by YouTubers: I have
been an avid watcher of YouTube since many years now. I have been following the
changing trends of users in uploading the contents. Earlier it was more on
creating mashed up videos which may have the potentials of violating the copyrights.
Such videos have also been silently encouraged by actors, singers and producers
because these actually publicise their work even though it may violate the
But slowly, the content creators, especially women started becoming reviewers
of products on YouTube as well. This included using of cosmetics, kitchen wares
organisers etc that may be shown in the daily routine videos, home organisation
videos or make up tutorials.
not only get views and subscribers as may be needed for fulfilling the YouTube
monetising criteria, they may also be connected with the brands manufacturing
the products or dealers of the products who may wish to showcase their products
through these non-professional videos. Several urban and rural women home
makers have actually benefitted from this: consider Youtubers like Radhika Real
who may be rural homemakers, but may have made a moderate to comfortable living
because of their YouTube videos advertising about different brands including retailer
brands. Nonetheless, these YouTubers may
also be victims of bullying and trolling for the quality of their videos, their
pronunciation, lifestyle and even house decorations.
While these women may have made a landmark professional/personal achievement because of YouTube, they may unknowingly violate privacy of their own children or even spouses or other family members as they may be showing and informing the worldwide audience about their family members who may not may consent for such wide distribution of images of themselves. These YouTube videos may also be the subject matter of bullying and ridiculing the children of such YouTubers since these may stay on worldwide web for long time. YouTube videos may also create severe domestic violence for several reasons which include live fights between spouses which may be captured by third party YouTubers for fun and uploaded and circulated for getting more views; or airing of grievances by women YouTubers against the other spouses, without knowing the far-reaching consequences etc. These videos may attract huge views and opinions, comments in the nature of cyber bullying and also trolling targeting the YouTuber concerned or supporters of the same. Consider the case of two specific youtubers from Delhi, who are spouses in real life : the wife is a senior YouTuber whereas the husband is a recent Youtuber: They had severe altercations and started living apart. But this was not enough: both used YouTube to throw insults and humiliating words to each other and their teen daughter was allegedly dragged in between. The recent reports suggested that the teenager girl who was staying with her father for couple of months after the separation, was beaten by the latter while on live and her t-shirt was torn in a manner which would show her inner wares. The girl was beaten because she wanted to visit her mother. This video became viral as several supporters of the wife started showing the clippings through their own channels. Some had also informed ChildLine and the police who had rescued the teenager and sent her to her maternal grandmother. There are several other YouTubers who started discussing about incident using the profile name of the husband wife duo. While the news report published in the local news media suggested that the teenager was often beaten by both the parents when they were drunk and she was forced to come on live which she refused many times, the news clipping did not mention about the name of the girl and that of her parents as S.74 of the Juvenile Justice Care and protection Act, 2015 prohibits publication of the identity of the child in need of care and protection or child in conflict with law. The provision reads as below:
S.74. Prohibition of publication of name, etc., of juvenile in conflict with law or child in need of care and protection involved in any proceeding under the Act.-1. No report in any newspaper, magazine, news-sheet or visual media of any inquiry regarding a juvenile in conflict with law or a child in need of care and protection under this Act shall disclose the name, address or school or any other particulars calculated to lead to the identification of the juvenile or child nor shall any picture of any such juvenile or child be published: Provided that for reasons to be recorded in writing, the authority holding the inquiry may permit such disclosure, if in its opinion such disclosure is in the interest of the juvenile or the child. 2. Any person who contravenes the provisions of sub-section (1), shall be liable to a penalty which may extend to twenty-five thousand rupees.
