Tag: cyber victimisation of women

Arnab Goswami, Kunal Kamra and internet governance in India : Where do women victims of cybercrimes stand now? by Dr.Debarati Halder

Picture credit : Debarati Halder

In 2012 the then chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee took a strong a note for Ambarish Mahapatra’s very bold, excessively strong post including a cartoon showcasing Didi and Mukul Roy, who was the then state minister for railways. The cartoon included the railway logo. Mahapatra was arrested in 2012 and later released. In 2015 the courts ordered that Mahapatra should be compensated for the wrongful arrest.[1] Clearly, the court gave a red signal to the West Bengal government for wanting to use executive power to shun critics of the government on internet media. Quite at this time, the courts accepted the arguments of Shreya Singhal for scrapping off S.66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (amended in 2008) which was considered as a draconian law for the bad drafting and equally bad usage of the same by the government. The Supreme Court could have strongly advised for amending the provision which could offer a wonder anti bullying law.[2] But the last stroke was given by the then UP government by arresting a juvenile for his post on internet just before the court could even consider on 66A. The court laid 66A to rest judicially. What lurked on was the issue of usage of government logo in criticism speech.

Why Attorney General of India has to give a consent for contempt of court proceeding for a criticizing speech?  Armed by Shreya SInghal judgement in 2015, many started openly criticizing the government. This is indeed a healthy sign of a strong democracy. In the US the right to criticize the government had remained a celebrated right. Cases like New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 283 (1964) or  Bantam Books, Inc. v. Sullivan, 372 U.S. 58, 70 (1963) has deeply influenced the speech rights which have been taken over by the internet companies including Facebook and Twitter post millennium. First Amendment right to speech and expression became broader over the years giving the internet companies extreme power to deny most of the (non- US) government-backed requests for taking down of contents because according to them such speech did  not violate their policies which were based on US First Amendment guarantees.[3] Twitter however had remained a favorite platform for celebrities, right activists and politicians to express their opinion ‘in short’. This gave rise to use creative, expressive and bold languages to express opinions within 120 words plus ‘threads’. In late September and early November, 2020, social media platforms including Twitter saw a wave of sympathy, hatred and apathy towards the arrest of Arnab Goswamy and his release from the prison on interim bail by the Supreme Court. Goswamy, a journalist and managing director and editor-in –chief of Republic TV, was arrested for alleged abetment for suicide of a Mumbai based designer and his mother.[4] Kunal Kamra, a standup comedian, like many other non-supporters of Goswami had strongly objected for the interim bail of Goswami over Twitter.[5] But this could have been considered as a very normal ‘protest’ by Kamra, provided he would not have pulled in the integrity of Supreme Court of India. His post included a picture of the Supreme Court building covered with saffron color with the flag of the ruling BJP party atop it.  What was wrong in this? (i) Using derogatory remarks towards the integrity and impartial nature of the supreme court while deciding the interim bail application of Goswami ? or (ii) using the picture of the Supreme Court colored in saffron which may indicate its loyalty to a particular community, political party or idealism? Or (iii) morphing the picture of the building by putting the political party’s flag atop the building instead of the tricolor?  

If we take point number (i), we would see that even though the Supreme Court is not a protected entity which should be considered as above free speech especially related to criticism, it has taken strong note against those who had published, posted, uploaded, shared derogatory comments on the integrity of the institution, the judges, personal reputation of the judges and their family members. Justice Karnan’s case is a good example in this regard. This ex-judge of Madras High court was condemned not only by Madras High court, but also by several women lawyer’s associations in India  for sharing sexually explicit and obscene remarks about the female judges and the wives of other judges.[6] The Madras High Court had also asked the social media platforms to remove the contents posted by justice Karnan in this regard. Second and third points definitely attract my attention here as the morphing of the building attracts penal provisions not only from Article 19 (2) of the Constitution of India, which discusses about restriction of free speech under Indian constitution, but also from The Emblems And Names (Prevention Of Improper Use) Act, 1950. The later statute in S. 3 prohibits improper use of certain names and ensembles[7] and this includes emblem and picture of Supreme Court building as well.[8] But we need to note that even though the morphing and re presentation of the building had taken place on Twitter, Information Technology Act, 2000 (amended in 2008) may not be attracted that effectively because of the absence of S.66A .  The issue of Kamra publishing the ‘wrong’ image of Supreme Court is so heavy that it has attracted charges for criminal contempt of court for which the Attorney General of India has consented for initiating the proceedings against Kamra.[9] To a certain extent, this consent may depend on the discretionary power of the Attorney General as well especially when he sees the matter from the perspective of utter disrespect to the institution of Supreme Court. Kamra however maintained that he won’t apologies, neither would he remove his content from Twitter in this regard.[10]

          Here, I cannot hold myself back from mentioning about the plight of millions of women victims of trolling, morphing and revenge porn who may suffer endlessly because of long life of their fake avatars on internet. If only courts and civil society members were much aware about the issue, courts could have taken a strong note of cyber victimization of women as well. But here comes the key player: the web platform.

