2020 had many surprises for us. It brought in the century’s biggest health hazard, economic slowdown and upsurge of economy for a sector which survived on illegal. data mining, data pooling and data selling. Often people mistake that data mining, data pooling etc are connected with financial crimes. But it is not so always. These are connected with cyber stalking also. There are hundreds of materials on internet which may suggest that cyber stalking is cyber bullying or cyber stalking is the ONLY form of cyber harassment. Unfortunately, this is also not true.
Cyber stalking basically is a criminal activity which is from the family of offences of privacy infringement. In India cyber stalking was not recognized as an offence prior to Criminal Law amendment Act, 2013. In fact stalking as well as cyber stalking was considered as within the meaning of eve teasing, a term which was neither recognized by the Indian Penal Code. However, in case the victim needed to stress on the constant persuading and monitoring by the perpetrator, the police would look for solace mostly in S.509 Indian Penal Code, sometimes coupled with provisions addressing criminal intimidation including anonymous criminal intimidation. S.503 of the Indian Penal Code addresses Criminal intimidation and it says as follows: “Whoever threatens another with any injury to his person, reputation or property, or to the person or reputation of any one in whom that person is interested, with intent to cause alarm to that person, or to cause that person to do any act which he is not legally bound to do, or to omit to do any act which that person is legally entitled to do, as the means of avoiding the execution of such threat, commits criminal intimidation…..Explanations: A threat to injure the reputation of any deceased person in whom the person threatened is interested, is within this section.” S.506 speaks about punishment to criminal intimidation and it says as follows: “Whoever commits the offence of criminal intimidation shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both;…..If threat be to cause death or grievous hurt, etc – and if the threat be to cause death or grievous hurt, or to cause the destruction of any property by fire, or to cause an offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life, of with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years, or to impute unchastity to a woman, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, or with fine, or with both.” S.507 of the IPC discusses about anonymous criminal intimidation and says as follows : “Whoever commits the offence of criminal intimidation by an anonymous communication, or having taken precaution to conceal the name or abode of the person from whom the threat comes, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, in addition to the punishment provided for the offence by the last preceding section.”. S.509 IPC speaks about punishment for word, gesture or act intended to harm the modesty of women and says as follows: Whoever, intending to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, and also with fine.”
What do we understand from these provisions keeping the concept of ‘eve teasing’ in the forefront which is reflected in S.509 IPC?
It necessarily includes certain kinds of words and behaviors, gestures which make the woman feel uncomfortable, insulted, annoyed, irritated and above all, threatened about her own safety.
That written or spoken word is uttered or expressed in writing especially with an intention that the victim sees it and feels uncomfortable and threatened.
The privacy of the woman is infringed or threatened to be infringed.
Now, how the privacy infringement can attract the concept of cyber stalking? Even though Justice Puttaswamy vs Union of India & others, have emphasized on right to privacy, the law makers have not yet included this as an inherent right in the constitution. It may be noted that while the final judgement of the Puttaswamy case came in 2018, the petitioner approached the court as early as in 2012 . This was the year that saw the gruesome gang rape of Nirbhaya in Delhi and following the same, the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013 which introduced a bunch of gender centric laws including S,354D of the Indian Penal Code which addresses stalking including cyber stalking. Let us now see what does S.354D IPC offer to address cyber stalking: it says
“(1) Any man who—follows a woman and contacts, or attempts to contact such woman to foster personal interaction repeatedly despite a clear indication of disinterest by such woman; or monitors the use by a woman of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication, commits the offence of stalking; Provided that such conduct shall not amount to stalking if the man who pursued it proves that—it was pursued for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime and the man accused of stalking had been entrusted with the responsibility of prevention and detection of crime by the State; or it was pursued under any law or to comply with any condition or requirement imposed by any person under any law; or in the particular circumstances such conduct was reasonable and justified.
(2) Whoever commits the offence of stalking shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine; and be punished on a second or subsequent conviction, with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, and shall also be liable to fine.”
