Tag: cyber stalking

Human Rights on cyber space during the challenging time by Dr.Debarati Halder

Picture Courtesy : Internet

Dr.Debarati Halder

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:

  1. 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.[1]  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.[2] 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,[3] 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.

Please note: Please do not violate the copyright of this write up. If you need to cite it, please cite it as Halder Debarati(2020). “Human Rights on cyber space during the challenging time”. Published in https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/internetlegalstudies.com/576 on 30th May, 2020


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

New Delhi: SAGE Publications. ISBN: 9789385985775

[2] https://www.indiatvnews.com/entertainment/news/tiktok-star-faisal-shaikh-mr-faisu-trouble-vilolence-against-women-complaint-filed-latest-video-619610

[3] https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-35240987

Gender and Internet : Web magazine for Cyber law for women News update for January 27th-February 9, 2020

In a first, Madras High Court refuses to quash a case against Airtel as a service provider and directs the trial court to conduct trial for finding out liability of the service provider for continuous sending of unwanted messages of sexual nature to an Airtel subscriber.
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/obscene-messages-airtel-to-face-trial-as-hc-refuses-to-quash-case/articleshow/73944935.cms

Basildon Crown Court, UK awards 32 months jail sentence to man who hacked into iCloud and leaked private images of women and girls online. The prison sentence is awarded in relation to 12 computer misuse offences, nine counts of voyeurism and five counts of taking indecent images of children.
https://digit.fyi/suffolk-man-jailed-for-hacking-icloud-and-sharing-indecent-images-online/

Saudi divorced woman arrested for ‘indecent’ posts on social media which includes encouraging women to leave their husband when certain demands are not fulfilled, hosting matchmaking, showcasing women dancing and smoking in public. The activities have been considered as criminal activities as per Saudi laws.
https://stepfeed.com/saudi-woman-arrested-for-posting-illicit-content-on-snapchat-8974

Two men from a reputed family in West Bengal target 182 women by way of stalking, hacking, voyeurism etc. Police arrests the offenders under several provisions of Indian Penal Code, Information Technology Act
https://news.abplive.com/tv-show/sansani/kolkata-men-arrested-for-blackmailing-182-women-sansani-1155439


Woman CEO receives constant vulgar messages from fake email ids. Accused arrested for cyber stalking in India
https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/080220/saree-designer-cyberstalks-woman-ceo-arrested.html

Computer: Basic legal understanding

BY : Dr.Debarati Halder, LL.B., M.L., Ph.D(Law)(NLSIU, Bangalore)

During the Board Exams in 2019, several exam centers across the country including Gujarat, found unique “cheating” ways by student examinees: many had smart watches which was used to download the answers. They had apparently accessed the answers by simply tapping on the watches which revealed the answers; some had gone to the wash rooms and clicked pictures of the question papers to send circulate it to their aides who would instantly send them the answers via communication apps.[1]

We can see here two types of “computers” : a smart watch which would not only show time and date, but also can store images/contents and display the same through its screen; a general mobile phone which can take pictures, store the images, circulate information, receive signals and information and display the same to the user. As such, the meaning of the word “computer” has been  expanded to include many things which previously were not considered as a “computer”.

Computer is an inherent part of our lives now. It has not only made our lives easy, it has also created many security risks as well. While many may agree with the first part of the above mentioned statement, they may not agree with the second part of the statement : the main reason behind this is, many may not know the basic definition of computer as per legal terms. Popularly, the term computer has many simple definitions; for example, according to Cambridge dictionary, computer is an electronic machine that is used for storing, organizing, and finding words, numbers, and pictures, for doing calculations, and for controlling other machines.[2] Again, whenever anyone searches the meaning of computer on Google, one of the first definition that appears is computer is  “an electronic device which is capable of receiving information (data) in a particular form and of performing a sequence of operations in accordance with a predetermined but variable set of procedural instructions (program) to produce a result in the form of information or signals”.[3]

 The definitions would show the common understanding about computer. Hence it may be explained as follows:

  • It is an electronic device.
  • It can receive, store and process certain data or information
  • It may be operating under the command of certain person
  • It needs to have procedural instructions for operation
  • It can control other machines
  • It can be connected with devices
  • It may necessarily have input and output devices

Computer therefore may mean any electronic  device which may perform several functions of receiving information, storing, processing etc of data and performing some other functions  including operating other machines which may get connected with the main computer through electro-magnetic  mechanisms. Seeing from modern perspectives, computer may necessarily mean an electronic magnetic device which may be connected with internet.

