Tag: Trolling

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

Plight of “Punita” : A common tale of ‘powerless’ women victims of trolling by Dr.Debarati Halder

First published @https://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/2020/11/plight-of-punita-common-tale-of.html?spref=fb&fbclid=IwAR2_sKM13spiQ4r6CletmvaLG8z7orClpR7MQOIHhnahcTMl1O678NhnY_c

In 2012 “Nirbhaya” a young female paramedic was brutally gang raped in a cold December night in Delhi, India. Within a few days the police nabbed the offenders and arrested them. All 6 of them were from northern parts of India who came down to Delhi for making their living. All of them were working as transport workers including driver, conductor, cleaner etc. Within a few days of their arrest, the victim died because of the impact of the assault and internal injuries. The charges against the accused were enhanced from rape to include murder under the Indian Penal Code. Among the 6 accused persons, the prime accused committed suicide. Even though the case was taken over by fast track trial court, it took around 10 months for the trial court to convict the accused and award death penalty to the surviving 5 accused. The death penalty was upheld by the Supreme Court of India in 2017. In between one of the accused pleaded to be considered as minor and was declared as minor and hence was dealt under the Juvenile justice administration system. However neither the Supreme Court, nor the high court prevented the accused persons from exercising their rights to appeal against the capital sentence. The Supreme Court considered this case as rarest of rare cases. Except the minor, other convicted accused did not however succeed in their respective pleas to the Supreme Court to reverse the sentence to life imprisonment and the President for mercy petition.[1]  All four of the adult convicts were hanged in the wee hours of 20th March, 2020. Immediately after this the Covid 19 lockdown was clamped strictly almost all over the world preventing several litigants, victims to approach the courts as courts also suffered due to pandemic.

None of the convicted persons in NIrbhaya case came from socio-economically forward class. Except one, others did not complete their basic education as well.[2] Some researches including the controversial India’s Daughter documentary[3] claimed that lack of education could have been the main reason to defy the laws for violating women in this regard. While almost all such researches and findings were concerned about the perpetrators, not many looked into the fate of the wives of such sex offenders who may not have received primary education and may not have been allowed to access justice for themselves because of being women and living in patriarchal societies. Punita, wife of Akshay Thakur, who was one of the convicts, tried her level best to convince the courts and the society at large in her own way  that if her husband was hanged, she and her minor son would have to die. On the final day of hearing she was seen shouting, crying, beating herself and fainting before the Supreme Court building. Her actions attracted media and she was probably encouraged to continue to do what she was doing because that would add more TRP to the stories that were being made on Nirbhaya sentencing. Soon she made headlines in almost all domestic and foreign news channels and she was center of debates for and against death penalty. Simultaneously she was targeted by internet trolls vigorously.[4]

In the recently held 9th international victimology conference organized by Jindal institute of Behavioral Sciences[5] I had addressed the issue of cyber victimization of Punita through my paper titled “Critical analysis of the case of wife of Nirbhaya rape convict: therapeutic jurisprudence & cyber victimological perspectives”.  While the media could successfully (and probably rightly) generate public sympathy for the rape victim and her family, they generated extreme hatred to Punita because she was apparently ‘supporting her husband’. The internet platforms added fuel to the fire in this hate campaign. If one sees the news reports on Punita Devi on the social media handles of the news media channels, one would get to see that the comments posted about her and opinion generated on her created extremely negative profile of hers which would go a long way to prevent her from getting any job in any private or public sector. It was a visual victimization of Punita on cyber space which still exists on cyber space and will be existing forever. In my earlier research on visual victimization of women on cyber space, I had observed that the victims of such visual victimizations may now know about their online victimization because they may never get access to the internet and digital communication media as their urban counterparts may get, which may eventually help the later to reach the criminal justice machinery to remove these contents.[6]

 Women such as Punita are often seen as ‘co-accused’ by the public at large. Coming from socio-economically backward communities and being educationally challenged, most wives of sex offenders in several Asian countries (where patriarchy rules), may not be allowed to access justice for themselves. Apparently she approached the family court in her native district for divorce because the Hindu Marriage Act under S.13B(2ii) allows women to get ‘quick’ divorce under special grounds which includes conviction of husband for rape, sodomy, bestiality etc.[7] But she was too late in approaching the court. She did not want to live as a widow of a hanged rapist. She preferred to be a divorcee. Women in such situations are blamed by the families and public at large for failing to satisfy their husbands sexually and materialistically which may have encouraged the later to go ahead for raping and sexually assaulting other women. These women cannot go ahead for divorce while the trial is on because this would not only attract social taboo, it will also push such women to extreme poverty: they have to leave the matrimonial homes, they may not be accepted in their parental homes and they may not get any financial support from anyone.