This makes it clear that stalking happens when the woman feels threatened for her personal safety for the repeated persuading by the stalker who can not be a female (as the provision suggests). Here men are mandatorily seen as perpetrators and women are the victims. This behavior includes monitoring of the cyber usage of the victim as well. A plain reading of the Section would suggest that cyber stalking may also include multiple online offences including unauthored access to device, data, data network, email, social media profile of the victims etc which are addressed under S.43 (Penalty and damage to computer, computer system etc), 65 (punishment for tampering with computer source document) and 66 (punishment for computer related offences)of the Information Technology Act , 2000 (amended in 2008) and S.66C (punishment for identity theft) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (amended in 2008) etc. Cyber stalking may or may not include cyber bullying which is not addressed by any law in India. It may necessarily include data mining. Even this is also not considered as criminal offence because data mining may be used for positive purposes also (consider prospective employers mining data about prospective employees: It is for this reason that several social networking sites like LinkedIn, FaceBook, ResearchGate etc allow users to upload information about their work, work experience etc). As a continuing effort to create threat and sense of uncomfortableness, the stalker may keep on sending text messages, memes, voice messages sexted messages etc. All these are broadly covered under the first paragraph of S.354D, but which message may constitute criminality individually, is not mentioned therein. The behavior which attracts the criminality within the meaning of cyber stalking, may also include creation of fake profile of the perpetrator himself or an impersonating profile of the victim so that he can contact the friends of the victim for monitoring the victim. But S.354D does not explicitly mention about this and this is the reason that many stakeholders feel this very behavior IS cyber stalking. The correct answer is NO. This actually constitutes a separate criminal liability which is partly addressed by the above mentioned provisions of the Information Technology Act including S.66C (identity theft)of the Information Technology Act, 2000(amended in 2008), partly by S.354C IPC(addressing voyeurism and prescribing punishment for the same) and partly by S.67A of the Information technology Act, 2000 (amended in 2008) which addresses creation, circulation of sexually explicit contents etc. These provisions should be taken only when the victim complaints of cyber stalking, receiving messages from the perpetrator within the meaning of repeated persuading and creation of threat whereby the perpetrator may indicate that he is going to make private information of the victim public if she does not abide by his ‘demands’ of communicating and keeping contacts with him. This ‘aftermath’ may also include creation of revenge porn contents which is not recognized by Indian laws.
However, we should not overlook the exception clauses of S.354D IPC. When such repeated persuading is done in the course of positive purposes which includes monitoring for the security purposes, for the benefit of the victim etc and when the act is ‘justified’ by an order for doing so from competent authorities, it may not attract criminal liability. This actually means if the monitoring includes surveillance by proper authorities and for proper reasons, it would be not be considered as cyber stalking within the meaning of S.354D.
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.
Selling intimate images of own wife is considered violative of law. SriLankan swimming instructor arrested for allegedly cooercing his Filipina wife to perform sexual activities for uploading the images and then selling them for unethical gain. https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1074960
By the late evening of 28th September, 2018 almost all of Facebook users would have received messages in their electronic devices that their “session expired”. It indicated that the subscriber needs to log in again to continue the Facebook activities. Many of the users felt it was a hoax, many felt it was a hackers act and some could understand it was an alert alarm as they were always ‘online’ and never logged off even when their phones were ‘sleeping’ or switched off. By late night-early morning on 29th September, 2018 the Facebook subscribers got an official information from Facebook help center stating that the company had discovered that there was an attack on their system and the attackers had illegally accessed Facebook access tokens which would give way to access the subscribers’ data. On an emergency precautionary step, Facebook logged off all users so that they can log on again with a secured code provided by Facebook. It was confirmed that Facebook was trying to exercise due diligence to protect the data of the users and in the course of the same users were directed to log off.
Rule .2(d) “Cyber security incident” means any real or suspected adverse
event in relation to cyber security that violates an explicit or implicity
applicable security policy resulting in unauthorised access, denial of
service or disruption, unauthorised use of a computer resource for
processing or storage of information or changes to data, information
The rules further goes on to explain what are the due diligence practices that should be adopted by the intermediary under Rule.3(3), which states that The intermediary shall not knowingly host or publish any information or shall not initiate the transmission, select the receiver of transmission, and select or modify the information contained in the transmission as specified in sub-rule (2):
Interestingly Rule. 4 of the Intermediary Guidelines Rule further provides a clear direction to the intermediaries as what is to be done and within how much time when the intermediary has come to know about any information which harms the interest of users or threatens the security of the nation etc (which are mentioned in rule 3), by stating that The intermediary, on whose computer system the information is stored or hosted or published, upon obtaining knowledge by itself or been brought to actual knowledge by an affected person in writing or through email signed with electronic signature about any such information as mentioned in sub-rule (2) above, shall act within thirty six hours and where applicable, work with user or owner of such information to disable such information that is in contravention of sub-rule (2). Further the intermediary shall preserve such information and associated records for at least ninety days for investigation purposes.
