Tag: Cyber Law

Gender and Internet : Web magazine for Cyber law for women News update for October 20th-31st, 2019

WhatsApp sues Israeli firm accusing of hacking phones of activists. Several women, who were already victims of online violence including rape threats, online misogyny etc, are also affected
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/oct/29/whatsapp-sues-israeli-firm-accusing-it-of-hacking-activists-phones

Katie Hill, the U.S. Representative becomes victim of online exploitation and non consensual porn. Hill’s private images with a staffer get leaked infringing her privacy.
https://news.yahoo.com/kamala-harris-defended-representative-katie-143000147.html

Fake dating site which was victimizing men, was found to be engaging women for alluring men for the site. These women were promised high financial rewards if they could allure men and trick them into depositing money to meet women as proposed through fake profiles.
https://www.yovizag.com/vizag-cybercrime-police-fake-dating-website-case/

Woman crew brings law suits against two US pilots for allegedly committed voyeurism in 2017 by placing hidden camera in the lavatory of the flight. The images were streamed in the cockpit
https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/southwest-airlines-pilots-allegedly-hid-camera-in-toilet-then-streamed-video-to-the-cockpit-2123450?fbclid=IwAR2JU5Y50YIxsCJ8ok4cIUR9ZK6K2631nDHkQgApluUQO3OmYoS63trdcCI

Australian law makers follow UK to use Facial Recognition tool to prevent children from accessing porn contents.
https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2019/10/australia-wants-to-use-face-recognition-for-porn-age-verification/?fbclid=IwAR0vXJk_4h3k8a3E01jJ8repCwM0Gd_HaSkvw-8ogHAV0JAg2bIxqMuXCsY

Porn Hub, one of world’s biggest porn sites is being flooded by voyeur, non consensual porn images of women and girls that are captured using hidden cameras. Site users are using keywords such ‘hidden camera’ to access more voyeur and non consensual porn contents
https://jezebel.com/hidden-camera-clips-popped-up-on-pornhub-and-the-proble-1839414523?utm_medium=sharefromsite&fbclid=IwAR1lGgFZDmginVuP9jIwxWOp4RR8NHp_pmKqiCSuX-wUsOPdrwCuSEskuII

3 ways how Artificial Intelligence may make women land in trouble by Dr.Debarati Halder

Image curtsy : Google

Information communication technology and digital communication technology have opened up new vistas for human relationships. The innovative technology with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI) can now read minds,[1] predict illness,[2] predict crime occurrence,[3] enhance the professional and social network, and help in better analytical understanding of subjects. But it can also leave devastating impacts on human life. It can alter the data (including personal data), harm social reputation and can even instigate victims to take extreme steps like committing suicide.[4] All these may be done by positive and negative usage   of artificial intelligence which plays the base role for empowering Apps which in turn may be used for positive and negative usages.  Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been used by web companies like Facebook for facial recognition of users earlier. AI has also been used for companies (other than web companies) for processing employee data. In short, AI has been used to access private information of individuals either consensually or without consent. Here are three ways as how AI may create an uncomfortable situation for women specifically in India :

