Tag: Indecent representation of women

How we were able to remove Facebook groups victimising women through creating "Fake Avatars": A success story


While 25th November is celebrated as international day for Elimination of all forms of discrimination of women, I got to see the internet being flooded with “orange the world” messages. This is the particular term taken up by the United Nations to spread awareness about elimination of violence against women and inspired by UN, many stakeholders use #Orangetheworld to express their concern, share experiences and vows to fight against all forms of violence against women. I follow the rest here. I have never opted for any particular app to show my solidarity with any cause including that of Nirbhaya rape case when many men and women opted for showing black spot in their profile picture, judgements on 3rd gender case which motivated many to opt for rainbow coloured profile or even the recent Paris attack when many opted for French flag colour. This year, when the UN first started their #orangetheworldcampaign, the social media spread the colour. I changed both my Facebook and Twitter profiles to stand as one of the millions of ambassadors of the campaign. But did the Convention on elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, which advocates to stop violence against women, really prove beneficial to women especially for online violence cases? We need to consider the issue again and again. 
Couple of days ago a responsible citizen contacted me showing some Facebook links. These were of groups where adult women’s photos were randomly selected, posted and they were made to be “fake avatars” by adding extremely vulgar, indecent sexually explicit comments. These women were picked up mainly because they looked beautiful and had attractive physical structures which were enough to motivate these perverts. Some photos indicated that they may have been parts of promotional photos of television serials or modelling contracts; some were taken from beauty pageants as well. I was not contacted by any women or any of these victims or any women’s group.  The person who alerted me was a man and I salute him. When he came across these groups, he tried to report the groups, the images and the posts attached to the images which actually made these photographs typical fake avatars, rather sex-items. Facebook did not take any action. The main reason for this was, these victims were not children and Facebook did not recognise these posts as offensive. Here I must recall my meeting with child right activists, women’s right activists and transgender right activists at the meeting on Porn Panic Ban conference organised by Point of View and Internet Democracy last month at Delhi.  I was invited to speak about indecent representation of women on internet and I shared information about my work. I used this opportunity to learn about other’s experiences as well.  I got to know more details about the recent sensational case of Manikanta Prabhu, who was arrested for creating Facebook group with images of children and posting violent, sexually explicit messages about these children. This case and the case that I recently dealt with, are quite similar with only one difference: in my case, the victims are adults and in the other, victims were children. The noted child right activist who was incidental in moving the courts and making the accused get arrested in the later case, told me that Facebook refused to recognise the harmful language that were being posted targeting these children because these were mostly in vernacular language. The activist had rightly approached the court against such action of the Facebook.  While dealing with the case relating to adult women, I took note of the experience shared by the activist and mobilised support to report these groups as Facebook may respond to larger volume of reports. However, our  collective attempt remained unsuccessful.
It was only later that Facebook officials responded to my reports and mails and made me understand how to report such indecent representation. While from my side, such groups and posts were reported as ‘harassing’, seeing the images and the language of the posts, the post reporters who came up to support me, reported the same to Facebook as ‘nudity’. But ‘Nudity’ may have a completely different meaning as per Facebook ‘offence vocabulary’. Here lies the difference between Indian understanding of the term nudity and digital technological as well as western understanding of the term nudity. As such, the volume of the report grew basing on reports on ‘nudity’ and not ‘harassment’. As the officer from Facebook had told, these posts which present indecency in their overall presentation must be reported as ‘harassing’.  I feel extremely happy to say that finally these groups as well as the offending comments were restricted and were taken off by Facebook. This would not have happened unless Facebook considered my reports and again, renewed reports. This should be therefore noted that while Facebook or any other social media may not respond to reports positively, we need to understand the offence- related perspectives of the social media as well. However, it is an obvious fact that social media including Facebook and Twitter need to improve their own understandings and policies in such issues.  When we speak of ending violence against women in all forms, we need to understand that all stakeholders must act together to bring out a fruitful result.  I am anticipating that such groups may resurface on Facebook again because Facebook or any social media in that case, does not and cannot bar any individual from coming back to create another new identity with yet another set of false information.
Let us be prepared to fight such online harassment against women in a positive way.  
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. (2015), “How we were able to remove Facebook groups victimising women through creating fake avatars: A success story
, 26-11-2015, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/