How can Therapeutic Jurisprudence help?  Justice Krishna Iyer  a legendary judge who introduced new paradigm to reformative justice in India mentioned about applying Therapeutic jurisprudence in the prisons for reforming the prisoners in 1970’s.[8] But after him we did  not get to see the use of the term by the judges while dealing with reformative criminal jurisprudence in India. In numbers of my researches however I have shown that the concept of Therapeutic Jurisprudence has submissively influenced the Indian judges.[9] The spirit of Therapeutic Jurisprudence may help wives of sex offenders especially in countries like India. In my earlier research  titled “Free Legal Aid for women and Therapeutic Jurisprudence: A critical examination of the Indian model”,[10]  which was published In the edited book volume titled Methodology And Practice Of Therapeutic Jurisprudence Research edited by Stobbs Nigel, Bartel Lorana & Vols.M , I had observed that women especially from socioeconomically backward communities may not be permitted to access justice even if the legal counseling  is freely available through free legal aid clinics. This situation may be improved by vigorous campaigning by legal aid volunteers and law students. The law students, practitioners and judges must be sensitized about Therapeutic jurisprudence and law’s therapeutic effects which may bring tremendous change in women empowerment. Wives of sex offenders go through tremendous traumatization primarily because they feel cheated in their marriages and then feel threatened when it comes to social security for them. As such, mental wellbeing of these women are least taken care of when the court decides to charge the husbands, i.e. the accused in sex offences. In my presentation in the international victimology conference mentioned above, I have proposed that courts must consider to parallelly counsel such wives through free legal aid cells so that they may be made aware about their rights for divorce, matrimonial alimony, child custody and maintenance for child.

Further, I have also proposed that courts must suomotu consider to pass restraining order for the media houses regarding airing the images of grieving wives, who may or may not be accompanied by their children. These women do not make any ‘drama’ to stall the execution of sentences for supporting their husbands. They express their anger, frustration and fear for their own future which is dependent on the longevity of their husbands. Unfortunately their expression of fear, frustration etc are hugely consumed sadistically by the society at large and due to the non-ending presence of the clippings on the internet, such women may be profiled in a negative way. I have proposed that the scope of Right to be forgotten must be expanded in such cases which the courts must take up extending the power of judicial intervention for ensuring the privacy rights of women. Interestingly many courts across the globe are shifting burden to the website companies for not removing objectionable contents especially when it comes privacy of women and children. India has laws for website liabilities in this regard under S.79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000(amended in 2008). This provision read with Information Technology (reasonable security practices and procedures and sensitive personal data or information ) Rules 2011 mandates that web companies shall be held liable if they do not take down objectionable contents within due time. This brings two major points to be considered: who reports it? Whether this can be considered as ‘protected speech and expression’. Indian judicial understanding regarding freedom of speech on internet is expanding and courts have started using judicial discretion to not to consider each and every speech as speech falling outside the purview of Article 19(1)(A) of the Indian constitution which guarantees freedom of speech and expression as a fundamental right. It is obvious that women such as Punita would not know about such legal jurisprudence. The courts therefore must consider adding this issue in the bag of ‘reformative and rehabilitative considerations’ when awarding the sentences (including life sentence or capital sentences).  This may go a long way to prevent secondary victimization of the wives of sex offenders who are ‘innocent victims’ of the entire situation.

It is therefore hoped that if the issue of online as well as real life victimization of the wives of the convicted sex offenders are seen from the Therapeutic Jurisprudential aspects, the rights of women to access justice, rehabilitation and privacy may be secured.


Prof(Dr) Debarati Halder, LL.B, LL.M, Ph.D(Law)(NLSIU) is a Professor at Unitedoworld School of Law, Karnavati University, Gujarat, India. She is the founder of Centre for Cyber Victim Counselling (www.cybervictims.org) and the India chapter head of International Society of Therapeutic Jurisprudence. She is the pioneer in introducing Therapeutic Jurisprudence as a part of credit course in legal education in India. She can be reached @debaratihalder@gmail.com

[1] See for more in PTI(2020) Nirbhaya case convicts to be hanged at 5.30 a.m. as Supreme Court dismisses plea against rejection of mercy petition. Published on March 20.2020 in The Hindu. URL: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/nirbhaya-case-convicts-to-be-hanged-as-supreme-court-dismisses-plea-against-rejection-of-mercy-petition/article31114747.ece Accessed on 21.03.2020

[2] For more, see in Profiles: Who were the Delhi gang rape convicts?. Published in https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-23434888#:~:text=Courts%20convicted%20six%20people%20for,student%20in%20a%20moving%20bus. On March 20. 2020, accessed on 21.03.2020

[3] For more, see in Banned film India’s Daughter shown in rapists’ slum

. Published in https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-31865477 . On March13. 2015, accessed on 21.03.2020

[4] For example see the comments @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzwPrx1l9Hg Accessed on 29.10.2020

[5] The conference proceedings and my presentation are available @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9__aYyD9cA

[6] Halder D., & Jaishankar, K. (2014). Online Victimization of Andaman Jarawa Tribal Women: An Analysis of the Human Safari YouTube Videos (2012) and its Effects. British Journal of Criminology, 54(4), 673-688. (Impact factor 1.556). DOI: 10.1093/bjc/azu026.