  1. Facial Recognition Apps and harassment of women: Remember the time when Facebook suddenly started asking for nude photos individuals for upgrading their own safety system apparently for providing safety mechanisms for subscribers?[5] This project was intended to build up a safety mechanism against revenge porn with the help of Artificial Intelligence. Facebook wanted to empower their subscribers, especially women to report revenge porn. But before that, the company wanted to ensure that the revenge porn content showcased the image that belonged to the victim specifically. The facial recognition app, the skin texture, hair color, biometric recognition technology would be matching both the images (the nude picture of the victim and the revenge porn content created by the perpetrator) and would be identifying the revenge porn content as illegal. But this project received stern objections because there were more possibilities of misuse of nude photos than positive use of the same. Facebook -Cambridge analytica case did prove that nothing is impossible when it comes to preservation of data by body-corporates and data of individuals is always profitable and the security of the  same is vulnerable. But this may not seem to be as dangerous as misuse of Face App may seem to be . FaceApp is basically used to change the face structure of the person whose photograph would be used in this App. It can change the texture of the skin and density of hair including facial hair.  In July, 2019, FaceApp became the center of concern for Indian cyber security stakeholders especially when several celebrities started using FaceApp and started showcasing their changed faces on Instagram.   While FaceApp was basically being used for fun purposes, it may also throw challenges for data safety and security of person concerned. FaceApp helps to change the structure of faces. But we should not forget that the altered facial image can be saved in devices and cloud of different individuals. This altered image may be used for several illegal activities. Predators may unauthorizedly access the social media profiles and change facial images of the victims to create fake profiles; they may also use such images to create a completely new impersonating profile to harass women. Altered facial images of women may also be used for revenge purposes especially when the victim is looking for opportunities in the entertainment or advertisement sector where her appearance may be considered as her biggest asset. Apart from this, FaceApp may be used to attract bullies and trolls to intensify victimization of women.
  2. Bringing back the memory: No one, but the web companies clearly remember what we posted in last summer. Every day social media companies would show what was posted by the user a year back or a couple of years back and would gently remind the user that he/she can share the said post as a memory. How does it happen? The web companies look for algorithm and the highest likes and comments for posts on daily or even hourly basis. When the posts earn more likes and comments, the AI decides to bring it forth. In certain situations, such refreshing of memories might not be ‘wanted’ at all especially when the victim might had a bitter ending of the relationship with persons in the said image or the text in question may no longer evoke good memories, but rather traumatize the victim more. But machine intelligence does not fail the company: it is a matter of consent and choice after all. But consider if the account is unauthorizedly accessed: the hacker may get to know something from the past which the victim may never wanted the hacker to know.
  3. Reminding the user about best low prices : AI runs over the internet like blood vessels carrying oxygen all over the body. When a user decides to compare prices of any product or services, AI helps to share the same almost always on any platform the user would be visiting. It might be extremely embarrassing for any woman if such searches start showing results when she is surfing the social media or even the search engine with a friend or another individual. Nothing is left by the AI from prices of lipsticks, hotels at cheaper rate, flight details to last watched videos on how to conceive. This might also make women face discrimination, office bullying and harassment due to several reasons.

These are but some of the many ways as how AI may make women to land in trouble. AI is necessarily connected with data privacy protection policies of web companies. The EU General Data Protection Regulation, 2018 provides that personal data may not be processed without the consent of the owner of the data.[6] But in this case, there can be legal tangles as web companies may  claim that they do not breach the data confidentiality or transfer the data to any other jurisdiction, neither they process the data without proper authorization. Here, multiple stakeholders may be involved which may include the original owner of the content or the picture which may have been processed for the purpose of harassment : the perpetrator, who may have carried out changes on the data using the AI supported Apps, perpetrators who may have unauthorizedly  stored the altered contents, picture or information or may have used the altered information, picture for creating impersonating profile etc. As per Indian legal understanding, altering, modifying etc of contents/ information/ image /images without proper authorization of the original owner of the  information etc may attract penal provisions under the Information Technology Act, 2000 (amended in 2008): these provisions may include Ss 43 (Penalty and compensation for damage to computer, computer system etc, ), 66 (computer related offences, 66C (punishment for identity theft) and 66D (punishment by cheating by personation by using computer resource etc. This may also attract penal provisions for Copy Right violation as well. Further, the web companies may be narrowly be liable for protecting data properly under several provisions including S.43A which speaks about body corporates liability to protect data. But irrespective of existing provisions, web companies may always escape the clutches of law due to due diligence clause and on the question of consent expressly or impliedly provided by the woman victim concerned. In the EU, courts are becoming more and more concerned about policy violations by web companies to fool the users. In India too, the courts must throw light on the web companies responsibility as data repository. Regulations like Data protection Bill, 2018 must be considered with utmost care. These may have the key to solve problems of online victimization of women.