Presently, computer is being considered as one of mechanism to perform crimes online as well as offline.  But computer as a machine may never be considered as a “perpetrator “because this is infact “used” to commit crimes. It is therefore necessary to understand how the term has been defined by laws:

The 2001 EU Convention on Cyber Crimes, also known as Budapest convention, defines “computer system” as follows:

  • Any device or a group of interconnected or related devices,
  • one or more of which, pursuant to a program,
  • Performs automatic processing of data.

What we get from it is, computer system means

Now let us see how the Indian Information Technology Act, 2000(amended in 2008) defines it:

S.2(i)  of the Information Technology Act , 2000(amended in 2008) defines the term “Computer” .  it says  “Computer” means any electronic, magnetic, optical or other high-speed  data processing device or system which performs logical, arithmetic, and  memory functions by manipulations of electronic, magnetic or optical  impulses, and includes all input, output, processing, storage, computer  software, or communication facilities which are connected or related to the  computer in a computer system or computer network

Hence, this definition explains the term from 4 main aspects:

  • Nature : any electronic, magnetic, optical or other high-speed  data processing device or system
  • What does it perform :  performs logical, arithmetic, and  memory functions
  • How does it perform the task :  by manipulations of electronic, magnetic or optical  impulses,
  • What else can it do: and includes all input, output, processing, storage, computer  software, or communication facilities which are connected or related to the  computer in a computer system or computer network.

As such, it may be seen that there are several devices which may be termed as “computer”, including:

  • A simple mobile phone which is not a smart phone, but can store data like phone numbers, SMSs, images etc.
  • Smart phones
  • Smart digital cameras
  • Ipads, laptops, desktops, pen drives, smart TVs , Smart toys etc.
  • Any other electronic gadget which has the facilities of input, output, processing, storage, computer  software, or communication facilities which are connected or related to the  computer in a computer system or computer network

All of these can be used for committing cybercrimes including monetary crimes, crimes against women and children, crimes involving infringing privacy, cyber stalking and even cyber terrorism.

Hence, be careful while buying and activating all electronic gadgets, buying second hand gadgets and also while using such gadgets. Misuse of such gadgets for ulterior purposes may attract imprisonment which may be as high as life imprisonment in certain cases.

Stay safe, be safe !

Note: Please do not violate the copyright of this blog. If you wish to use it for your assignment/ writeup/ research etc, please refer  it as Halder Debarati (2019) Computer: Basic legal understanding. Published in Gender and Internet @ https://internetlegalstudies.com on 11-03-2019


[1] See for more @https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/education/news/board-exam-2019-students-caught-with-smart-watch-and-mobile/articleshow/68338515.cms Accessed on 10.03.2019

[2] See https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/computer. Accessed on 02-01.2019

[3] Retrieved from https://www.google.com/search?rlz=1C1CHBF_enIN822IN822&biw=1366&bih=608&q=Dictionary#dobs=computer  on 02.01.2019

Women’s Day, 2019 : Views of a #webwonderwoman

webwonderpic

Picture Curtsy: https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/centre-honours-30-web-wonder-women-for-driving-reforms-via-social-media-2003833?fbclid=IwAR0h6TDvuaPHOP_mFZuq2Z3Tbk8szdy–8inqBOiBqhd4bVpo7rTudLeY1s

 

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.[1]

“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”.

 

[1] 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.

