Tag: online grooming

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


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

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

When mothers turn dangerous for daughters


 I was delighted to find a long lost friend of mine in the social media. She and I were friends right from our early school days and we lost connection when my father got transferred to another city. She found me and I found her after nearly 25 years, and we are mothers of lovely girls. The reuniting story would have happily ended here if not I found a unique coincidence which made me to think about this blog: about times when mothers may turn dangerous for their daughters. Often mothers prefer to make their children introduce to the social media through their own profiles. Many women think it is perfectly all right because the mother and daughter bond would grow, they may get to learn the virtual relationships together and mother will always protect her baby even in the cyber space. Mostly this ‘bringing the child to the social media through the mother’s profile’ takes place when the child is in the age group of 5 to 10/11 , the age when they are vulnerable targets by online groomers who spread their net for trapping children for varied reasons including paedophilia as well as online monetary cheating of the parents through the children. Mothers often think that by introducing the child to the social media through their own profiles they can save the children from such dangers. But how wrong they are….
My friend’s daughter or her mother or many mothers of daughters may never know what dangerous gate they are opening for their daughters. A very recent report from Jharkhand is a living example:  a minor girl was harassed by none other than her mother’s Facebook friend in the Facebook and when the girl confessed the victimisation, the Child Welfare Board suggested that the safest place for the girl should not be with the mother, but with her grandparents (BBC, 13thFebruary,2014). This is but one example as how mother’s profile can invite danger for the daughter. It needs to be remembered that even if it is a mother who would want her daughter to be safe and secured, in virtual world, a mother’s profile can be equally dangerous for her daughter. The profile that may be created by the mother would essentially be an adult profile and such profiles are never completely immuned from predators. Let me sketch a detail about how the daughters are trapped:
  • Tell her the password and she may get to see everything you have ‘liked’…………..including news on genocide , rape, child abuse and domestic violence. Think how she would react by seeing the visual images or reading about the hard truth?
  • Don’t tell me that you have never received any sexually stimulating message in your inbox ( ok.. it is in your ‘other box’ and you have never opened it). Your daughter is smarter than you to check all messages…… including those you never wanted to see yourself and don’t know how to delete it permanently.
  • Thinking that it is you, your ‘friend’ starts chatting with your daughter and passes some bits of adult joke, gossips about you, your neighbour, your school mate or your office colleague. Check the language ….you may have never wanted your daughter to learn or hear those ‘nasty adult language’. Now, imagine her shock when she is rudely introduced to the negative sides of virtual socialising.
  • You are in the middle of separation and you have blocked your ex. But he is continuously stalking you through enormous fake profiles and has spies spread across in your own friends-list.  Imagine your daughter’s shock when she starts getting messages from the person you have taught her to hate the most.
  • You would get worst surprises when you would get to see your profile flooded with requests for friendship from unknown strangers whom your daughter may have unknowingly tagged or talked about.

          Not to forget that the medium of communication can be mobile phones, I pads or tablets, the children are more tempted to enter the adult world when these gazettes are left unattended  with children whom their parents have taught to unlock and use them without any specific teaching about how to handle the whole thing safely. A mother or a father or the grand parents may feel happy and proud to say that their toddler or their young child knows everything about the digital communication gazette and uses it herself frequently. But I really don’t find anything to be proud for that. The mother may become directly responsible for pushing the daughter to the dangerous world of cyber crimes. In India parental responsibility had been questioned many times by the courts when it is the matter of leaving the child alone for beggary, pushing the child for child marriage etc. But laws have changed and so has the criminal justice understanding of the parental liabilities and responsibilities. Besides the Juvenile justice care and protection Act, The Protection of children from sexual offences Act is one such law which is merciless when it comes to parental negligence for child abuse including online child abuse.
Hence mothers, let your daughters see the virtual world through their own eyes and not yours, but of course with your guidance.
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. (2014),When mothers turn dangerous for daughters
”16thMarch, 2014, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/

Grooming the woman for bad


Grooming the adult women had remained a much unrecognized trend of unethical cyber conduct. Often it is thought that it is the children who can be groomed for the purpose of cyber pornography. I defy such theories, for I have experienced myself how a new internet user can be groomed for  evil purposes. It is particularly very disturbing especially when the user is a woman and who needs emotional supports from outside her own family. The grooming sessions can take place in the public or even in private chat rooms, personal walls or scrapbooks of social networking sties like Orkut, Facebook etc, message boxes and even emails. The typical grooming lesson starts with warm friendly conversations between the harasser and the victim. the groomer may slowly overpower the victim to obey the ‘orders’ such as posting personal pictures, personal informations including financial informations etc; and  to restrain  her from discussing about her internet activities with her immediate family members like her husband, children and/or friends and relatives etc . The victim then becomes confident about her relationship with the groomer and may not accept any resilience as such when she is restricted from using the internet for reaching the groomer.
The grooming session may end when the victim is finally ‘exhibited’ in the internet in a very derogatory form and the perpetrator starts search for another ‘fresh prey’.
True, online grooming of the modern adult women is not an easy task……………..But I can neither accept the fact that these women who may be well educated, can not be groomed. I am using internet for several years for now and I have come across several women who come to internet with a crave to have friends , a good listener (read ‘reader’) of their every day routine of  juggling between husband, children and may be professional work. Home makers especially take internet as a real window to the outside world when their domestic chores are over and husband and children leave home for office and school college purposes. Mostly their status message in their networking profiles are construed as green signals for the groomers.
But do remember, adult female victims of online grooming may never get a favorable position when it comes to comparison between child victims of online grooming and adult victims of online grooming. The obvious reason lies with the level of maturity of the victims. Hence, it is best to be aware of the malpractices in the internet………….. ‘do not talk with strangers’ still stands good for adults especially when the stranger suddenly wants to make one more confident by his warm soothing words.
Wishing all women users a very happy women’s day
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. (2011), “Grooming the woman for bad
”, 8th February,2011, 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.