[7] Section 13(2)(ii) in The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 states

 “A wife may also present a petition for the dissolution of her marriage by a decree of divorce on the ground………. that the husband has, since the solemnisation of the marriage, been guilty of rape, sodomy or bestiality”

[8] See for more in Md Ghiasuddin vs State of AP . reported in (1977) 3 SCC 287. Available at: http://www.indiankanoon.org/

doc/1850315/,

[9] See Halder, Debarati, Why Law Fails to Be Therapeutic in Spite of Therapeutic Judicial Efforts: A Critical Analysis of Indian Legal Education From the Therapeutic Jurisprudence Perspective (October 28, 2018). Unitedworld Law Journal, Vol 2, Issue: I, ISSN: 2457-0427, (2018) pp 173-182, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3274175

[10] Halder, D. (2019), Free Legal Aid for women and Therapeutic Jurisprudence: A critical examination of the Indian model. In Stobbs Nigel, Bartel Lorana & Vols.M (eds.), Methodology And Practice Of Therapeutic Jurisprudence Research. USA: Carolina Academy Press.

Gender and Internet : Web magazine for Cyber law for women News update for August 16-August 24,2020

Image courtesy: Internet

Highcourt in Adamawa, Nigeria sentences woman for 10 years imprisonment for impersonating Senator .
https://dailypost.ng/2020/08/20/yola-court-jails-2-women-for-impersonation/

Phone of Australian actress gets hacked, her personal photos gets leaked over internet: victim files case under Australian revenge porn law which prescribes criminal penalty for upto 7 years of jail term.
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-8645783/Actress-Olympia-Valance-confirms-target-ongoing-revenge-porn-attack.html

Bengali women attacked on social media on account of Rhea Chakroborty’s alleged involvement in the case of Susahnt Singh Rajput’s unnatural death.
https://www.deccanherald.com/national/east-and-northeast/ssr-case-bengali-women-abused-on-social-media-commission-seeks-report-from-kolkata-police-874801.html

(Repost) Centre for Cyber Victim Counseling brings out detailed report on use and misuse of WhatsApp in rural and urban places in India (first posted on www.cybervictims.org)

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

Picture Courtesy : Internet

Dr.Debarati Halder

As the entire world went under lock down, we saw a huge surge of online activities since the first week of March, 2020: several organizations changed their work policy to accommodate work from home policy through cyber space. Schools turned to virtual classes. Universities and colleges sought for conducting webinars, online essay competitions, quiz competitions etc to engage the students. Higher education system also opted for online pedagogy which included online thesis submission, evaluation of the same, online viva voce for Ph.D  and Master’s degree evaluation, conducting online sessions on different degree courses, and so on. Resultant, there was a tremendous growth of demand of online meeting platforms which were considered as least essential during normal times. It is but obvious that such platforms started failing participants especially in regard to privacy issues. The WHO guidelines made everyone to rely on online banking, online e-commerce and related transactions and this gave a golden opportunity to the fraudsters to loot people who had to suddenly adapt this digital life culture without properly knowing about digital hygiene, cyber safety issues etc.  the government on the other hand insisted on uploading health apps which would give a clear way for mapping and surveilling health of users and also let the user know about the health data (even though in a very minimum scale) of other users residing in near vicinity.

Parents, schools, universities and colleges, administrators,  police and the courts have remained busy in ensuring that the dangerous pandemic does not engulf the entire society, the homeless and jobless migratory laborers reach their home place (amidst much chaos) and hospitals and health clinics mandatorily open their doors to patients who may be Covid positive. But no law, government orders or policies may control the minds of people and adolescent children who are either up to take revenge in a sophisticated and ‘smart way’, or to sexually gratify themselves or may have adolescent inquisitiveness about sexual issues. It is not only the Bois Locker room that attracts my attention here: millions of issues of online violence of women and girls have been surfacing now.

I take this opportunity to discuss here what are the women’s rights that had been codified by international instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), International Covenants on civil and political rights, socio-cultural -economic rights , Convention on elimination of all sorts of discriminations against women (CEDAW), EU Convention on Cyber Crimes etc. Summing up the rights created/guaranteed /expanded, the following Rights may be considered for understanding how these are supported/violated on the cyber space:

  1. Right to lead a dignified life : This right has been considered as a prime rights as an independent right as well as within the broader meaning of right to life. Right to dignified life may essentially imply that no woman should be considered as a mere sexual object : she should not be subjected to inhuman treatment at home, at workplace or at cyber space. The labour market should not treat her as mere body for sexual enjoyment. She should not be subjected to flesh trade under any circumstances and the workplace should ensure her right to dignified life irrespective of her work profile.