 

Please Note: This blog was first posted @   “Halder D. (2019), ” Women’s Day, 2019 : Views of a #webwonderwoman”  8th March, 2019 ,@https://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/2019/03/womens-day-2019-views-of-webwonderwoman.html?spref=fb&fbclid=IwAR1-zH4VuTEEisNLYWogvHvMDOfWDduzkGWvlRl05_CzfopCRtF9OJ3tLTc

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Why cyber bullying should never be taken as a holistic term for cyber harassment

CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DEBARATI HALDER

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.” 
Seeing from the above perspectives we can see several stages of cyber 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

The Facebook way of saving “face” : The profile picture guard by Facebook

CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DEBARATI HALDER

Long back in 2005 when I was newly introduced to a very popular social media “orkut”, I proudly showed off my profile with my own picture  which was clicked during a family wedding. Internet communication technology was new to India and we women were regularly being targeted because of the easy availability of our presence. This was largely due to lack of security in the social media as well as internet. We did not have two step verification for Gmail; Yahoo chat messenger, which was extremely popular during those days, almost made everyone’s personal information that were uploaded for the website, available to anyone who wanted access the user. It was during that period that I learnt about cloning of profiles which were made to harass individuals, especially women. The profiles may not be hacked, may neither be directly accessed by way of sending friends’ request; but the profile pictures may be downloaded and a new profile may be created with the available profile picture and profile information. Way back in 2006-7 I already had several women victims who contacted me for help and guidance. Almost all of them had common problem : harassment by way of creation of fake avatars. I have been part of the feminist movement which vehemently protested making women as ‘sex object’ on internet. Indeed women are made as ‘sex objects’ and they are regularly targeted by  misogynists, perverts and online traffickers who may selectively pick up women and girls by seeing their profiles, profile pictures and shadowing their online activities.
Let me go back to my own experiences where I received the first harassing comment (which was not stalking, neither resulted due to hacking) which was plainly nothing but ‘bullying’. My first profile picture in Orkut received a remark which mocked at my supposedly ‘over made-up   face’ and ‘blood red lipstick’. I knew this was just the beginning and if reciprocated, the bully may be extremely provoked to reply back. But this was not the first and last incident. I have received various negative comments, I have had my own period of being victim of a female stalker who monitored me and did send defamatory mails about me to my husband and again I had noticed several attempts to open Facebook accounts with my name and email ids. The later was detected and prevented by me because I never neglect the security messages sent by websites in my mails.
In my research I have seen that often the police and lawyers refuse to help the women victims and start the blame game. This is because they may not be aware of the mechanism to help and counsel the victims. In my opinion, websites must also be made responsible for third party victimization of women especially when the genuine reports of violation fail to move the websites.   However, the websites concerned, may constantly develop safety policy guidelines for users to make the users take self prevention mechanisms. I have been part of Facebook women safety program for quite some times now.  I continue to demand for more liability on the part of the websites especially for women and this time my concern was safety of profile pictures of women.  I was extremely happy to see the developments in the security and policies of Facebook which was introduced in India on 22ndJune, 2017: ‘The profile picture guard’. Every woman must avail this opportunity to safeguard their profile picture since this is the most chosen target of all the images that may be uploaded by a user. The step by step guide to how to use this ‘guard’ is explained by Facebook team @ https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2017/06/giving-people-more-control-over-their-facebook-profile-picture/
However, I understand that it is not the women only, but children are also extremely vulnerable targets of sexual predators. Men are neither excluded. All users must use this facility and it may definitely help to reduce ‘image stealing’ for various malicious purposes including morphing, hacking and creation of fake avatars. But we need to understand that is not the ultimate answer to prevent revenge porn cases. While image of an individual may be saved because Facebook may detect the particular stolen image easily after receiving the report, there is a still remains a lacuna for other photographs which are in the personal albums. We must also note that the website will not suomotu take action for the cloned or stolen images. The victim must report the profile and the concerned profile picture along with the “shielded picture” as evidence.