Twitter in the middle of the storm: Twitter is the platform for the alleged offence committed by Kamra. But quite simultaneously Twitter attracted another ref eye of the government and the courts: Leh, the joint capital of Union territory of Ladakh was recently shown as part of Jammu and Kashmir on Twitter.[11] This indeed attracts a huge public, political and constitutional sentiments after the recent scrapping of Article 370 by the present government of India which made Ladakh (of which Leh is the capital town) a union territory and no more part of Jammu and Kashmir. Twitter was notified and as the existing laws mandate, Twitter may even get suspended if it does not rectify the mistake. But not to forget, including Twitter all the US based social media companies have a wonderful trick to avoid the government and court notices by indicating that ‘they are looking into the matter’. There are hundreds of public interest litigations filed in the Supreme Court on the issue of women and child safety on internet and the responsibility of the internet companies. In almost all cases, all the companies escaped the clutches of S. 69 B (power to issue notice for blocking the website/contents etc) by the very slippery gateway of S.79 of the Information technology Act (exemption from liability of intermediary to certain cases).

Be it the case of Kunal Kamra or anyone else who may be victimizing anyone including private individuals or the highest courts of judicature, social media companies will remain as they have remained, being the chosen platform of the government to have a handle to encourage accessibility of justice, good governance etc.

Comes the decision of internet regulation by State made laws: Amidst all these pandemonium, the Indian government literally blew the bugle against millions of free speech activists when it announced about the decision for internet regulation by state made laws.[12] The ministry of Information and Broad casting may extend their jurisdiction to internet media if this decision is fructified. The free speech advocates fear that this decision may result in situations like the 1975-77 emergency period where the then prime minister tried to gag the free speech and expression rights of print and television media. Their apprehension is not baseless because this decision comes at a time when police is seen busy to manage issues related several fake news and fake avatars of the ruling and opposition political parties and net streaming which speak about sex .  But this decision, if fructified, may also bring cheers to women victims of misogynist trolls, fake avatar, revenge porn, nonconsensual porn as well.  While many may fear that such regulation may chock free flowing of adult contents, we must not forget that our courts once refused to provide a blanket ban on porn provided it is viewed by the viewer without offending anyone and the content is made legally with consenting adult actors. However the fear and apprehension weighs more than the cheers because the government may not always abide by the court rulings: the best example is, statutorily S.66A is in deep coma, but not dead.

Hope continues for women victims? But the tussle over the moral wrong of ‘to watch or to block the entire content’ or the heavy examples set by Attorney General of India for a morphed photograph of the building of Supreme Court and derogatory comments about the institution itself probably cannot minimize online victimization of women who undergo morphing and are targeted with hate speech on internet vigorously. I hope such strong actions touch the issue of cyber victimization of women and girls strongly. If internet is to be regulated, let it be so judiciously and for proper causes.

[1] See for more in https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/double-the-compensation-of-jadavpur-professor-arrested-for-circulating-mamata-cartoons-court-tells-g-745593

[2] Halder, Debarati, A Retrospective Analysis of Section 66A: Could Section 66A of the Information Technology Act be Reconsidered for Regulating ‘Bad Talk’ in the Internet? (August 24, 2015). Halder Debarati (2015) A RETROSPECTIVE ANALYSIS OF SECTION 66 A: COULD SECTION 66 A OF THE INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ACT BE RECONSIDERED FOR REGULATING “BAD TALK” IN THE INTERNET? Published in Indian Student Law Review (ISLR) 2015 (1) PP 99-128 ISSN 2249-4391, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2650239 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2650239

[3] For example, see https://in.reuters.com/article/us-singapore-politics-malaysia-scandal/facebook-refuses-singapore-request-to-remove-post-after-critical-website-blocked-idINKCN1NF05T, orhttps://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-hate-speech-india-politics-muslim-hindu-modi-zuckerberg-11597423346  

[4] https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/arnab-goswami-arrested-for-allegedly-abetting-suicide-of-interior-designer-say-police-news-agency-pti-2320301

[5] https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/dont-intend-to-retract-my-tweets-or-apologize-kunal-kamra-responds-to-ags-consent-for-contempt-against-him-165857

[6] See https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/2020/nov/10/madras-high-court-orders-removal-of-derogatory-videos-made-by-former-hc-judge-cs-karnan-2221987.html

[7] S.3 of  The Emblems And Names (Prevention Of Improper Use) Act, 1950 states as follows: 3. Prohibition of improper use of certain emblems and names.—Notwithstanding anything

contained in any law for the time being in force, no person shall, except in such cases and under such

conditions as may be prescribed by the Central Government, use or continue to use, for the purpose of any

trade, business, calling or profession, or in the title of any patent, or in any trade mark or design, any

name or emblem specified in the Schedule or any colourable imitation thereof without the previous

permission of the Central Government or such officer of Government as may be authorised in this behalf

by the Central Government.

[8] See S.17 of the Schedule attached to The Emblems And Names (Prevention Of Improper Use) Act, 1950 , which includes the followings in the prohibited list: namely, “The name of the Parliament or the Legislature of any State, or the Supreme Court, or the High Court of any State, or the Central Secretariat, or the Secretariat of any State Government or any other Government Office or the pictorial representation of any building occupied by any of the aforesaid institutions”.