But is this right being upheld on cyber space? several researchers and practitioners including myself had researched upon several patterns of online harassment of women and this may include gender bullying, trolling, doxing,  online flesh trade, unauthorised access to device, data, profiles etc, cyber stalking, creation of fake avatars for wide defamation, non-consensual image capturing and sharing, voyeurism, revenge porn, creating and sharing obscene contents targeting women and girls etc.[1]  Be it gender bullying, trolling, doxing or cyber stalking, or creating fake avatar or gratifying revenge taking mentality or sharing non-consensual images, it may be seen that women are denied a right to lead dignified life on cyber space. consider the recent case of one TikTok user who had been charged for creating videos showcasing physical assaults, sexual assaults to women and allegedly instigating for physical violence targeting women.[2] Neither Facebook, nor Twitter, nor Instagram, nor YouTube, nor TikTok have taken any measure to control such showcasing of violence and harassment of women. TikTok is flooding with thousands of videos showcasing harassment of women: some show women being beaten, some show women being touched inappropriately, some also show women in indecent manner especially when it come to sharing non-consensual images at public functions, public places etc. YouTube however leads in such cases if I talk about “funny videos” : there are ‘funny wedding falls”, “funny crying brides” “funny garland exchange scenes” to vigorous trolling of women who may show case their culture, homes, cooking skills etc. Several women have also reported cyber stalking by their male colleagues and supervisors at workplace as well. As a cybercrime victim counsellor, I have received hundreds of cases where women have been victimised by way of creating fake avatars, majority of which are of the nature of revenge porn. The laws created to safeguard the right to lead a dignified life for women have also failed them several times: during this lockdown, police may not be able to assist women who may report bullying, doxing or trolling or creation of revenge porn or sextortion etc unless it is attracting a bigger interest like that of Bois locker room case. Several women had been turned down by the police by making them understand that these are trivial offences and the police may not be able to assist them in spite of the fact that such offences may be considered as cognizable.

  • 2.Right against discrimination on the basis of gender, color, creed, race etc: This is considered as a prime right under CEDAW. But women have been vigorously targeted defying this very right. Consider the case of Sara Baartman, who had been an exhibit on the topic of racial and gender discrimination for over two hundred years now: She was bought by white businessmen from South Africa  to earn money over showcasing her body shape which was am matter of huge sexual curiosity in Europe during  19th and 20th Century. She died in 1815. But the so called civilized society did not leave Baartman even after her death: her mortal remains and skeleton were kept in Museum of Man in Paris which further attracted visitors to see her mortal remains including her genitalia. It was only in 2002 that the civilized society decided to finally put Sara to rest,[3] but not before making her as a symbol of racial porn icon which still floats on internet. The same lust for black, Latino, Asian, women still can be seen on porn sites which earn huge revenue from the consumers of armature porn,  racial porn, black porn etc.

Leaving aside the sexual gratification part, internet and cyber space also host loads of contents and pages which are discriminatory in nature. Almost all the web companies host (knowing or unknowingly) several pages where women from different age group, of different color, belonging to different race, caste or creed and nationality and socio-economic background are constantly bullied, virtually dissected and routinely harassed. Several of such women may not even know that they are being harassed on the cyber space by way of creation of contents which may be in the nature of bullying, trolling, creating racially/sexually abusing still/video contents etc.

  • 3.Right to livelihood: This is the most interesting right that needs to be discussed in this context. Internet has provided different ways of livelihood to women: be it earning money by showcasing different types of skills on YouTube, or by promoting particular brand/s of cosmetics or spices or clothes or electronic items etc, or by being a blogger, content writer etc, women did get a platform to earn money. This however also includes acting on porn platforms. Interestingly, the laws existing in different jurisdictions (barring certain countries), do not hold women criminally responsible if they participate in creating sexually explicit contents which may fulfill certain legal conditions: for example, the said content is created through proper legal mechanism with full consent of the actor, the content creator/host has certified that the same is strictly meant for adult entertainment purposes and has explicitly displayed age restriction in the opening page of the content, has not used any child for creating such contents and has taken due diligence to restrict sharing of such contents to children .  But if seen from the perspectives of privacy infringement and related shaming/doxing/defamation perspectives, it may be seen that users of internet may go beyond the aims of tech companies (who would promote the platforms for using it for earning livelihood), to block right to livelihood for women. Thousands of women may have lost their jobs, or job prospects because of revenge porn or nonconsensual porn contents that may have shared knowingly to have unethical gain by perpetrators. The Intellectual property rights of women who may have tried to earn a living by showcasing their skills on the internet, have never been recognized or may have been violated grossly. Again, profiles of some women may also have become a regular source of income for the perpetrators who may illegally use such profiles to dupe others.
  • 4.Right to legal aid and fair hearing: Every individual has an inherent right to access legal help, free legal aid and fair hearing. This applies to perpetrators and victims, men, women, children and people belonging 3rd gender as well. If we speak from the perspective of cyber crime victims, it may be seen that women victims may not always be given proper hearing for different types of online harassment cases. As mentioned above, several types of harassment may be seen as trivial offences. Many of the harassment are neither recognized by laws as criminal offences as well. Even though several international stakeholders including UNICEF has also acknowledged the patterns of online criminal activities like revenge porn, doxing etc, the same could not be added as criminal offences by several Governments for reasons known best to them. This has definitely hampered creation of proper legal and criminal justice infrastructure where the police had remained untrained for dealing with such sorts of victimizations.  There are however, several attempts to address certain types of online harassment by pulling legal understandings from different provisions which are not necessarily meant to address the said harassment : for example, the concept of bullying and trolling have been addressed by expanding the scope of defamation and criminal intimidation  laws, issue of non-consensual image sharing have been largely covered by voyeurism and copyright laws and the stakeholders have tried to cover revenge porn under the voyeurism, creation/sharing of sexually explicit contents etc. None of these could actually yield fruitful results all over the world. Resultant, we get to see less reporting of the online criminal activities targeting women and even lesser conviction rates.
  • 5.Right to privacy: This may be said to be the basis of all other rights discussed above especially from the perspective of rights on cyber space. The more the digital communication technology progressed, the human society had seen more privacy infringements. The web companies at the beginning had put more emphasis on the negligence of the users/contributors to protect their privacy while the former argued that their platforms provide for privacy and safety setups that are user friendly. But soon it was seen that neither the data bank of the hospitals, the government departments, banks, nor that of the web companies are safe. Women including women users of cyber space are sandwiched between the privacy infringing individual perpetrators, and also the web companies.   Privacy on the cyber space has become a myth now. With the growing rate of capturing nonconsensual images and sharing the same on online platforms without permission, it is evident that the concept of privacy on cyber space has expanded its scope to cover the issue of privacy on physical space as well.