This Rule 4 (read with Rule 3) mentions that the intermediary should either remove the offensive content or block the access to the content. Facebook in its action in practicing due diligence and exercising reasonable security practices (in India, the guiding principle in this regard is mentioned in the Information Technology (Reasonable security practices and procedures and sensitive personal data or information) Rules, 2011), had alerted the users, logged them off and logged them in with fresh code and also expressed that they are not aware whether any individual has been affected by such unauthorised access to the Facebook system as a whole.
By doing this Facebook actually tried to escape its liability as a ‘negligent body corporate’ or a company which may be brought to the courts under S.43A of the Information Technology Act, 2000(amended in 2008). Compare the incident of Facebook- Cambridge analytica data breach and how the EU parliament addressed the issue by accusing Facebook for having extremely poor cyber security measures compared to Europe. Facebook users were also advised by an Illinois court to go for a class suit against the company (Facebook) for unethically scanning and storing personal photos and information of the users.The recent news also suggests that in the US Facebook users have started going for class actions against Facebook for data breach which occurred apparently because of the company’s negligence in securing the data.Under the Indian information technology Act, 2000(amended in 2008), S.43A empowers the victims of privacy (including data ) breach to claim compensation from the faulting body corporate to a maximum limit of Rs. 5 Crores, which however is subject to modification depending upon the damage suffered by the victims, reputation harm etc and the discretion of the adjudicator. Not many users have applied this law for bringing big companies under the Indian scanners. There are however some cases of bank’s liability or hospital managements liability which are now coming up because of the awareness among the users/data owners and their lawyers.
However, web companies like Google, Facebook etc may have another option to shred the liability: they may always shift the major burden to the data owners or data managers, i.e. the private individuals who upload data almost every minute in average to expose their private information.It is for this that we need to be vigilant on our own practices of data sharing.
Stay safe, play safe.
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), “The great Facebook hack : Liability of Facebook as service provider”30thSeptember, 2019 , published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com
See Halder Debarati (2018), FB, Its content regulation policies & photo matching tech: boon or bane for Indian women from privacy law aspect. Published in LiveLaw on April, 20018 @https://www.livelaw.in/fb-its-content-regulation-policies-photo-matching-tech-boon-or-bane-for-indian-women-from-privacy-law-aspects/
Better late than never! Let us start 2018 with a positive note: let us teach our younger tech savvy generation how to respect women, men and people from LGBTQ groups online. I was invited by UNICEF to represent them in the West Bengal State child protection committee meet on child rights and deliver lecture on online exploitation of children on 21st November, 2017 . I delivered lecture on “Children as consumers and contributors of offensive contents online and role of POCSO Act: a Therapeutic Jurisprudential approach.” We know children are smarter than us the older generation in cyber related issues. But at the same time, it is also our duty to guide children to be more responsible while on internet. I take pleasure in sharing this model policy guidelines which was prepared by me sometimes back. This model policy guidelines may be used by schools, colleges and other stake holders
Objectives & missions of the policy guidelines: To protect children from adversities of internet and educating them for a positive use of internet and social-networking sites. Scope of the policy guidelines: It may be used to educate children from 1st Standard to plus 2. It may also be used to provide guidance for teachers and counsellors to help children for positive usage of internet and social networking sites. The guidelines: 1.Every school must encourage children to participate in debates or discussions on internet rights, positive and negative effects of the same. This may be made as a part of the subject of computer science, or as a part of C.C. 2.Junior students (from the age group of 4-8) must be encouraged to take part in awareness building sessions. In such sessions, the students may be shown how to handle the devices properly and why not to switch on devices without parent’s supervision or permission. For this purpose the schools can consider making small skits with the help of older children and the teachers, or use movie clippings or other audio-visual learning materials. 3.Students from the age group of 8-13 must be encouraged to attend awareness sessions where they may be taught how to use the internet for positive gain. Given the fact that many study materials and books provide internet links or pages on specific subjects, the students may be encouraged to open such sites in the presence of the teachers. Parent-teacher-student sessions must be made to sensitise parents about the positive use of internet and digital communication technology. Students may be introduced to issues including grooming by paedophiles, values of good talk and bad talk in the internet etc. Students may be slowly introduced to social networking sites. It is not necessary to direct the students to open their accounts. But the students may be asked to take part in discussions on the policy guidelines or terms and conditions that are offered by social networking sites, email service providers etc, and then create their own accounts in the social networking sites. 4.Students from the age group of 14-17 may be encouraged to open accounts in the social networking sites and add their parents and teachers in their friend circles. They may be encouraged to create their own safety rules and privacy rules and discuss about them with younger students in class debates or awareness sessions. Students may also be encouraged to access informative pages in the social networking sites for gaining more knowledge. 5.It is important to teach students about rational coping mechanisms if and when they accidentally fall victims of cyber crimes. They must be taught how to use the safety tools to protect themselves, when and how to contact the principals, teachers and parents. 6.Schools must arrange for workshops on guiding students for positive usage of internet, which may include sessions on copyright violations as well. In such workshops, students may be encouraged to express their thoughts. Such workshops may be conducted with the police personnel, cyber crime experts, and NGOs as resource persons. 7.Senior students (from the age group of 16-18) may be encouraged to create their own blogs or vlogging sites either on their own or as group effort to show case positive usage of internet. 8.However, it must be noted that this policy guideline should not be used if the schools wish to use it as the sole guideline for separate types of offences. The author offers to cooperate with the schools to build up unique policy guidelines on the basis of this model policy guideline depending upon the need of every organisation. It is hoped that if the above guidelines are adopted, crimes targeting children by children and adults may be curbed. * This model policy guideline was first published in http://www.cybervictims.org/moderlpgccvc.pdf by Dr. Debarati Halder.