[9]See  https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/dont-intend-to-retract-my-tweets-or-apologize-kunal-kamra-responds-to-ags-consent-for-contempt-against-him-165857

[10] See ibid

[11] See https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/twitter-risks-suspension-over-leh-map-error/articleshow/79201328.cms

[12] See https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/nov/11/india-to-regulate-netflix-and-amazon-streaming-content?fbclid=IwAR11PXTEutFHo6VjsPy7tteOFyRweprK6vALKMNtNpBQZEF5tAeLIQyJejw

Please do not violate the copyright of this writeup. Please cite it as Halder Debarati (2020).Arnab Goswami, Kunal  Kamra and internet governance in India: where do women victims of cybercrimes  stand now? published in Gender & Internet : web magazine for cyber law for women @ https://internetlegalstudies.com/2020/11/14/arnab-goswami-kunal-kamra-and-internet-governance-in-india-where-do-women-victims-of-cybercrimes-stand-now-by-dr-debarati-halder/ on 14th November, 2020

Virtual women trafficking sets in : be aware


Using commercial web portals for on-line buying and selling is the new trend that is gripping India fast. For long there were questions of credibility of the on-line classifieds and e-commerce portrayals and many had complained after they were duped by such on-line classifieds. I myself had received and still receive many complaints of fraudulent promises on such web portals, awful customer care responses, delay in completion of the contract or even duping of prospective buyers by ‘vanishing sellers’  once the payment has been made. Typically there are several categories of perpetrators and basically one group of victims; namely the prospective buyers; rather there ‘were’ !  but the power of world wide web proved more than legendary criticism by jean Louis De Lolme  about the  British parliament which says “Parliament can do everything but make woman a man and a man a woman”. Numerous instances are there where World Wide Web had brought in huge surprises including declaring alive men dead, turning innocent children into porn materials and making brilliant students millionaires. But not to forget, it has also brought in virtual women trafficking; a trend that may not have gained major highlights due to erasing nature of the evidences. In the west, Craigslist was one such site which was being used for victimising women by creating the victim’s fake avatars (Halder Debarati,Examining the Scope of Indecent Representation of Women (Prevention) Act, 1986 in the Light of Cyber Victimization of Women in India (May25, 2013). National Law School Journal,Vol. 11, 2013, pp. 188-218 . Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2270061) as one who solicits for sex; the on-line classified site was being misused  by perpetrators who for taking revenge over jilted affair, floated women’s private address, phone numbers and sometimes their very private sexual preferences which would have known  only by the perpetrator himself. There had been instances when such advertisement had lead to rape of the victim by strangers who dropped in at the address provided by the perpetrator. Criaglist started monitoring the contribution of such kinds, especially usage of the same as a dating site when some researchers pointed out how the site was becoming a notorious choice for sexual victimisation women.
        In India for long, on-line victimisation of women had been restricted to social networking sites like Facebook and some adult dating sites. Usage of commercial web-portals for victimisation of women was not  a  ‘trend’ until recently when some one used popular on-line classified Olx.com to actually advertise for  selling  a woman for a paltry sum of Rupees two thousand (see http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-10-30/india/43526620_1_advertisement-police-station-portal). The advertisement was complete with a photograph of the woman and a corresponding name and phone number of the ‘agent’. Interestingly, the ‘agent’ was none other than another victim of identity theft who claimed that his name has been maliciously used to victimise him. The news media contacted the victim of identity theft and later the country manager of the online classified; subsequently the ad was removed. But now, consider the fate of the woman whose photograph was floated as the main subject of virtual women trafficking. May be, the photograph could have been taken from adult sites to victimise the man who had been shown as the agent; may be it is a real picture of a real victim; but the truth is, campaigning for virtual women trafficking for victimisation of women has set in and it has created a huge example for new trends of cyber crimes and on-line victimisation of women. In India human trafficking, including women trafficking is considered illegal and the Indian Penal Code offers various penal provisions to prohibit sale of women ( see pg 6 in Nair (2007), Trafficking women and children for sexual exploitation : a handbook for law enforcement agencies in India , URL: http://www.unodc.org/documents/human-trafficking/India_Training_material/Handbook_for_Law_Enforcement_Agencies_in_India.pdf). Nonetheless, these provisions are proving to be mere written laws especially when the online sites traditionally do not monitor the contributed contents. However, this particular site deserves a special applause since they had withdrawn the offensive advertisement within record time after being notified. But still then, the trend of on-line victimisation of women has taken a new path with this incident and I fear this is going to stay.
Hope my fear is proved baseless very soon.
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), “Virtual women trafficking sets in : be aware, 10thNovember,2013, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/

Security of women in whose hands?