Now, let us understand the scope of this provision in the light of this particular case: the first subsection prohibits any report including news report, inquiry etc from disclosing the name, information etc of the concerned child. The second proviso extends the scope to ‘anyone’ who may contravene the prohibitory scope of S.74. Seen from the perspective of electronic media and the concept of citizen journalism, which gives every one right to share information, the term ‘anyone’ may literally include anyone including the good Samaritans who may have wanted to alert the concerned authorities, share their opinion against such acts of women and child abuse. Further, note the words “any other particulars calculated to lead to the identification of the juvenile or child nor shall any picture of any such juvenile or child be published” mentioned in the first sub clause. This may include the name of the concerned child and names of the parents. But apparently, this provision became a just a paper tiger in this case because those who had watched or subscribed to the videos of the couple had already known about the identity of the teenager because of the daily Lives put up by the parents and discussion about the girl in the videos posted by them. If one visits the comment section of the recent videos of both the parents in the recent past, it would be seen that commenters have taken the name of the girl, asked about her whereabouts and in some cases, some had also suggested about her changed behaviour after she had stayed with her respective parents separately. Nothing is confidential for those thousands of worldwide audiences now who had watched the parents daily and who had also witnessed the Live video where the girl was beaten up by the father. In spite of repeated request by the mother of the girl, several YouTubers still did not take down videos mentioning about the name of the father (which broadly falls within the meaning of “any other particulars calculated to lead to the identification of the juvenile or child”) when this writeup was published. While the Juvenile Justice Care and Protection and Act provides a base rule, the concerned YouTubers may not be held solely responsible because the parents already violated the privacy of the teenager and encouraged thousands to watch the couple fight which had every potential to attract penal provisions for using words etc for harming the modesty of the wife under S.509 Indian Penal Code as well as defamation of both the wife and the husband under Sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code. YouTube on the other hand has not taken down the videos of either of the spouses or that of the other YouTubers which may showcase the names of the parents and the child because it is guided by First Amendment of the US which may hardly be affected unless YouTube has been approached to take the videos down by concerned stakeholders.
It is now
a typical love triangle of three parties : YouTube, which is loved by all for
providing such an open platform for airing opinions and consumption of real
life family dramas, the YouTubers who may expect to get support, views,
popularity and money because of participating in the trolling and independent
discussions on such issues which may rip open privacy of general individuals including
children and criminal justice machinery, most of whom may never know how to
manage legalities of YouTube videos because they are completely ignorant of
this new type of electronic media.
But this is
not a unique incident that attracts the attention of legal researchers,
especially privacy law and speech law researchers. YouTubers, especially women YouTubers
continue to violate privacy knowingly or unknowingly and provide more opportunity
to trolls, bullies and offline perpetrators to victimise them because they may
not be aware about the netiquettes of YouTube. Time has come that YouTube users
become cautious of the contents uploaded by them and legalities attached with
such uploading and sharing. In this festive season YouTube content uploading
and sharing may have seen a steep rise. But it is upon YouTubers to control
what must be shared and may not.
is more powerful than televisions, more demanded than movies and more
devastating than what is generally apprehended.
example see Halder D., & Jaishankar K. (2016) Celebrities and Cyber Crimes:
An Analysis of the Victimization of Female Film Stars on the Internet. Temida –
The journal on victimization, human rights and gender. 19(3-4), 355-372
In a late afternoon in the last week of February, 2019 I received a message from Ministry of Women & Child Affairs, Government of India congratulating me for winning the #webwonderwomen award in the category of Legal/policy . #Webwonderwomen is an initiative of Ministry of women & Child, BreakThrough India, an NGO which works for women and girls and Twitter to honor 30 women from diverse fields who had used Twitter positively for spreading awareness, reaching out to people in need and above all, advocating for women empowerment. Among the 30 women were women activists, lawyers, journalists, sanitation & public health activists, food blogger & nutritionist, film maker, activist promoting breast-feeding, women government officials and myself, who works for victims, especially women victims of cyber crimes. There were different heartwarming as well as heart breaking stories told by award winners ; they shared stories of failures and success, happiness and pain, the feeling of being ridiculed by others because of their support to other women. No wonder, I have also gone through the same while executing my wish to help victims of cyber crimes: I have been cyber bullied, stalked, trolled and threatened by men and women for my work . I have been asked ridiculous questions regarding my “attachment” with the virtual world. Finally with this award, I could prove that being on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or on internet as a whole for more than the time allotted for general women by their families and societies is not that bad. I have an “unlimited” (in regard to time) access to net and my husband respects my time on net. I am fortunate to make this space. I have seen many women who are not allowed to be on net for more than a limited period by their families especially men folk, who may be enjoying (consuming) avatars of other women when their women enter the ‘restricted time period’ for net surfing on a daily basis.