Also, women users need to be extremely cautious about machine intelligence. Awareness must be spread about how the hidden ‘safety valves’ of the web companies (which may actually make the web companies more powerful against claims of lack of due diligence) may be used properly.  

Please note: This blog was first published in
https://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/2019/09/3-ways-how-artificial-intelligence-may.html Please note: This blog was first published in


[1] For example, see Nosta John (2019) A.I. Can Now Read Your Thoughts—And Turn Them Into Words and Images. Published @ https://fortune.com/2019/05/07/artificial-intelligence-mind-reading-technology/ on May 7, 2019

[2] For example, see PTI (2019), These AI tools can predict early death risk due to chronic diseases

Published @//economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/68611835.cms?from=mdr&utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst on March 28, 2019

[3] Dearden Lizzi (2017) How technology is allowing police to predict where and when crime will happen. Published @ https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/police-big-data-technology-predict-crime-hotspot-mapping-rusi-report-research-minority-report-a7963706.html?fbclid=IwAR334Z4-1KlkK5Xrt_R6IUaU7K35bANkPLc3RAUhHUeEf-eerZseEJbSofo on October 7, 2017

[4] Halder D., & Jaishankar, K (2016.) Cyber crimes against women in India.

New Delhi: SAGE Publications. ISBN: 9789385985775

[5] See for example Solon Olivia (2017) Facebook asks users for nude photos in project to combat ‘revenge porn’. Published in https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/nov/07/facebook-revenge-porn-nude-photos  on November 7, 2017

[6] For more, see S.7 of the EU GDPR . URL: https://gdpr-info.eu/art-7-gdpr/ Accessed on 17-08-2019

Gender and internet : Cyber law magazine for women News update 1st -20th August, 2019

Israeli Man who harassed underage girls and young women by impersonating as gynecologist, swimming coach etc on internet to groom them only to do sextortion later, tries to escape clutches of law by faking mental illness. Psychological tests prove that he was doing online harassment in a very organised manner. Prosecutors asked the court to put him in custody unless proper legal recourse is decided. https://www.timesofisrael.com/israeli-indicted-for-sexual-abuse-of-45-underage-girls/

Man targets women staff and female HR officials with lewd messages in India, gets arrested http://www.millenniumpost.in/delhi/man-booked-for-sending-obscene-texts-367832

Law fails to deter conman : Man dupes many women on Facebook promising marriage http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/bengaluru/2019/aug/07/man-held-for-cheating-women-on-social-media-2015312.html

Messaging apps being misused to impersonate and send lewd messages to women in India https://www.freepressjournal.in/mumbai/aurangabad-women-approach-police-after-getting-lewd-messages

Dubai police warns beach-goers regarding taking pictures of women without their consent : jail term or hefty fines await law breakers https://www.thenational.ae/uae/government/snap-with-caution-dubai-police-issue-new-warning-to-beachgoers-1.894327

Bitcoin sextortion scamming cases reaches record high https://www.cryptoglobe.com/latest/2019/08/bitcoin-sextortion-scammers-stole-1-2-million-in-bitcoin-last-year/

Female researcher of Makerere University becomes the first person to be convicted under the Computer Misuse Act for offensive communication targeting President Yoweri Museveniof Uganda after she expressed her dissatisfaction when she was acquitted of charges for offensive communication. Apparently, Nyanzi, the researcher has been protesting against abuse of presidential power. https://observer.ug/news/headlines/61520-stella-nyanzi-found-guilty-of-cyber-harassment

Mamata Banerjee, Priyanka Chopra and Aishwarya Rai : What bonds them together and why?