But everything is not always dark. NGOs working on awareness building could reach a milestone where women have started understanding that such online harassments actually violate their basic rights. The more the victims would use the reporting mechanism, the more the courts and the law makers would understand the pressing need of making laws and ensuring proper implementation of the same. It is expected that such awareness may lead to larger human rights movements.

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


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

New Delhi: SAGE Publications. ISBN: 9789385985775

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

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

Initiation of criminal proceedings in cyber crimes against women cases by Dr.Debarati Halder

Cyber Crimes against women may be of different forms: it may be sexual, whereby the perpetrator may create non consensual image sharing for sexual gratification (which may include rape or sexual assault video sharing), revenge porn contents and may share the same through social media, internet and digital communication technology etc. Further, the perpetrator may also take to cyber platform for carrying on stalking activities, communicating rape and death threats, impersonation, unauthorized access and accessing private contents for further impersonation, defamation of the victim, bullying, including sexual bullying, trolling etc. Several of such crimes against women may have been recognized by the Information Technology Act, 2000(amended in 2008), Indian Penal Code (especially provisions inserted through Criminal Law amendment Act, 2013), Indecent Representation of women Prohibition Act, Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 etc and Protection of children from sexual offences Act (especially when the cyber offences are committed against children) etc. (See for more in Halder D., & Jaishankar, K (2016.) Cyber crimes against women in India.New Delhi: SAGE Publications. ISBN: 9789385985775. and also Halder, D. (2018). Child Sexual Abuse and Protection Laws in India. NewDelhi: SAGE Publications. ISBN: 9789352806843.)

Some of such offences which may be recognized by the Indian Penal Code or any other offences and which may necessarily fall under sexual offences against women (specially under Ss. 376, 354 , 354 A.B.C.D) and under S.509 IPC which prescribes punishment for harming the modesty of women etc, may necessarily be considered as cognizable offences where the officer in Charge of the police station MUST register FIR and initiate investigation procedure. However, on several occasions, the police may refuse to register the FIR, may refuse to even hear the victim or on much instigation, my simply insert the submissions in the General Diary or station diary and may never register the FIR.

A plain reading of S.154 of the Cr.P.C and S.172 Cr.P.C may provide answer to all the above mentioned issues. The discussions in this regard are carried forward in the YouTube link below.

YouTube, YouTubers and violation of privacy of women and children: The drama unfolds by Dr.Debarati Halder

picture credit : Internet

In recent years YouTube has won millions of hearts in India as a social media platform especially among women. This is because unlike other social media websites, YouTube has provided a platform to earn money based upon views and subscribers. Contents uploaded by users may be varied: it can be home decor, power point presentations of simplified versions of undergraduate subjects, subject lectures by professional teachers or amateur subject experts, cooking recipes, Do It Yourself (DIYs), home organisations, daily routines of home makers, technological solutions, how to do stuffs etc . Several women have used YouTube to earn money generated through the revenue that YouTube promises once the user can reach some criteria like getting 1000 subscribers or 4000 watch hours etc. [1] YouTube however would not lead the user to create contents that may earn more watch hours or subscribers. Users may go for market survey to understand which sorts of videos may attract more views, ,more subscribers etc. mostly new users including men and women may try to create videos on anything that they feel proper to share to the world. YouGTube , like Facebook and Instagram has features for allowing users to create videos for private sharing. This enables the users to share the video which may be watched only by those whom the creator chooses. The users may however go for wide circulation of their contents by not only making the videos public, but also by going live  whereby the users may directly communicate with their subscribers or may share information while live.  Even though going Live may be a feature specifically for improving the relationship between the user and his/her subscribers, live videos can be watched by the world wide audience even if they are not subscribers to that particular user.   Here, YouTube may not play a vital role to restrict uploading and sharing the contents unless the subscribers or  viewers may flag the content as inappropriate.  In short, YouTube may actually provide a wide platform to share anything including bullying videos, mashed up videos, child and woman abuse videos, birthing videos, adult sexual interaction videos and so on. While the adult sexual videos and birthing videos may not be universally accessible unless the user logs in to his/her YouTube accounts, other sorts of videos are accessible to all irrespective of age. YouTube however uses the due diligence clause to escape from any third party liability by providing notification which restricts children from viewing adult sexual contents or violent contents which may traumatise children. Hardly this  has any practical implication because children may access these videos by using email ids which may be created on the basis of fake age , or may even log in through their parents’ or friends’ email /YouTube ids.