It was an anxious moment for almost every citizen in the country who was waiting to see what awaits the rapists of Nirbhaya, the Delhi gang rape victim. Right on the eve of the judgement day however, I came across another news which led me to think more than I was expected to think on the gang rape verdict: the electronic personal safety device (Epsd) which is on its way specially to protect women in distress ( See http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/watchlike-device-to-alert-kin-of-women-in-distress/article5107722.ece) . I would have forgotten the information as‘regular news’ which kindles our mind only for a minute or two had I not been  called for an interview by PuthiyaThalaimurai, a Tamil News channel, on the judgement day. The breaking news that this TV channel was airing after 2 in the afternoon obviously braced the issue of the verdict, especially the death penalty and people’s emotions related to it. I was asked about my opinion as an advocate, a woman advocate rather. The reporter, while giving his details and interviewing me, told about the 12 year old school girl in Tuticorin, who was brutally raped and then killed by the rapist almost within a week after the Delhi gang rape case happened. While I was giving my views as to what sentence can be expected in this particular rape case, I started realising how far the society has become blood thirsty for rapists. As a woman and a mother of a girl, even I myself would have wanted any one who sexually abuses or assaults another woman or a minor girl, to go through similar or even more physical pain and mental trauma that he would have caused to his victim. However, as an advocate and a legal researcher, I need to be more rational.
But an ‘EPSD’ for protecting women from sexual abusers?
 After going through hoards of news reports about the Delhi verdict and knowing how brutally the little girl in Tuticorin was killed, I could not stop thinking the ‘watch like device’ as similar to geolocator loggers or collars used for tracking migratory birds or wild animals and the women who would be wearing it, as experimental guinea pigs trapped and tracked for no fault of theirs.
I have some points to think it as anti feminist:
i.Even though the operation of it would be manual, i.e, the woman can switch on the device only when she needs to alert her people, what happens when the it gets accidentally ( or even intentionally) switched on by the  harasser if he wishes to show the harassment, disrobing or even rape of the victim to the select audience through even smarter technology ?
ii. Given the fact that laws in India are still confused about tracking a non-criminal person by private individuals including the parents, husbands or other immediate family members, would the privacy-infringement laws be amended again to include this exception? In that case, we need to be ready for the misuse of the law also.
iii. Nonetheless, our Indian society is changing. Won’t this device present another debatable issue similar to dress-code or gagging the right to use mobile phones or internet for women ( I discussed about this in one of my earlier blogs @ http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.in/2012/12/gagging-right-to-digital-communication.html)?
Well, I am not the only one who is thinking in these lines. Some of the comment –contributors of the news report on the device did express similar concern.
But I must say, the device is a safety device and apparently women would be given freedom to use it or not to use it since The Constitution of India has given equal rights to women to live their own lives. Saying this, I can neither ignore the benefits of the device. Tracking of criminals through GPS system is introduced to Indian police system quite a long ago. Almost all the police head quarters and police stations including stations situated in interior parts of India are expected to stay connected to track the criminal through this; and this device can be an extended mobile version of criminal tracking system, which would be carried by women. It can be expected that in future everyone, irrespective of their gender can use it for alerting the police about the crime and the criminal.
But still then, I can’t stop thinking: has our society gone so low that it has to tie the crime detector on women (my angry soul  can’t stop myself from giving the name to our gender in great dismay ‘the sex-thing’)?
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), “Security of women in whose hands, 15thSeptember,2013, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/

No relief for women from stalking and morphing


Not very long ago, India happily rejoiced the birth of first ever cyber stalking law and anti- voyeurism which was finally re framed to look after only women. The law is a part of anti-sexual crimes provisions that were introduced through Verma Committee report after the brutal gang rape in Delhi last December. But could law really help to stop atrocities against women especially when the harassment is carried out through digital media?  Women victims often compliant of mobile phone harassment. This includes repeated calls, SMSs, blank calls, threatening calls and even sending lewd MMSs. Women celebs are the worst targeted victims. Trolls, fans, men claiming to be exs…..the list is exhausting, but ask the women celebs and they will positively agree that people belonging to these categories do disturb them not only through various social networking sites, but also via mobile phones. Some daring women did face it bravely. The recent one in the list is Mona of jassi jaisi koi nahi who refused to take the MMS leak incidence lightly.Hopefully the perpetrator would be nabbed and the link would be deactivated soon. But it did have a damaging effect already. She is portrayed the way which she is not actually. Mona represents those women who are regularly targeted for defamation in the wider platform called World Wide Web. I researched on this and found out that in India, this is the easiest way to stop a prospective marriage alliance or a job portfolio for a woman ( I had presented paper on this in Sweden Criminology Symposium in 2012. The excerpts of my findings are compiled by  Johanna Hagstedt, in “ Risk behaviours increase exposure to cyber crime” (October 5, 2012) Available @ http://www.criminologysymposium.com/symposium/event-information/2012/archive/news/2012-10-05-risk-behaviours-increase-exposure-to-cyber-crime.html).  Unfortunately not many women prefer to be as brave as Mona and her predecessors for reporting the crime. The reason is largely fear of exposure of privacy. We do get to see so many news reports about rape and acid attack. Defamation through this channel is no less severe. No woman wants to be a virtual prostitute who would be ‘enjoyed’ by millions. It can turn women victim suicidal too; the recent example is the suicide of Rehtah Parsons of Nova Scotia.
          But dont think that this is the only form of victimisation that haunts the women the most. Bangalore Mirror on April 8, 2013 carried out a brief news which spoke about stalking of Jaya Bachchan, the effervescent actor of yesteryears and present day Rajya Sabha MP . The report claimed that Mrs. Bachchan received continuous calls from a Dubai based number. The man claimed to be an ardent fan of Mrs. Bachchan. Now note that this news came up after the much fussed about “anti-rape Bill” (which also included anti-stalking law) was introduced in India and the police and criminal justice machinery was promising to take strict action if the crime falls under any of the categories that this new provision recognises.  The report however claimed that Jaya Bachchan probably could not get instant justice as the investigation revealed that the call was made from out of India and the local police could not offer much help(Bangalore Mirror, 8th April). Jaya Bachchan again represents that sect of women victims who are turned down by the local police due to poor infrastructure and lack of understanding.  The police need not have looked at the new provision which still awaits to be functional; but we do have S.66A of the Information Technology Act, which many eminent lawyers  pointed out, has a potential to be used as an anti –stalking law and which has extra-territorial effect by virtue of the I.T. Act provisions.  In some of my media interviews I did support the existence of S.66A especially for causes of women .I still support it. But it  is being misused for wrong reasons.  Look at the irony; no one understood the value of a good law which has been misused and now termed as “draconian law”.However, I hope by now the case is solved and justice has been done.
Indeed, women need patience for better understanding of the whole scenario by police and criminal justice machinery. But the waiting time is painful, disgraceful and dangerous. Let us hope that the waiting period gets over soon. My salute to you brave women who had endured such humiliation but still carrying on with life.
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), “No relief for women from stalking and morphing” 15th April ,2013, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/