On 14-05-2019 the Supreme Court of India created one more example of broadening the freedom of speech when it ordered for the immediate release of Priaynka  Sharma, a BJP activist. Sharma had allegedly posted a meme of Mamta Banerjee which contained morphed  picture of Mamata Banerjee on Priayanka Chopra’s image that  was taken in Met Gala, 2019. Chopra was heavily trolled for her attire and make-up and several people started created memes with Chopra’s picture.  The Supreme Court on an appeal by the brother of Sharma ordered for an immediate release of Sharma (who was arrested by the West Bengal police) emphasizing the fact that she should apologies to Banerjee because it has hurt her. The court also mentioned that freedom of speech cannot be unfettered when it infringes other’s right.[1]  As per the news reports, she was however released after 24 hours.

This is not the first time in India that someone got arrested for ‘posting’ images/comments etc  on social media which apparently questions/defames/teases political personalities including members of the ruling government  party. After the coming into effect of the amended version of  Information technology Act, 2000 (amended in 2008), S.66A (which prescribed punishment for offensive, annoying etc. speech) has been over and again used by the police to arrest individuals who had posted comments which apparently questioned/ridiculed/defamed/teased political personalities. Before S.66A could have been properly interpreted, [2] the Supreme Court felt that the provision was being grossly misused for the ill drafting and in Shreya Singhal vs Union of India, the apex court ruled it unconstitutional.  In the recent Mamata Banerjee meme case, Supreme court stuck to its earlier understanding that no arbitrary arrest may be made for posting contents on social media targeting particular political personalities (including those in the ruling government parties) because this hampers freedom of speech.  Let me also state here that Banerjee has sister -politician who had been ‘victims’ of memes : she is none other than German chancellor Angela Merkel whose  latest memes appeared with Narendra Modi  when the BJP official website got hacked.  There is rarely any information available whether Merkel had made the police arrest the individuals who had been creating or sharing the memes including the morphed images of Merkel.  

My concern here however does not cover the repetition of the act of Mamata Banerjee government in arresting individuals targeting political personalities including herself.  I look at the issue from two perspectives here: (i) morphing the image of a woman and thereby creating/distributing/sharing the same as a non-consensual image (and not nonconsensual pornography); (ii) who should be ideally liable and under which law, and whether this issue attracts any legal liablity or not.  As the reports and the  image in question (which is still available when we search with key words such Mamata Banerjee meme ) suggests , it was not one, but two women were targeted : Priyanka Chopra, the original person in the image, who was heavily trolled because of her Met Gala, 2019  attire  and Mamata Banerjee, whose  face was morphed with the picture of Priyanka Chopra . Priyanka Chopra has not yet filed any police complaint for trolling; neither she has filed any complaint for morphing her picture.  It was not the same case for Banerjee:  she made it sure that the individual who shared the image should get arrested  under several provisions of Information Technology Act, 2000 (amended in 2008) including S.500 of the Indian Penal Code which prescribes punishment for defamation. The news reports however did not mention about the specific provisions of IT Act under which she was arrested. Noticeably, neither Information Technology Act, nor Indian Penal Code recognizes any offence of’ ‘morphing’. The term does not find any mention in any law. Further, the existing laws neither specifically focuses attention for creation of  morphed image  of women for  damaging her reputation. However, cutting and pasting  of face is holistically addressed under several laws including Indecent Representation of women prevention Act (especially when the content is used to show case women in an indecent manner), S.509 of the IPC (which prescribes punishment for word, gesture, or any act made to insult the modesty of a woman), Ss66D( Punishment for cheating by personation by using computer resource) 66E Punishment for violation of privacy) etc, which may be coupled with Ss.. 67 (Punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form) or 67A ( Punishment for publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act, etc., in electronic form), (this is especially when the image or related text suggests sexual offences ) or S.354 C IPC (which prescribes punishment for voyeurism targeting women). A minute scrutiny of these provisions may suggest that they may loosely  skirt around the concept of anti-defamation law as well especially when the reputation of the targeted victim is at stake due to the content  created/transmitted .