My attention here is however attracted to the contents shared by YouTubers: I have been an avid watcher of YouTube since many years now. I have been following the changing trends of users in uploading the contents. Earlier it was more on creating mashed up videos which may have the potentials of violating the copyrights. Such videos have also been silently encouraged by actors, singers and producers because these actually publicise their work even though it may violate the laws. [2] But slowly, the content creators, especially women started becoming reviewers of products on YouTube as well. This included using of cosmetics, kitchen wares organisers etc that may be shown in the daily routine videos, home organisation videos or make up tutorials.[3]   Users not only get views and subscribers as may be needed for fulfilling the YouTube monetising criteria, they may also be connected with the brands manufacturing the products or dealers of the products who may wish to showcase their products through these non-professional videos. Several urban and rural women home makers have actually benefitted from this: consider Youtubers like Radhika Real Vlogs,[4] or simplelivingwithringlejain[5] who may be rural homemakers, but may have made a moderate to comfortable living because of their YouTube videos advertising about different brands including retailer brands.  Nonetheless, these YouTubers may also be victims of bullying and trolling for the quality of their videos, their pronunciation, lifestyle and even house decorations.

While these women may have made a landmark professional/personal achievement because of YouTube, they may unknowingly violate privacy of their own children or even spouses or other family members as they may be showing and informing the worldwide audience about their family members who may not may consent for such wide distribution of images of themselves. These YouTube videos may also be the subject matter of bullying and ridiculing the children of such YouTubers since these may stay on worldwide web for long time. YouTube videos may also create severe domestic violence for several reasons which include live fights between spouses which may be captured by third party YouTubers for fun and uploaded and circulated for getting more views; or airing of grievances by women YouTubers against the other spouses, without knowing the far-reaching consequences etc. These videos may attract huge views and opinions, comments in the nature of cyber bullying and also trolling targeting the YouTuber concerned or supporters of the same. Consider the case of two specific youtubers from Delhi, who are spouses in real life : the wife is a senior YouTuber whereas the husband is a recent Youtuber: They had severe altercations and started living apart. But this was not enough: both used YouTube to throw insults and humiliating words to each other and their teen daughter was allegedly dragged in between. The recent reports suggested that the teenager girl who  was staying with her father for couple of months after the separation, was beaten by the latter while on live and her t-shirt was torn in a manner which would show her inner wares.[6] The girl was beaten because she wanted to visit her mother. This video became viral as several supporters of the wife started showing the clippings through their own channels. Some had also informed ChildLine and the police who had rescued the teenager and sent her to her maternal grandmother.[7]  There are several other YouTubers who started discussing about incident using the profile name of the husband wife duo.[8] While the news report published in the local news media suggested that the teenager was often beaten by both the parents when they were drunk and she was forced to come on live which she refused many times, the news clipping did not mention about the name of the girl and that of her parents as S.74 of the Juvenile Justice Care and protection Act, 2015 prohibits publication of the identity of the child in need of care and protection or child in conflict with law. The provision reads as below:

S.74. Prohibition of publication of name, etc., of juvenile in conflict with law or child in need of care and protection involved in any proceeding under the Act.-1. No report in any newspaper, magazine, news-sheet or visual media of any inquiry regarding a juvenile in conflict with law or a child in need of care and protection under this Act shall disclose the name, address or school or any other particulars calculated to lead to the identification of the juvenile or child nor shall any picture of any such juvenile or child be published: Provided that for reasons to be recorded in writing, the authority holding the inquiry may permit such disclosure, if in its opinion such disclosure is in the interest of the juvenile or the child. 2. Any person who contravenes the provisions of sub-section (1), shall be liable to a penalty which may extend to twenty-five thousand rupees.

Now, let us understand the scope of this provision in the light of this particular case: the first subsection prohibits any report including news report, inquiry etc from disclosing the name, information etc of the concerned child. The second proviso extends the scope to ‘anyone’ who may contravene the prohibitory scope of S.74. Seen from the perspective of electronic media and the concept of citizen journalism, which gives every one right to share information, the term ‘anyone’ may literally include anyone including the good Samaritans who may have wanted to alert the concerned authorities, share their opinion against such acts of women and child abuse. Further, note the words “any other particulars calculated to lead to the identification of the juvenile or child nor shall any picture of any such juvenile or child be published” mentioned in the first sub clause. This may include the name of the concerned child and names of the parents. But apparently, this provision became a just a paper tiger in this case because those who had watched or subscribed to the videos of the couple had already known about the identity of the teenager because of the daily Lives put up by the parents and discussion about the girl in the videos posted by them. If one visits the comment section of the recent videos of both the parents in the recent past, it would be seen that commenters have taken the name of the girl, asked about her whereabouts and in some cases, some had also suggested about her changed behaviour after she had stayed with her respective parents separately. Nothing is confidential for those thousands of worldwide audiences now who had watched the parents daily and who had also witnessed the Live video where the girl was beaten up by the father.  In spite of repeated request by the mother of the girl, several YouTubers still did not take down videos mentioning about the name of the father (which broadly falls within the meaning of “any other particulars calculated to lead to the identification of the juvenile or child”) when this writeup was published. While the Juvenile Justice Care and Protection and Act provides a base rule, the concerned YouTubers may not be held solely responsible because the parents already violated the privacy of the teenager and encouraged thousands to watch the couple fight which had every potential to attract penal provisions for using words etc for harming the modesty of the wife under S.509 Indian Penal Code as well as defamation of both the wife and the husband under Sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code. YouTube on the other hand has not taken down the videos of either of the spouses or that of the other YouTubers  which may showcase the names of the parents and the child because it is guided by First Amendment of the US which may hardly be affected unless YouTube has been approached to take the videos down by concerned stakeholders.  