The myths and some hard realities


Last week I was invited to conduct a session in the workshop on violence against women which was hosted by Department of criminology and criminal justice sciences, ManonManium Sundaranar University, Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu. I didn’t expect such a large gathering of students (mostly girls) for my own session which was on online violence because many of these students hardly frequent Facebook ( I did a small research on it) and some how believe that they are immuned from any sorts of victimisation that I mentioned in my book “Cyber crime and the Victimization of Women: Laws, Rights, and Regulations. Hershey, PA, USA: IGI Global. ISBN: 978-1-60960-830-9 
My first job was to break their myth. When I was doing my home work for the session, I came across good amount of materials which advocated that these girls were not the only ones who believed in this myth. There are some myths which many girls and their families in India feel to be true. I am going to showcase some of these myths and  break them  today:
 Myth no.1: I don’t have a Facebook account. Hence no one can make a dirty fake image of mine.
Reality: wrong! The perpetrator can still make a fake image of yours and float it in the Facebook if he has your basic information like your institution, your name or your residential address if he really wishes to. He may not even need your picture!

Myth no.2:  Facebook is dangerous because people may use it to actually victimize me.
Reality: nonsense! Know the safety rules and how to use it properly. It can turn into a huge resource for good.

Myth no.3: If I frequent the net, I will become a beloved for the hackers.
Reality: Well, stop being paranoid. Do not be ‘open’ to forcefully close your windows. Share only limited information and pick up a habit of changing your passwords, security question and secondary email address every fortnight. Choose good sites to get useful information.

Myth no.4 : Cell phones are causes for rape, elopement and love marriage
 Reality: really? Then why these issues keep coming back since pre-cell-phone era in India? Cell-phones are mediums of communication in the same way (obviously better versions) as were hand written letters and landline phones. Learn yourself and teach your children to use it for good communication and not for creating terrifying sensational news headlines.

Myth no.5: a girl should never be allowed to access internet including emails and popular social networking sites and cell phones unless she is married and in safe custody of her husband.
Reality: absolutely ridiculous thinking! Girls must be trained about good communication and bad communication in the digital communication technology. This will make them confident and reach the emergency services without anyone’s help.

Myth no.6: men are always dangerous when with camera devices
Reality:  Some men who are unaware of cyber etiquettes should be blamed for creating bad examples. But not all men are equal. Responsible men never misuse their devices.

Unfortunately the recent incidences of rape and sudden increase in the media report on sexual assault of women in India  made majority of women as well as their families extremely insecure. Added with it, the hard realities that misuse of smart phones and popular social networking sites do damage the reputation of women and their families have actually strengthened the belief in the unreal myths. The extreme results can be seen in the ridiculous actions of the village heads in banning cell-phones for girls in many villages in India. The workshop ended with a strong note from a wonderful woman professor who emphasized that education and awareness can reduce the violence against women. True. It stands true for online violence against women also. Learn how to use the modern digital devices for good and make the society a better one.

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), “The myths and some hard realities”, 3rd February,2013, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/