In this political memes targeting women (and ridiculing them), one more celebrity woman Aishwarya Rai now joins with  Mamata Banerjee and Priyanka Chopra. Rai was featured in a meme created and shared  by another actor from the film industry who, the media reports suggest, had an emotional bondage with Aishwarya Rai before she got married to her present husband Abhishek Bacchan. Rai’s meme showcases not one , but three  photos with texts which had been the center of debate and ‘amusement’ for many. The first photo shows Rai with Salman Khan, a prominent actor of Bollywood who had a relationship with Rai many years back when she was a debutant in Bollywood. She reportedly came out of the relationship because of physical abuses and harassment. This photo has a caption which reads ‘opinion poll’. The next is with Vivek Oberoi, who has allegedly created the meme. This has a caption which reads ‘exit poll’ and the last in the line is Rai’s family photo with her husband and daughter, which reads ‘result’. Noticeably, this meme attracted attention of many because this centered around a celebrity woman actor who is supposed to be one of world’s most beautiful women. She has been trolled many times earlier. But this is probably the first time that she, her husband  and her minor daughter are pulled in for political meme. Oberoi was slammed by many of his fellow Bollywood women actors who considered this as disgraceful, classless, disgusting etc.[3] While accepting the fact that Rai is a favorite subject for trolls for many years, what no one understood in this was, Rai’s daughter does not deserve this as a child. Even though as a celebrity child, she and her mother  had been trolled; could anyone understand how her right to privacy and basic child rights have been violated ? That’s the curse of being the daughter of a celebrity mother which follows all children of all women celebrities including women actors, politicians, sports persons etc.

As such, both Mamata Bannerjee , Priayanka  Chopra and Aishwarya Rai could have availed any of these laws mentioned above if they were not public figures and if the photographs that had been the major issue here, had been their personal  photographs or it would have been created specifically for sexual gratification which happens to most of the women actors.[4]

Then in that case, if the photographs were their personal properties, could they have pursued the police for arrest?    We have to turn our attention to chapter IV of the Copyright Act, 1957 for this : three sub clauses of S.17 attract my attention here which are as follows:

17. First owner of copyright.— Subject to the provisions of this Act, the author of a work shall be the first

owner of the copyright therein:

Provided that—

(a) in the case of a literary, dramatic or artistic work made by the author in the course of his

employment by the proprietor of a newspaper, magazine or similar periodical under a contract of

service or apprenticeship, for the purpose of publication in a newspaper, magazine or similar

periodical, the said proprietor shall, in the absence of any agreement to the contrary, be the first

owner of the copyright in the work in so far as the copyright relates to the publication of the work

in any newspaper, magazine or similar periodical, or to the reproduction of the work for the

purpose of its being so published, but in all other respects the author shall be the first owner of the

copyright in the work;

 (b) subject to the provisions of clause (a), in the case of a photograph taken, or a painting or portrait

drawn, or an engraving or a cinematograph film made, for valuable consideration at the instance of

any person, such person shall, in the absence of any agreement to the contrary, be the first owner of

the copyright therein;

(c) in the case of a work made in the course of the author’s employment under a contract of service or apprenticeship, to which clause (a) or clause (b) does not apply, the employer shall, in the absence of any agreement to the contrary, be the first owner of the copyright therein;