This women’s day is special because as #webwonderwomen awardee I have become a proud ambassador of the Ministry of women and children affairs like my fellow award winners. This is also special because on the very day when I received the award, I saw nothing changed when it comes to cyber crimes against women. While going through the newspaper that very morning, I noticed two news items which made me think how womens day becomes meaningless for several thousands of women victims of cyber crimes : one was regarding a gang rape survivor who came across the clipping of her own rape scene and dared to walk into the police station to report not only about the physical rape, but also about the virtual consumption of her physical assault by many. The second was about duping of a woman in a renowned matrimonial site . None of these incidents is new for me. However, I salute the rape survivor who took the matter to the police. She must have undergone severe secondary victimization and traumatization by now just like the other victim that I mentioned above. We do not know what would happen to them later: how far the police and prosecution may help them ? with a limited legal awareness and fear of societal taboo, many victims like these two have to withdraw their cases and disappear.
Women’s day is necessarily related to The Convention on elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW), which was adopted by the UN general Assembly in 1979 and which defines discrimination against women as “…any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.” The scope of this definition has automatically expanded to include gender discrimination, misogyny and abuse of women’s rights online. I was more interested in the award ceremony because of Twitter as its partner. Social media like Twitter, Faceook , Instagram, YouTube etc are used for women empowerment. But they are notorious platforms for victimization of women. This year’s theme for International women’s day is “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change” , which signifies women empowerment in the field of technology and innovative work by women and men alike for gender equality and betterment of situation of women across the globe. This won’t fructify unless web companies take the responsibility of providing safety against gross abuse of women. As women activists, many of us know that there more takers of CEDAW; but how many States are actually ensuring proper implementation of laws especially for women victims of cybercrimes is a question that needs to be researched. There is no uniform law to recognize several cyber offences against women. Majority of countries have no laws for prevention of cyber bullying, stalking, impersonation of women, online sexual offences targeting women. Sexting and revenge porn still fall in the grey line in majority of the countries. It is still considered a taboo for women to watch porn ; women who are caught watching porn/porn contents are severely moral policed by the society . But on the other hand, when men watch porn including revenge porn and nonconsensual porn, it is still considered as normal because unless the websites flag them as illegal , men (and in certain cases women and children too) may not be prevented even by the courts because apparently the victims would not have moved the police and / or the courts for taking action to take down the offensive contents . Majority of these victims may be completely unware of the fact that they have been made subjects of online consumption as ‘sex items’. Consider the case of socio-economically poor women who may be trafficked and their videos of having sexual activities may be floating for many years without making them understand how they are being ‘consumed’ by millions.
“Think equal, build smart, innovate for change” would be possible only when the society including the government stakeholders as a whole come together to take a holistic step towards preventing cyber victimization of women and creating safe place for women and girls online and in real life.
Wish you all, a very happy WOMEN’S DAY . Lets “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change”.
 See for example 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.
In a recent academic conference where I was speaking on cyber bullying, I got some ‘strange questions’ as why I am not covering topics like pornography and obscenity. To me, these questions were ‘strange’ because I was delivering lecture specifically on cyber bullying. But to the individuals who asked the questions (and this group included academicians and practitioners from women’s rights group as well), this seemed to be a genuine concern as why cyber bullying does not mean cyber pornography, cyber obscenity, revenge porn, cyber stalking or the concept of cyber harassment.