Gagging the right to digital communication for women


On 25th November this year, I had a wonderful opportunity to be a part of ongoing global campaign against violence against women. I was invited by the Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development, Sriperumbudur  for a one day seminar to give lecture on online violence. Meeting with stalwart feminist advocates, scholars and Ms. Latika Sharan, ex-director general of Police, Chennai not only made me enriched in understanding the present scenario, it boosted my confidence in my own work too. I presented my paper, pointing out some crucial trends of on-line victimisation of women with a special note  that women’s right to speech is many often been gagged even in the cyber space. The Palghar girls were prime examples (even though this could have happened to men also, I specifically noted how women victims can be exposed to physical violence due to this). But this news which pulled up huge debate over section 66A of the Information Technology Act, could not keep me concentrated over the issue for a long time when I further witnessed two other unique cases of gagging right to communication of women. First it was a community panchayat in Rajasthan which declared a ban on women using mobile phones in early November this year(see No mobiles for girls: Rajasthan panchayat) , and then  a village panchayat in Bihar followed the same path (See Patna village bans women from using mobiles) in prohibiting women from using mobile phones. The reason for both these decisions were apparently the same: making the women turn more ‘docile’,  stopping the young girls from making any contact with people other than those their fathers or other family heads would choose and prohibiting ‘eloping’ for the sake of love. The later dictate also imposed financial penalties on women who would be found doing this ‘crime’.  In both the news reports majority of the villagers have reported said that this is a good dictate.
          Are you surprised? Well, I am not.  Note that both these villages do not fall in the wealthy and progressive village status. The concept of women freedom may sound like a never heard before term in such societies and freedom of life and liberty, especially marriage as per one’s own choice may look like a distant dream for young boys and girls here. These two incidents can be a reflection of the mindset of majority of Indian urban and semi rural patriarchal societies. There are  many men and men-dominated older women who feel that letting the girl get connected to the world would obviously bring unwanted problems. Agreed,  that lack of education and awareness is a huge reason for such gagging of speech in these societies.  But do look into your own social strata. One can find this problem in a more refined way in almost every family irrespective of urban or rural society. In many economically developed  families women are regularly blamed for giving more time to internet, to spend some time in chatting through mobile phones. Surprisingly when men do the same, it is often considered as their right to ‘catch up with friends’, ‘increasing networks for works’ and ‘relax after a hard day’s work’. In many families women are cynically accepted to do all these when men feel that their needs are satisfied for the day. Exceptions do exist. But this is what the real picture is. Prohibiting women from getting in touch with the digital communication technology has become a new trend to gag their rights not only to speech, but to equality and work.
Shame on men who hate to see women digitally connected to the world.
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. (2012), “Gagging the right to digital communication for girls
 , 3rd December,2012, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/

Can women really exercise right to speech? At what cost?


Deeply hurt by the action of the Mumbai police against the two girls I am back to my blogger’s dashboard again. India is going through a wonderful changing period. The young generation is finally understands that there is some thing beyond school studies, competitive exams and medical and engineering degrees.  The two old heads may finally look forward towards fulfilling their dreams, the Missile man Abdul Kalam, who invited fresh brains to join politics and Anna Hazare who made young generation understand that fighting for a corruption free India is more important than ‘feeding’ the ‘babu’s unnecessarily. Yes, India is running towards a bright future and that has been made possible largely by a few US companies like the Facebook, Twitter and Google. The law pundits, human right activists and the brave teachers must feel good that the young generation is opening up their thoughts. We always hear that a democracy becomes stronger when right to speech is enjoyed to the maximum. But off late, I am getting to see some chilling effects to this great thought. Many often, those who are really misusing right to speech within the meaning of Article 19(2) of the Indian constitution somehow successfully remain out of reach of the police and the judiciary.  But those who may be perfectly within the ambit of Article 19(1) of the constitution are being hooked up by the police for wrong reasons.   The law which has become (in)famous for gagging the speech in the internet is section 66A of  the Information Technology Act, 2008.The two three instances of questioning the political big shots through social media and the consequences thereof  did establish a bad example which questioned the core existence of section 66A of the Information technology Act, 2008. It prohibits transmitting though communication technology a)any  information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or b) any  information which the sender knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, or ill will, persistently makes by making use of such computer resource or a communication device, c) any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages. 
While the rest of India may think that it chills the freedom of speech and it must be scrapped, I support it’s existence;but not at the cost of its misuse because I feel it does help victims especially women victims of cyber crime.  I am getting confusing informations about the legal provisions that have been used to arrest the two girls who spoke about the situation of Mumbai on the funeral of  Bal Thackery in Facebook.  The Times of India mentioned about section 64A of the Information Technology Act which was used to book the girl ( see http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/21-year-old-girl-arrested-for-Facebook-post-slamming-Bal-Thackeray/articleshow/17276979.cms), while NDTV told that it was section 505 of the Indian Penal Code, which was used. Section 64 of the Information Technology Act, 2000(amended in 2008) does not have any trailing provision, neither it speaks about offences( it speaks about recovery of compensation or penalty in special reference to cyber appellate tribunal’s power. It says “A penalty imposed or compensation awarded under this Act, if it is not paid, shall be recovered as an arrear of land revenue and the license or the Electronic Signature Certificate, as the case may be, shall be suspended till the penalty is paid.”). Presumably, it should have been section 66A and not section 64A. Section505 (2) of the IPC on the other hand prohibits issuing of statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill- will between classes.  The recent news said that the girls have got the bail and their lawyer has pressed that the concerned statement doesn’t fall under the category of either of these laws. 
True, Bal Thackery’s funeral may have made a section of people deeply mourned. But does that mean that no one should express one’s own feeling regarding this?  I can not support chilling of the right to speech by misusing a law especially like section 66A which has great potential to prohibit truly unprotected speech. Think of so many common men and women who had to suffer due to the standstill condition of a city. Did the veteran really want this? Probably no. But look at the aftermath; the IPC section was applied to directly book her for an offence which she may have never intended to create.  If the reports of vandalism are true, then the police now must take action to prevent any further untowardly incidents against the people at large and also  against the girl. See the first blow on her; she has become traumatised to go to Facebook again. I fear, this may be the beginning of a long lasting ‘bad phase’ for her. My earnest appeal to the society that let my fear not come true.  Sadly I note that she created one more example that when women speak their minds they inevitably invite trouble, whether online or offline. Let peace prevail.