Neither Priyanka Chopra, nor Mamata Banerjee claimed that the photographs in question were their personal photographs which they ‘owned’ as per Copyright Act. The photographs were then properties of different persons or agencies who probably had captured both the women with consent.  Given this fact, neither (especially Banerjee) may proceed to complaint for arresting unless it has harmed her reputation or caused her financial loss or caused grave threat. Here, we must note that the Supreme Court has very narrowly touched upon the private sentiment of  Banerjee when it stated that such production and sharing of photograph may have infringed her right (not any specific right, but understandably it was largely right to reputation under Right to Life with dignity).   But what the court failed to note here was the liability of the website where it was published and shared. Websites like Facebook however may not count this as impersonation (again we have to go back to the understanding as who is ‘owner’ of the photograph) unless the image has been used to grossly defame the person whose photo is involved. The websites would neither recognize this as offensive if seen from the perspective of US laws of Freedom of speech which is extremely broad. This has been the major concern for many women victims of morphing, revenge porn and nonconsensual porn throughout the world.  In India the due diligence clause under S. 79 of the Information Technology Act (exemptions from liability of intermediary in certain cases) had been a major savvier for  US based web companies like Facebook or Twitter when it comes to liability of websites for offences including generating /continuing the harassment of women for nonconsensual photographs.   There is however one more solution from EU : Article 13 of the EU directives on Copyright in the single market[5] which makes the websites liable for illegal hosting of contents if they do not acquire license from the right holders of such contents. This means that the third party liability in offensive and illegal content sharing becomes more stringent as per the EU copyright Law. But in India such laws are not yet implemented or executed.

What we see from the above discussion is, Supreme Court has yet again broadened the meaning of freedom of speech, but failed to provide guidelines which may have strengthened rights of women who may be victimized by way of morphing in general. The court was in a hurry to undo the wrong of a political persona and the police who may have acted under her direction. But failed to create a lasting (and impressive) interpretation of  laws which could have saved millions of women victims of nonconsensual  images.

  • This blog was earlier published in Halder.Debarati (2019)Mamata Banerjee, Priyanka Chopra and Aishwariya Rai  : What bonds them together and why. Published in  http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com

[1] Singh V.P. (2019) Mamta Banerjee Meme: What For Did The SC Ask Priyanka Sharma To Apologise?

https://www.livelaw.in/columns/mamta-banerjee-meme-what-for-did-the-sc-ask-priyanka-sharma-to-apologise-145069 . Published on May 15, 2019

[2] See Mamata Banerjee meme: SC grants bail to BJP worker Priyanka Sharma, asks her to apologise after release. Published in https://www.indiatoday.in/elections/lok-sabha-2019/story/mamata-banerjee-meme-bjp-worker-bail-west-bengal-priyanka-supreme-court-1524467-2019-05-14   on May 14, 2019.

[3] See ET online (2019)Vivek Oberoi tweet Aishwarya Rai’s meme; Sonam Kapoor, Jwala Gutta lash out at actor

Published @//economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/69413084.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst on May 21, 2019. Accessed on May 21, 2019

[4] 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.

ISSN: 14506637

[5] See Art 13 in the DIRECTIVE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL

on copyright in the Digital Single Market @ https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A52016PC0593