Decoding cyber bullying:
Many of us believe that cyber bullying is the holistic term to explain the concept of cyber harassment. In reality it is not.
Cyber harassment or online harassment is a holistic term which may include various types of harassments including cyber bullying. The term cyber bullying is defined as “abuse/ harassment by teasing or insulting, victims’ body shape, intellect, family back ground, dress sense, mother tongue, place of origin, attitude, race, caste, class, name calling, using modern telecommunication networks such as mobile phones (SMS/MMS) and Internet (Chat rooms, emails, notice boards and groups)”(Jaishankar, 2009).
www.Stopbullying.gov explains cyber bullying as “………Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation.”
A clear reading of the definition of Jaishankar and the explanation provided by Stopbullying.gov would suggest that cyber bullying includes conveying or posting of insulting, degrading, teasing, messages in the victim’s timeline, in groups or forums etc. Bullying messages are also conveyed through one-to one chatting mechanism. Bullying messages may typically be like “ you are a liar”, or “you look ugly”, or “ you are worthless”, or “x is a black spot in the team”, or “x is a big zero when it comes to trendy fashion” etc. Presently, India does not have any cyber bullying prevention law.
However, it would be wrong to say that cyber bullying happens to children. Adults may also be victims of bullying, including workplace bullying.
So when does bullying turn into stalking?
Often people confuse cyber bullying with cyber stalking. We at Centre for Cyber Victim Counselling had provided a functional definition of cyber stalking in our 2010 research report which is as follows:
“In one word, when ‘following’ is added by Mens rea to commit harm and it is successfully digitally carried out, we can say cyber stalking has happened” (Halder &Jaishankar, 2010).
S.354D of the Indian Penal Code (inserted via Criminal Law amendment Act, 2013) defines cyber stalking as follows:
“Any man who follows a woman or contacts or attempts to contact such woman to foster personal interaction repeatedly despite a clear indication of disinterest by such woman or whoever monitors the use by a woman of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication or watches or spies a person in a manner that results in fear of violence or serious alarm or distress, in the mind of such woman or interferes with the mental peace of such woman, commits the offence of stalking.”
The first stage of cyber stalking can be Repeated Pursuing
The second stage can be data mining and/or monitoring.
The third stage can be creating threat /fear in the mind of the victim.
Repeated pursuing can be in the form of sending /posting messages which may not be insulting or degrading or annoying at the beginning. This is because the stalker (especially in case of interpersonal stalking) may not necessarily like to insult or humiliate his ‘target’. The main aim of the stalker may be to persuade the victim to enter into an emotional relationship where the stalker may be a dominant figure. The messages may turn insulting or degrading when the process reaches the third stage, i.e., when the sender wants the victim to feel threatened. Stalking may adopt the process of cyber bullying when the victim refuses to abide by the ‘commands’ or ‘demands’ of the stalker. The later may then start sending insulting, annoying, degrading messages in order to create a fear of constant harassment and defamation of the victim. Bullying therefore changes into the phenomena of cyber stalking when the bully becomes obsessive with his victim and continues to post hurting, degrading, insulting messages as long as the victim does not start developing a sense of fear; when he starts monitoring his victim to see the outcome of bullying or rather, to see how far the victim is affected by bullying.
Revenge porn and bullying
Again, revenge porn and bullying can be completely different forms of online harassment. Revenge porn “……….is an act whereby the perpetrator satisfies his anger and frustration for broken relationship through publicizing false, sexually provocative portrayal of his /her victim by misusing the information that he may have known naturally and that he may have stored in his computer, or may have conveyed to his electronic device by the victim herself, or may have been stored in device with the consent of the victim herself; and which may essentially have been done to publicly defame the victim.”(Halder &Jaishankar, 2013).