**The author does not intend to hurt anybody’s political or religious sentiments. This is an independent view of the author and the author has expressed her views in her own right towards exercising freedom of speech. If anybody feels hurt, the author apologises in advance.
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. (2012), “Can women really exercise right to speech? At what cost? ”, 19thNovember,2012, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/

Why do Indian women feel reluctant to report cases of cyber victimisation?


Women victims in the cyber space are increasing in number. The patterns which are mostly followed are creation of fake profiles either with the picture of the victim  that the perpetrator already had with him, or with the picture and informations that the perpetrator got accessed to through hacking in to the private emails / social media profiles of the victim. In my paper presented in the Sweden criminology symposium this year, I had shown ( excerpts of my presentation are available  @ http://www.criminologysymposium.com/symposium/event-information/2012/archive/news/2012-10-05-risk-behaviours-increase-exposure-to-cyber-crime.html)  that such sorts of victimisations also play big role in damaging the reputation of the victim in the marriage market and can even break marriages. Fear of this often makes women victims withdrawn from reporting the crimes and encourages them to take the other way round to remove the offensive content many often by hacking (see excerpts from my presentation in the above link). But it would be very wrong to say that women are only the victims.  There are couple of examples to show that women are turning into perpetrators also. In my above presentation I had shown how women are turning into “victim-turned offender”. Apart from this, many women are also following the path of male cyber perpetrators by creating fake avatars of other women in the social media. But how many women victims really turn up to report?
The recent case of singer Chinmayee’s online victimisation which included threats and obscene contents against her, created ripple. Quite simultaneously, I got to see many write ups which questioned the power of Tweets and the power of section 66A of the Information Technology Act which very broadly prohibits offensive speech in the cyber space. I also came across some write-ups which pointed out that even the singer also had used her right to speech. This reminds me of the noted writer Meena Kandasamy whom I am very fortunate to have in my own Facebook friend list. Meena was also targeted for her bold feminist ideologies. But these two women didn’t keep quite when they were targeted. Both of them reported the incidences to the police.  There are many women cine actors and TV actors  who refuse to bow down to the people who play with their images in the cyber space. But not to forget, these women refuse to recognise the after effects of police-reporting and media trails of the case as ‘social stigma’. General women victims are not courageous enough to take this path ( I had researched on this issue in my paper Halder D., & Jaishankar, K. (2011). Cyber Gender Harassment and Secondary Victimization: A Comparative Analysis of US, UK and India. Victims and Offenders, 6(4), 386-398). There are legal provisions through which women victims can obtain protection to their identity. But hardly any one is aware about it. At the same time, many women victims feel that such legal provisions are ultimately for a ‘namesake’ and they don’t really keep their own promises. The recent press release by the DGP Hyderabad (see http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-11-09/hyderabad/35015301_1_cyber-crime-acid-attacks-women-victims) assuring the women victims of cyber crime about the protection of their identity is a welcome move. It is a hard truth that we have patriarchal system and women are judged by their morality not only in the marriage market, but many women do believe that this would affect their credibility in the job market as well. Like this officer, if other officers take steps to publicly announce that victims of cyber crimes would be protected from identity leakage may be women victims can get enough strength to seek proper help rather than improper help which would finally push them to even more dangerous zone.
Wish you all a happy and prosperous Deepavali
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. (2012),Why do Indian women feel reluctant to report  cases of cyber victimisation?, 10thNovember,2012, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com

Topless and shameless women always top the internet search lists

 A woman can be made (in)‘famous’ if she is portrayed ‘topless’ or ‘shameless’. The ongoing tussle over the issue of “topless Kate” is a glaring example  as how women are repeatedly victimised through the internet, be it  the Duchess of Cambridge,or any other woman who becomes the  victim of voyeurism. If  the victim is a woman who was not known to the world previously, expect her to be ‘re known ’ (if not well known) by some people whom she never expected to know her in her life time.  As on date, I got to see huge media attention to the power of the internet for spreading religious clashes in almost all over the world; along with that ‘Kate Middleton’ became even more hugely searched topic in the search engines not because of her royal position, but because of her perfectly toned naked upper body which is now prominent due to the French magazine which breached into her privacy. Topless Kate was available with hundreds of  Twitter users also; when I was jotting down my thoughts  for this blog on 17th September, she was still being displayed in spite of the warnings from the British royals, civil charges and amidst of plans for slapping criminal charges. But this particular woman belongs to those layers of people who know how to handle privacy breaching cases and can afford to slap criminal charges against a magazine and subsequently she may also successfully stop the world wide net including the social media giant Twitter from distributing her private pictures. The ‘Rian Gigg super injunction case’, also from the UK, would show the way to tame public social media with private laws. Quite similar to her is the case of BettinaWulff, the wife of former German president, who has been portrayed as a prostitute; Google as a search engine has made her more (in)famous. She has also applied private laws to prevent public humiliation through internet.