Duping women in the name of matured friendship: The Pollachi sextortion case

CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DEBARATI HALDER

Couple of days back I received a friends request on FaceBook from a male profile whom I do not know either personally or through any of my networks. But the profile was apparently very impressing : the man was an alumni of Oxford University , works in Mercedes Benz company and he is better looking than the average. From  my experience as a cybercrime victim counsellor , lawyer and a cyber right activist for more than a decade now  I could understand that this may be one of many fake profiles that are created to allure women (and not necessarily  young girls) to trap them and victimize them through online and offline crimes including sexual crimes. It is an obvious phenomena now that women, especially educated women are using social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc for expanding their network  for various purposes including Job searching, getting connected with like-minded people, expanding their research network , volunteering for social causes etc.  
In the recently held #Webwonderwomen award ceremony in Delhi, the Ministry of Women and Child affairs awarded 30 women including myself the #Webwonderwomen award for positively using social media (especially Twitter), spreading awareness about the social causes they are working on and their real life support for women empowerment all across India. It was a joint initiative of Ministry of Women and Child affairs, Twitter and Breakthrough India. My fellow awardees work in different fields of public health, women’s health, right to breast feeding, women empowerment, journalism especially for the causes of women, proper nutrition for women, education for women and girls especially in socio-economically backward sectors of the society, empowering women of all age group from socio-economically backward sectors  about their rights against domestic violence, sexual reproduction rights etc.  All of them could actually make their journey stronger because of positive use of social media. I too have been using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc  to get connected with  people who have become my knowledge partners, mentors and friends in the field of law and policy especially for Cyber Victimology, Cyber law for women, Cyber Criminology, Revenge Porn, Non consensual porn,  Women’s Rights, Child Rights, Criminal law, Penology, Therapeutic Jurisprudence  etc.  It would not have been possible for me reach to the world about my work including my pro bono work without social media and the friends that I have made. I consider myself privileged to have 24 hours  access to internet  and a platform where I can share my opinion bravely, gather information without any fear and build a reputation.  Some of my fellow awardees  could win this award staying in remote places because they are well connected with the world through internet and social media.  Internet as such has given a platform to earn money in a positive way too. Consider thousands of women who make daily/weekly/monthly  Vlogs and upload it on Youtube . They have their recognition as “Youtuber” and YouTube duly recognizes their “popularity” (marketability) by awarding and rewarding them.
But still then, internet is not safe for women.  The Pollachi case proved it again.  Pollachi is the second largest town in Coimbatore district in Tamil Nadu.  This place is famous for its world famous jaggery  market and beautiful lush green agricultural fields. One would actually not imagine that this can be a center for news on cyber crimes against women, but it has now surfaced because of a brave young woman who had lodged a complaint against  the  smart gang of men who had been “enjoying” sex by way of connecting with women through fake profiles (mostly of women), grooming them to enter into chats and sharing more details, turning the chats into typical sex chats and then alluring them to come and meet in person. In my book Cyber crimes against women in India (coauthored with  prof(Dr) Jaishankar, Halder D., & Jaishankar K. (November 2016). Cyber Crime against Women in India. New Delhi: SAGE. ISBN: 978-93-859857-7-5.) I had discussed about such kinds of grooming and consequent victimization of women and this can be shown through the flow chart as below:
Image created by Dr.Debarati Halder 
 This brave woman was sexually harassed , molested and assaulted when she went to meet the so called ‘friends’, who had been doing this to many women, recording their sexual assault in their phones and threatening them to leak the clippings if they dare to refuse their demands or to go to the police. The police has now arrested all the four members of the gang applying provisions including Ss. 354A, B of the Indian Penal Code , S.66E of the Information technology Act and S.4 of the  Tamil Nadu Prohibition of harassment of women’s Act. [1]. Let us see what do these provisions say and whether  these Sections may play a pivotal role in delivering justice to women victims such as this brave heart:
S. 354A of the IPC says
(1) “A man committing any of the following acts—
(i)  physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures;
(ii) or a demand or request for sexual favours;
(iii)or showing pornography against the will of a woman;
(iv) or making sexually coloured remarks, shall be guilty of the offence of sexual harassment.
(2) Any man who commits the offence specified in clause (i) or clause (ii) or clause (iii) of sub-section (1) shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
Any man who commits the offence specified in clause (iv) of sub-section (1) shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.
S.354 B of the Indian Penal Code states that
“Any man who assaults or uses criminal force to any woman or abets such act with the intention of disrobing or compelling her to be naked, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than three years but which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.”.
S.66E of the Information technology Act 2000 (amended in 2008) states as follows:
 Punishment for violation of privacy. -Whoever, intentionally or knowingly captures, publishes or transmits the image of a private area of any person without his or her consent, under circumstances violating the privacy of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years or with fine not exceeding two lakh rupees, or with both. Explanation. -For the purposes of this section-
(a) “transmit” means to electronically send a visual image with the intent that it be viewed by a person or persons;
(b) “capture”, with respect to an image, means to videotape, photograph, film or record by any means;
(c) “private area” means the naked or undergarment clad genitals, pubic area, buttocks or female breast;
(d) “publishes” means reproduction in the printed or electronic form and making it available for public; e) “under circumstances violating privacy” means circumstances in which a person can have a reasonable expectation that;-
(i) he or she could disrobe in privacy, without being concerned that an image of his private area was being captured; or
(ii) any part of his or her private area would not be visible to the public, regardless of whether that person is in a public or private place.
Section 4 of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment Act states as follows:
Penalty for harassment of woman: Whoever commits or participates in or abets harassment of woman in or within the precincts of any educational institution, temple or other place of worship, bus stop, road, railway station, cinema theatre, park, beach, place of festival, public service vehicle or vessel or any other place shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine which shall not be less than ten thousand rupees.”
Noticeably, this provision may have been used for punishing the accused for committing the crime in the “specific place”; for secluding the victim from her  ‘comfort zone’ where she could have raised an alarm for help and committing the crime in a place which may be a public place or a moving vehicle from where the victim may not escape easily. 
The other news report suggested that the District Collector had ordered for detention of the accused under Goondas Act (officially known as Tamil Nadu Prevention of  Dangerous Activities of Bootleggers, Drug offenders, Goondas, Immoral traffic offenders, Sand offenders, Slum grabbers, and Video pirates Act, 1985) .[2]In my earlier blog I had explained how Goondas Act can be relevant in cyber offences by stating that this law can be very relevant especially where crimes including committing or attempting to commit extortion of money , threatening for the same, cheating, etc are involved.[3]
However, I have not seen any news report indicating that S.67A of the Information Technology Act (amended in 2008) was used for booking of the offences or not. This Section speaks about   Punishment for publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act, etc., in electronic form and says “Whoever publishes or transmits or causes to be published or transmitted in the electronic form any material which contains sexually explicit act or conduct shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees and in the event of second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years and also with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees”. It does not necessarily speak about creating such content by clicking the images and this has to be inferred from the provision itself. However, this lacuna has been partly covered by S.66E of the Information technology Act which speaks about violating the privacy of any individual.