It is now a typical love triangle of three parties : YouTube, which is loved by all for providing such an open platform for airing opinions and consumption of real life family dramas, the YouTubers who may expect to get support, views, popularity and money because of participating in the trolling and independent discussions on such issues which may rip open privacy of general individuals including children and criminal justice machinery, most of whom may never know how to manage legalities of YouTube videos because they are completely ignorant of this new type of electronic media.  

But this is not a unique incident that attracts the attention of legal researchers, especially privacy law and speech law researchers. YouTubers, especially women YouTubers continue to violate privacy knowingly or unknowingly and provide more opportunity to trolls, bullies and offline perpetrators to victimise them because they may not be aware about the netiquettes of YouTube. Time has come that YouTube users become cautious of the contents uploaded by them and legalities attached with such uploading and sharing. In this festive season YouTube content uploading and sharing may have seen a steep rise. But it is upon YouTubers to control what must be shared and may not.

YouTube is more powerful than televisions, more demanded than movies and more devastating than what is generally apprehended.

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. This was first published in https://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/2019/10/youtube-youtubers-and-violation-of.html Please cite it as “Halder D. (2019), ” YouTube, YouTubers and violation of privacy of women and children: The drama unfolds” Published in https://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/2019/10/youtube-youtubers-and-violation-of.htm on 28-10-2019, reshared @https://internetlegalstudies.com/2019/10/28/youtube-youtubers-and-violation-of-privacy-of-women-and-children-the-drama-unfolds-by-dr-debarati-halder/


[1] For  more, see https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/72851

[2] For example see Halder D., & Jaishankar K. (2016) Celebrities and Cyber Crimes: An Analysis of the Victimization of Female Film Stars on the Internet. Temida – The journal on victimization, human rights and gender. 19(3-4), 355-372

[3] For example see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52c7V2yeRlo  , https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYdX1uZe1FM  , https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3yuvcKc30ss https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdA6BZJvaEU etc.

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkcMmd-b1-Y

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Po5tE2qKxM

[6] See for better understanding of the case in https://www.amarujala.com/delhi-ncr/faridabad/drunk-parents-beat-student-faridabad-news-noi468791969

[7] See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNG3lousHu4&t=167s where the Youtuber had informed that she called the police to report the video and provided the link of the media report of the incident.

[8] For example, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWS8FAa-MC4&t=48s . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdrSLYGOTpE&t=14s

Trolling and Online violence against women by Dhananjay Bhati

Image courtesy : Google

Online trolling is one of the most prominent types of cyber victimization of women in the present age and it is least taken care of by criminal justice machinery. It is indeed the most prevalent form of abuse against women and it’s an alarming human rights issue. Online abuse of women may include various forms including bullying, trolling, stalking, misogynist comments, racial bullying etc. Trolling have heavy potential of damaging honor or reputation of women. Trolling can be defined as ‘an extreme usage of freedom of speech which is exercised to disrupt the community discussions in social networking sites and which is done to deliberately insult ideologies such as feminism, secularism etc.; of the topic starter or the supporters of the topic starter.’[1] In this digital era, most people consider internet as a podium which provides them the anonymity to victimize others. As a result, the potential perpetrator including the troll is often encouraged to create more havoc with the victim’s life and freedom. Unfortunately, the internet has always been a hostile place for women. Trolling including misogynistic trolling is one of the worst forms speech which has often escaped the clutches of law due to carious reasons .[2] Trolling not only infringes privacy of the victims, it also affects women’s right to participate in economic, social and political affairs. Women in India have reported facing severe online abuse on the socio-verbal platform #Twitter.[3] Trolls have used racial, sexist, homophobic or misogynist to belittle or degrade women’s identity or social status. In most instances, trolls may be complete strangers who would come up for trolling for fun .[4] Unfortunately there is no focused law for regulating trolls or trolling. The exact nature and scale of online abuse by women because of trolling in the Indian context is still under-researched. Amnesty International’s Decoding Project, “Troll Patrol India”[5] is currently researching on this very issue. This project is encouraging researchers/ volunteers to analyse the nature of trolling and report the trolls . It has been noticed that pre and post general elections 2019 in India, there were huge incidents of trolling targeting women including female politicians, journalists, lawyers etc . The social media platforms such as Twitter where the instances of online abuse are most prevalent, need to take responsibility of protecting human rights of women to ensure that women using this platform are able to freely and fearlessly express their thoughts. The Troll Patrol India Project has engaged over 1500 Decoders from all over the country that has analyzed over 4 lakh comments that include homophobic language, explicit sexist, racist, ethnic or religious slurs.  Misogynist, racist trolling is showing no sign of slowing down especially towards the women. Amnesty International’s Decoding Project aims to research on typology of abusive Tweets targeting women. The project will form a considerable pool of research to impart light on how these trolls may dissuade women from freely posting their views on online platforms such as Twitter. In recent times, there have been many ‘women in tech’ initiatives, and things are changing ponderously but it is important to make the internet a safer platform for women. After all, it is necessary to protect the freedom of speech and expression of every woman by ensuring them their online privacy and a safe online environment. The need of the hour is to tackle online violence against women very seriously to uphold women and their enshrined rights in India. Surely, the intermediaries must have to play a bigger role in reaching out to this balance to provide women their online safety. 