Revenge porn may necessarily include unethical using of images of the victim for taking revenge and creating a fake avatar of the victim which may signify the later as that of bad character. Unfortunately many countries including India do not have any focussed law to prevent and punish revenge porn. However, several legal academicians including cyber civil right activists in the US have proposed revenge porn legislations and such proposals have been considered as legal provisions to criminalise revenge porn. In case of revenge porn, the perpetrator may or may not include bullying tactics to create extra humiliation to his/her victim. I have observed that in several revenge porn cases, the perpetrator may limit his act to posting to his own time line with a tagline indicating that the victim is of bad character, or may create a fake avatar either in the social websites like Facebook or Twitter etc indicating that the profile owner may solicit sex, or may upload the image to adult networking websites where all images may be ‘consumed’ as erotica. Revenge porn and bullying may be clubbed up only when the perpetrator posts/sends annoying, insulting, degrading messages to the victim or to a group to humiliate the victim with the revenge porn content, i.e., after he has already created revenge porn and wishes to continue harassing the victim with teasing messages. However, I would still not agree to call it cyber bullying; it would be categorised as defamation if seen from the perspective of defamation laws. S.499 of the Indian Penal Code which states as follows:
“Whoever, by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person, is said, except in the cases hereinafter expected, to defame that person. Explanation 1.—It may amount to defamation to impute anything to a deceased person, if the imputation would harm the reputation of that person if living, and is intended to be hurtful to the feelings of his family or other near relatives. Explanation 2.—It may amount to defamation to make an imputation concerning a company or an association or collection of persons as such. Explanation 3.—An imputation in the form of an alternative or expressed ironically, may amount to defamation. Explanation 4.—No imputation is said to harm a person’s reputation, unless that imputation directly or indirectly, in the estimation of others, lowers the moral or intellectual character of that person, or lowers the character of that person in respect of his caste or of his calling, or lowers the credit of that person, or causes it to be believed that the body of that person is in a loathsome state, or in a state generally considered as disgraceful.”
As may be seen from the above, cyber harassment or online harassment therefore is a bigger term which includes forms of harassment including cyber bullying. It is essential to understand the differences because the terms may signify different types of criminal or civil wrongs and as such may attract different types of punishments by courts of law. For instance, if a victim who has encountered impersonation (not amounting to revenge porn, but an ordinary impersonation whereby his/her image had been used to create a profile in the matrimonial site), he/she should not report the incident as cyber bullying to the concerned website. It should be ‘impersonation’, meaning the perpetrator has unethically and unauthorisedly used the personal picture and information of the victim to create harassment. Depending upon the mens rea, nature of the profile and impact of the same on the victim’s reputation, the police may book the offender under various provisions under Information Technology Act and also under Indian Penal Code for impersonation(for example, Ss 66D of the Information technology Act, 2000(amended in 2008), Ss. 416 & 417, 499, 500 IPC, etc) . In case the victim is a woman, the police may also include provisions meant for harming the modesty of women (S.509 IPC). Similarly, in case of stalking, the victim should rather report the crime as stalking and not cyber bullying because the legal provisions in India do not recognise any offence of cyber bullying, but prescribes stringent punishment for stalking. Whereas, in other jurisdictions, where both cyber stalking and cyber bullying are recognised as offences, both may have different types of punishments. Further, the social media websites may also have different reporting mechanism for cyber bullying and cyber stalking.
However, cyber bullying still remains in a grey area from legal perspectives. More research is needed to develop a good universal understanding which may help to demarcate why cyber bullying be considered as Bad Speech. Further, research is also needed to create deeper demarcation between different forms of online harassment for the purpose of better policy developments.