Clearly, this is not a case of revenge porn, but a case of non consensual porn especially when the accused persons would have stored the clipping of sexual assault of the woman concerned with an intention of visual sexual gratification through the clipping/s and also to use it for future threatening or creating/producing sexually explicit contents on internet . But unfortunately the laws are still handicapped in this regard when it comes to grooming and sextortion. There is no law which may holistically cover the whole issue of grooming women for sexual gratification , which is narrowly addressed in the POCSO Act. Here lies the major lacuna which may have motivated many for victim blaming. 
Women like Pollachi brave heart would not have created “virtual friendship” with another unknown man or woman unless the perpetrator would have customized the fake profile to gain trust. This could have been done by thorough data mining about the victim/s.  apparently the victims of this gang were adult women including doctors, teachers etc. Such perpetrators look for their prey from social media profiles who may have not taken full precautions to protect their albums, posts, friend lists and above all the email ids and/or the  phone numbers  which  are used for accessing social media through phones. This ignorance may invite major risks as this particular case. However, social media site is also to be blamed for not monitoring the creation of fake profiles which they would not necessarily scan unless someone reports the profile as fake.
This case should have a happy ending and this can be possible only when this particular  victim and other victims of this gang cooperate with the prosecution till the end and the police uses its legal power to extract all evidences from the social media website. We as civil society members are also responsible to make a happy ending of this case : please do not circulate the images of the victim/s if in case you are conveyed the images from any number, profile etc. Such circulation would also attract penal provisions against the person who may not be directly involved in the case, but may circulate it thinking that it is “fun” to circulate such images, or he/she is doing the same to make the society aware that such crimes have happened. We all should respect the privacy of the victims and at the same time praise the victims for breaking social taboo  and reporting the matter to the police.
Stop cybercrimes against women. Start positive usage of social media .
Please note : Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use information provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2019),Duping women in the name of matured friendship: The Pollachi sextortion case  ” 12th March, 2019 , published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com