Its nonetheless a big step in the history of cyber security for women and I congratulate Facebook for taking this initiative. But again, ……… accidents do happen and we need to be stronger to recover.
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), “The Facebook way of saving “face” : The profile picture guard by Facebook”  23rd June, 2017, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com

A new era with the Criminal Law Ordinance Bill, 2013? Can women really claim to be safe?

CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DEBARATI HALDER

Since the news of cabinet nod for the criminal law amendment ordinance Bill, 2013 has been aired by media channels this afternoon, so many of us women have started feeling “secured”. We can now expect to have a formal law which not only addresses stringent punishment for rape, but also finally recognised several crimes like stalking, voyeurism, acid attack etc. The list does not end here; as I mentioned in my invited presentation in the national women’s day seminar at Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Youth Development on 8thMarch, this law would also recognise an ancient crime against women, namely ‘publicly disrobing a woman’. I wonder why this took such a long time to be recognised as a serious crime when the first “reported” victim was none other than Draupadi, the Pandava queen in the mythological epic the Mahabharat. Late but still, we got the law, which in future can expect more research. Right now, many news channels are running live shows on debates over the consent-age for sex. The new law would lower the age of consent for sex to 16. While some are unhappy, some are strongly advising for starting sex-education in schools.
          Analytically, the issues that are addressed in the criminal law ordinance Bill, 2013 are all interwoven. Rape, stalking, acid-attack, disrobing, voyeurism, sexual assault are some of the main issues which come in the first category of crimes that can be done to women other than regular crimes that can be covered under the category of domestic violence. What interests me is, the first category of crimes may directly get connected with a larger ambit of crime, namely cyber crime against women. In my research, as well as in my experience as a counsellor for cyber crime victims I have time and again realised this.  In my invited lecture, I had put a question as to whether this Verma committee report generated criminal law ordinance bill would be a “false promise or a true empowerment of women”? The reasons for my assumption are many folded; a new law can not necessarily stop crimes all together immediately. Given with this, the attitude of the society towards women will neither change within the minute the Bill gets green signal from the cabinet. What ails me more is the lowering of the age of the consent for sex. Provision on voyeurism carries a strong   prohibitory message against any wrong of such nature even if the girl had consented for sex or capturing images of private parts. But did anyone think of women and girls from semi –urban and rural Indian societies? How many schools and colleges run sex education in these places? How many parents would be interested to let their children learn the basics of sexual behaviours from trained counsellors?  As some of the activists were making their points, I support their view on the ground that this might in the other way encourage child marriages. This might also increase the contribution rate to child –pornography industry. Numerous interviews from college students aired by the news channels established one fact: underage individuals including matured teens, young teens and young adult boys and girls do visit porn-sites to satisfy their inquisitiveness to know more about the “forbidden” words ‘SEX’. Undoubtedly, this whole process may include several cases of breach of privacy for women including stalking, voyeurism, disrobing etc, which may perpetually remain out of the boundary of  the existing  as well new laws due to the ‘now on-now off’ nature of the internet technology.
Coming to the basic realities, I wonder how many police officers, lawyers and judges would go ahead with victim’s plea for booking the offences under stalking, voyeurism etc, when many police stations in non-metro cities are not even aware what these terms may mean and (even if they know) how to deal with it. Not to be forgotten that Indian Penal Code is not an independent provision when it comes to these crimes. It needs strong supports of equally focussed Criminal procedure code, Indian Evidence Act and off course the Information Technology Act. Nonetheless, some provisions of these legal codes are sceptical enough to provide good justice to women victims of cyber crimes. I enjoyed some of the interviews of ordinary civil society members, who forced that the education must begin at home for boys and girls. Time and again the need for such awareness creation is felt by people at large. I mentioned in the last segment of my presentation in the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Youth Development that such sorts of awareness camps must be made necessary for  all sects of the society right from the grass roots level civil society member till the  civil servants including the police, the members of judiciary including lawyers. It is only then that people can exchange their problems and find general solutions. Let us hope ……let us work together.
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. (2013),“A new era with the Criminal Law Ordinance Bill, 2013? Can women really claim to be safe?”15th March, 2013, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/

how safe women are in the cyber space?

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.