          Note that both Kate and Bettina belong to European Union countries whose private laws are daring to control the First Amendment Guarantees for Free Speech and Expression of the US, which is the core basis for social media including Google, Facebook and Twitter. These two women not only have monetary power to sue these web giants, they can also withstand the bypassing storm of media highlights, criticisms, sympathies, empathies and even appreciation; credit goes to their social and political backgrounds which made them realise what are their rights and what are the duties of others. But this is not the case of thousands of women who may have similar painful victimisation stories like Kate and Bettina. I remember a non-formal conversation with one of the Swiss presenters of Sweden Criminology Symposium this June. I was impressed by his presentation; he further impressed me by giving wonderful information: women in Sweden have cut off the feeling of shame from sexual victimisations like rape. This has actually motivated them to come up and report the matter to the police. Even though he was speaking on child victimisation in the internet, he emphasised the fact that this very feeling of women has actually gone a long way to combat so called online eve-teasers. But in practise, I get to see a very different picture almost every day; women from all over the world, including these European countries face terrible hurdles to seek legal help or police attention when they fall victims of crimes such as Kate or Bettina. Either the police ridicule them, or they can not afford a legal battle due shortage of funds. Resultant, victimisation of women in the net escalates.
Indian experience is no different. Women have not yet gathered that courage like their European or the US counterparts to cut off the feeling of shame; the situation is even worse with the police ineffectiveness. I dont blame the criminal justice system, for they are not given proper chance to increase their understanding in such cases largely due to the attitude of the victims. Well, exceptions are there. A young woman reportedly came up with not so pleasing comments in the Facebook page    regarding the police ineffectiveness for an F.I.R that she lodged for theft of her vehicle (see http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/article3913094.ece). She did not fall prey to typical category of cyber victimisation of women; but she shamelessly displayed her anger and frustration.But she actually did fall a victim as her right to speech and expression was gagged. She represents women who face similar humiliation from criminal justice machinery and finally they give up their claims for fair justice and loose hope from the machinery. It is only when women victims especially of cyber crimes, are given a patient hearing and immediate relief by the law and justice machinery that they can win over the feeling of shame as their western counter parts. This would in turn go a long way in preventing unethical hacking activities too.
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. (2012), “Topless and shameless women always top the internet search lists, 19th September,2012, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com

Women, be careful when you join ‘groups’ in Facebook


Couple of day’s back I came through a research which showed that women are more attracted to social networking through popular social media like the Facebook or Twitter than men (See http://in.lifestyle.yahoo.com/women-more-attracted-facebook-twitter-men-study-105041750.html). Being a woman myself, I cannot wholeheartedly agree with this research as I have seen many men *also* have taken likings for social networking too. But this research made it once again crystal clear: women are vulnerable in the net. In this era of social media, women do not click in the Facebook or Twitter just as a leisure activity only. I see these Medias as mines of informations; and I am sure many women like me visit these ‘mines’ for gathering useful informations, which are essential for home maintenance, baby care to safe e-banking, online shopping, part time or full time jobs from home etc. Where do we find these mines? Anywhere and everywhere if you have your 6th sense ready for gaining the informations. I look specifically for the ‘groups’ and ‘trending topics’ for gathering informations, which in very sophisticated term, can also be called as ‘data mining’.
          But women of my genre, beware!
All is not safe when you switch on your Facebook account with your personal informations and albums open to your friends. In a ‘group,’ in the Facebook, there are numbers of privacy issues which may bother members, especially women members; let me detail them here:
1.     If one member tags you or your photo, your well protected informations, status updates and even the entire album can be pulled out from your profile. Do not feel secured if you have made your informations available for your friends and not for the public. You may never know, but your friend’s friends can also view your ‘secrets’ meant only for your friends.
2.    A group expands by snow balling its members through existing members. So if any one of the members mistakenly adds any unwanted individual, the security of the other members may be jeopardized.
3.    You may get introduced to many likeminded members in a group, who may be interested in knowing you more closely. But be careful. Once an individual sends a friend’s request, he/she may be able to see the status updates and the new addings to the album if they are not ‘protected’; this is possible even when the ‘friend’s request’ is in the ‘pending’ status. Hence if you do not wish to share anything with him/her, immediately close your door to him/her.
4.    Remember if this is not a closed group, your contributions to the group may be visible in  the world wide web if someone searches for your name.
These are but some of my own findings from my own experiences in the Facebook. But women, don’t withdraw yourself. There are more ‘safety pins’ available for protecting the loop holes.
Ø Facebook offers few types of friend’s category, namely; acquaintances, friends and close friends. It falls upon you to categorize your ‘friends’ for a better networking.
Ø When it is an open group, be careful to choose your words for contribution.
Ø Be watchful; if you are tagged without your permission, ‘de-tag’ yourself .
Ø Take immediate decision regarding friend’s requests. Pending requests may add more privacy risks.
Ø If you are a member in a group which allows snow balling, be sure to add known and reliable friends. This is will make you a safety valve in your own group.
At the end, let your friends be aware of the positive side of social networking. Being a social species,  no human beings are fallible. But remember, we are humans and a little bit of awareness would definitely make our lives in the well webbed world wonderful.

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. (2012), “Women, be careful when you join groups in Facebook”, 6th September,2012, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/