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), “Why cyber bullying should never be taken as a holistic term for cyber harassment” 4th February, 2018, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com
I was delighted to find a long lost friend of mine in the social media. She and I were friends right from our early school days and we lost connection when my father got transferred to another city. She found me and I found her after nearly 25 years, and we are mothers of lovely girls. The reuniting story would have happily ended here if not I found a unique coincidence which made me to think about this blog: about times when mothers may turn dangerous for their daughters. Often mothers prefer to make their children introduce to the social media through their own profiles. Many women think it is perfectly all right because the mother and daughter bond would grow, they may get to learn the virtual relationships together and mother will always protect her baby even in the cyber space. Mostly this ‘bringing the child to the social media through the mother’s profile’ takes place when the child is in the age group of 5 to 10/11 , the age when they are vulnerable targets by online groomers who spread their net for trapping children for varied reasons including paedophilia as well as online monetary cheating of the parents through the children. Mothers often think that by introducing the child to the social media through their own profiles they can save the children from such dangers. But how wrong they are….
My friend’s daughter or her mother or many mothers of daughters may never know what dangerous gate they are opening for their daughters. A very recent report from Jharkhand is a living example: a minor girl was harassed by none other than her mother’s Facebook friend in the Facebook and when the girl confessed the victimisation, the Child Welfare Board suggested that the safest place for the girl should not be with the mother, but with her grandparents (BBC, 13thFebruary,2014). This is but one example as how mother’s profile can invite danger for the daughter. It needs to be remembered that even if it is a mother who would want her daughter to be safe and secured, in virtual world, a mother’s profile can be equally dangerous for her daughter. The profile that may be created by the mother would essentially be an adult profile and such profiles are never completely immuned from predators. Let me sketch a detail about how the daughters are trapped:
Tell her the password and she may get to see everything you have ‘liked’…………..including news on genocide , rape, child abuse and domestic violence. Think how she would react by seeing the visual images or reading about the hard truth?
Don’t tell me that you have never received any sexually stimulating message in your inbox ( ok.. it is in your ‘other box’ and you have never opened it). Your daughter is smarter than you to check all messages…… including those you never wanted to see yourself and don’t know how to delete it permanently.
Thinking that it is you, your ‘friend’ starts chatting with your daughter and passes some bits of adult joke, gossips about you, your neighbour, your school mate or your office colleague. Check the language ….you may have never wanted your daughter to learn or hear those ‘nasty adult language’. Now, imagine her shock when she is rudely introduced to the negative sides of virtual socialising.
You are in the middle of separation and you have blocked your ex. But he is continuously stalking you through enormous fake profiles and has spies spread across in your own friends-list.Imagine your daughter’s shock when she starts getting messages from the person you have taught her to hate the most.
You would get worst surprises when you would get to see your profile flooded with requests for friendship from unknown strangers whom your daughter may have unknowingly tagged or talked about.
Not to forget that the medium of communication can be mobile phones, I pads or tablets, the children are more tempted to enter the adult world when these gazettes are left unattended with children whom their parents have taught to unlock and use them without any specific teaching about how to handle the whole thing safely. A mother or a father or the grand parents may feel happy and proud to say that their toddler or their young child knows everything about the digital communication gazette and uses it herself frequently. But I really don’t find anything to be proud for that. The mother may become directly responsible for pushing the daughter to the dangerous world of cyber crimes. In India parental responsibility had been questioned many times by the courts when it is the matter of leaving the child alone for beggary, pushing the child for child marriage etc. But laws have changed and so has the criminal justice understanding of the parental liabilities and responsibilities. Besides the Juvenile justice care and protection Act, The Protection of children from sexual offences Act is one such law which is merciless when it comes to parental negligence for child abuse including online child abuse.
Hence mothers, let your daughters see the virtual world through their own eyes and not yours, but of course with your guidance.
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. (2014),“When mothers turn dangerous for daughters
The IT act 2000 doesnot mention any thing about the safety of the women in the net. As such it does not speak about the typical cyber crimes that can be commiteed against women. well, analysing chapterXI of the IT Act , it could be seen crime against women in the net can be of morte than one type , namely email harassment, cyber stalking, cyber stalking, cyber sex, cyber defamation and so on. but unfortunately women are defence less in the cyberspace.