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), “Help young generation to understand their duties and rights on cyber space: Model Policy Guidelines for Directing Students for Positive Use of Internet Including Social Networking Sites and Whatsapp“, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com on 28-01-2018
6th August, 2017 my WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts were flooded with Happy friendship images. I was not well aware about friendship day as I was for Raksha Bandhan because back in our school days, we loved to wait for “Rakhi” which used to come in different shapes made of colourful sponge topped with tiny little shining stars. Irrespective of gender, we used to tie Rakhi on each other’s hands and gift our own crafts (the “home made Rakhi”) to our elders, teachers and our best-friends. In my family, this was an occasion to pamper our grandfather with our own Rakhi who was generous enough to give us the sisters a treat in a nearby Chinese restaurant for “rakhi”. My family was not alone in celebrating Rakhi in such a manner. There were many families irrespective of religion who would extend Rakhi greetings and children would come over to each other’s places to show their Rakhi that they got from their siblings, friends or even grandparents. That was our ‘friendship day’ too as we the Bengalis carefully nurtured the custom of strengthening social bond with tying of Rakhi to our friends irrespective of their religion, cast or place of birth, instilled by none other than Rabindra Nath Tagore. We never saw texts wishing of “rakhi” or “Freindship day”. The greetings cards made especially for this were special items in gift shops which some of us bought for presenting a ‘memorable gift’ to their acquaintances. That was some thing REAL in real world.
There were spats of incidences this Friendship day and Raksha Bandhan day which made me think where we are heading to:
People wish happy friendship day to strangers whom they have never met or heard their voices in their lives. Women especially are flooded with such messages accompanied with images from ‘friends’ all over the world. An expert researcher may definitely find a nexus between sending friendship messages and subsequent online harassment to these ‘friends’. Such messages actually initiate a strange relationship and may even make women recipients believe that the senders have genuine interest in extending friendship. This internet culture is especially noticeable in young women and also first time users of social media including messaging apps in the smart phones. The virtual friendship or even any relationship can be so addictive that individuals may even forget their real life family or friends with whom one has actually grown up. Unfortunately there is no law for internet-deaddiction or rather virtual relationship deaddiction. Laws are made to control crime or prevent escalation of crimes. But consider when individuals forget their liabilities and duties to their real life family members or friends for their virtual relationships: a unique condition may arise in such cases where the neglected member may have to plead to the courts for directing the concerned person to ‘pay attention’ failing which, he/she may have to ‘pay’ for his/her irresponsible nature. Such unique conditions may include not only negligence of his /her moral responsibilities towards own families including caring for older or younger generations or dependants, but also may include exposing own family members or real life friends to extreme danger including various types online offences whereby the latter’s privacy may be infringed due to callousness of the earlier.
August is the beginning of festive season in India, followed by major festive months including September and October. Let us share the happiness and positiveness among our family and friends first and then to our virtual friends some of whom may not even be “real”. We need to understand that once the family unit provides a strong mental support to any individual including children, no negative force may destroy the inner peace and yes, the reputation of the said person. Sharing happiness and sorrows alike may also make it easier for any one especially women and girls to combat online harassment especially those kinds which directly affects our reputation.
Let us be independent from fear of virtual reputation damage which may be caused due to unknown virtual friends.
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. (2017), “Virtual friendship: what’s the reality in it for women”10th August, 2017, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com
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.