Porn panic: how festive-dressing styles become responsible


Come autumn and it is the festive season every where in India.  Daily soaps are regularly interrupted by new advertisements about every usable stuff and the fashion magazines  get flooded by what a teenager should wear, how a woman should carry her saree or in what attire a man should look most ‘desirable’ to women. Nonetheless, each of the States in India have their own dressing style, but when it comes to metro style and casuals, especially for festivals, girls and boys, men and women never disappoint style makers of Bollywood and the Mumbai serials. This Durga puja was a special one for me as I got to see Kolkata in Durga Puja after a long time. The city has not changed its traditions, but digital habits of people have. Visitors to puja pandals , especially young adults visit the pandals not for seeing the different themes or idols, but for taking selfies with “Durga and her children”.  Too many flashes, ‘click’ sounds of camera phones  do make a disturbance for those who want to enjoy the Puja in its real meaning. With the changing of the time, these were bound to happen. But what worries me is the gross violation of privacy while clicking selfies, doulfies (couple-selfie) or even clicking of the general Puja  pandals.  In earlier days, capturing images in the Puja pandals was treated as ‘eve teasing’ if someone intentionally clicked images of girls and women by continuously  disturbing them, making them to look at the photographer  without getting their permission and against their will (to be photographed). Even though this had proved to be dangerous for many girls and women, their harassment would not have been as ‘large scale’ as it may be now. It is because not only the girls and women can be clicked anywhere, in any position, their images can travel to many persons, many unwanted sites and to many unwanted persons within minutes. The hard truth is, even the selfie taker girls and women may also be victimised if their selfies land in unwanted places on internet.
 In this connection, I must mention about the conference on Porn, Panic, Ban held at Delhi on 28th and 29th October, organised jointly by Point of View and Internet Democracy project. I was invited as a resource person and speaker to speak on indecent representation of women on internet. My lecture was largely based on my article titled “Examining the scope of IndecentRepresentation of Women (prevention) Act in the light of cyber victimization inIndia”. In this conference, I and other speakers raised our concern regarding voyeurism. Precisely, in any public festival, women and girls may be the chosen targets for such voyeurs who have mania for clicking women and girls from odd angels. These images are either uploaded in the social networking sites for personal sexual gratification, creation of ‘sex-groups’, or even revenge porn.  We do know how a couple  of months back, the images of children clicked and uploaded on Facebook had created a vicious network of people who turned these young children into ‘sex-items’ for them on Facebook . The photographs of these children were also clicked in public places. Saying this I want to emphasise on the fact that everyone, especially women and girls in the present age must be cautious about their safety not only in the physical world, but also on internet.  In my previous article titled “Online Victimization of Andaman Jarawa Tribal Women: AnAnalysis of the ‘Human Safari’ YouTube Videos (2012) and its Effects.” Which was published in British Journal of Criminology in 2014, I had shown how absence of proper laws prohibiting photography in public places enhance the possibilities of online victimisation of women more. Same opinion goes for young girls and boys as well.
The festival dressing styles for women and girls not only encourage the fashion makers to decide for the next style statements, but also encourage the perpetrators to get armed with cell phone cameras to ‘capture’ their prey for their own corrupted minds.  It may be impossible to think about curtailing private rights to capture images at Puja pandals or any festival gatherings, but this becomes a necessary need for saving women from being indecently represented on internet. Along with that, I agree with some concerned police officers who are of the view that neither men nor women or children should opt for those attire, which not only make themselves feel uncomfortable, but also may make them victims of unwanted harassment.   Plainly speaking, public places ( except where it is designated to be a bathing place), should not be considered as platforms to experiment attires or style statements which may attract unwanted harassment. It needs to be understood that while one may dress according to one’s own choice, one can not expect everyone to have same views about him/her in his/her chosen attire. While its true that perpetrators and perverts may target women and girls and even men in any attire, but still then, in my own experience I have seen that perverts do target specific people, who in their view is the ‘sexiest’. True, its their problem and not ours.  
 Let me explain this with an example from my own childhood. At a wedding we got to see a famous movie star who came in attire which was the latest fashion statement at the early 90’s. He wore a see-through shirt. While he ( note that this particular person is a man and not a woman) managed to attract the attention of every young people who loved watching him on screen, there were people who were not exposed to such see through garments in real life. The popular actor did also managed to hear one such person shouting at others ‘look the man is wearing plastic sheet to show off his hairy chest and plump midriff’ . It was truly a hilarious moment for many of us youngsters who were ‘forced’ to look at the actor once again and scrutinise his body structure. But remember, the late 80’s and early 90’s did not have cell phone cameras and smart phones and hence his picture in his latest style did not become viral in the other way with the odd comment ‘pasted’ to his picture.  But this can happen now. Nonetheless, if this happens to anyone now, only the true victims would know what the pain would be like.  Social media would not take down such fake avatar with nasty comments if the victim is an adult, because such posts would obviously carry the question of First Amendment rights versus right against being victimised by indecent representation; clouds may take such images and the comments to numerous unwanted sites and it would become literally impossible for the victim to remove image of hers in her own favourite attire which may have become ‘hot favourite’ for others for sexual gratification. For this women and girls need to be more aware. No, my concern is not for making women and girls feel that they should not opt for uncomfortable dresses in the name of fashion only; my concern is for women team among the organisers. Stand up for protesting any violation of rights of women and girls and this could be done when women members in the Puja organising committees or volunteers from civil society members take active steps for spreading the awareness against voyeuristic activities. 
 With Kali Puja and Diwali approaching, the government, the police and also the puja organisers and civil society at large must decide to take such steps which may create awareness among people to prevent such sorts of victimisation of people. 
  • Children, do not click unwanted photos of others, because this may violate other’s privacy. 
  • Young adults, restrain from using your cellphone cameras as ‘spy-cam’, because if you are capturing somebody secretly, remember, you are not only violating other’s rights, but some one may also do the same to you and you may have to face  legal actions and harassments as well. 
  • Especially to girls and women: beware while taking selfies and storing it in the clouds or sharing it with others. You may never know how your favourite selfie can become an item for adult sites and an indecent representation of yourself.

Wish you all a very happy and safe Diwali.
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. (2015), Porn panic: how festive- dressin styles become responsible, 06-11-2015, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/