   

*Dhananjay Bhati. BBA-LLB, 3rd year, Unitedworld School of Law, Karnavati University. The author is also a project member (Amnesty Decoder) of the Amnesty Decoding Project, Amnesty International India.   The author can be reached @ bhati.dhananjay25@gmail.com

  **This write up has been conceptualized by the author from the Amnesty Decoding Project. 

[1] Halder, D. (2013). Examining the scope of Indecent Representation of Women (Prevention) Act, 1986 in the light of cyber victimization of women in India. National Law School Journal, Vol. 11, 118-218 at p. 196.

[2] Bartlett, J. (2018, March 1). The Trolling and abuse of women rooted in online cultures. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@jamie.bartlett/the-trolling-and-abuse-of-women-rooted-in-online-cultures-667a54d4f88d

[3] Available at https://decoders.amnesty.org/projects/troll-patrol-india.

4] Pinto, S. ( 2017, November 20). What is online violence and abuse against women. Retrieved from https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2017/11/what-is-online-violence-and-abuse-against-women/.

[5] Available at https://decoders.amnesty.org/projects/troll-patrol-india.

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

webwonderpic

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

 

In a late afternoon in the last week of February, 2019 I received a message from Ministry of Women & Child Affairs, Government of India congratulating me for winning the #webwonderwomen award in the category of Legal/policy . #Webwonderwomen is an initiative of Ministry of women & Child, BreakThrough India, an NGO which works for women and girls and Twitter to honor 30 women  from diverse fields who had used Twitter positively for spreading awareness, reaching out to people in need and above all, advocating for women empowerment. Among the 30 women were women activists, lawyers, journalists, sanitation & public health activists, food blogger & nutritionist, film maker, activist promoting breast-feeding, women government officials and myself, who works for victims, especially women victims of cyber crimes.  There were different heartwarming  as well as heart breaking stories told by award winners ; they shared stories of  failures and success, happiness and pain, the feeling of being ridiculed by others because of their support to other women. No wonder, I have also gone through the same while executing my wish to help victims of cyber crimes: I have been cyber  bullied, stalked, trolled and threatened by men and women for my work . I have been asked ridiculous questions regarding my “attachment” with the virtual world. Finally with this award, I could prove that being on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or on internet as a whole for more than the time allotted for general women by their families and societies is not that bad. I have an “unlimited” (in regard to time)  access to net and my husband respects my time on net.  I am fortunate to make this space. I have seen many women who are not allowed to be on net for more than a limited period by their families especially men folk, who may be enjoying (consuming) avatars of other women when their women enter the ‘restricted time period’ for net surfing on a daily basis.

This women’s day is special because as #webwonderwomen awardee I have become a proud ambassador of the Ministry of women and children affairs like my fellow award winners. This is also special because on the very day when I received the award, I saw nothing changed when it comes to cyber crimes against women. While going through the newspaper that very morning, I noticed two news items which  made me think how womens day becomes meaningless for several thousands of women victims of cyber crimes : one was regarding a gang rape survivor who came across the clipping of her own rape scene and dared to walk into the police station to report not only about the physical rape, but also about the virtual consumption of her physical assault by many. The second was about duping of a woman in a renowned matrimonial site . None of these incidents is new for me. However, I salute the rape survivor who took the matter to the police. She must have undergone severe secondary victimization and traumatization by now just like the other victim that I mentioned above. We do not know what would happen to them later: how far the police and prosecution  may help  them ? with a limited legal awareness and fear of  societal taboo, many victims like these two have to withdraw their cases and disappear.

Women’s day is necessarily  related to The Convention on elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW), which was adopted by the UN general Assembly in 1979 and which defines discrimination against women as “…any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.”  The scope of this definition has automatically expanded to include gender discrimination, misogyny and abuse of women’s rights online.  I was more interested in the award ceremony because of Twitter as its  partner.  Social media like Twitter, Faceook , Instagram, YouTube etc are used for women empowerment. But they are notorious platforms for victimization of women. This year’s theme for International women’s day is “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change” , which signifies women empowerment in the field of technology and innovative work by women and men alike for gender equality and betterment of  situation of women across the globe. This won’t fructify unless web companies take the responsibility of  providing safety against gross abuse of women. As women activists, many of us know that there more takers of CEDAW; but how many States are actually ensuring proper implementation of laws especially for women victims of cybercrimes is a question that needs to be researched. There is no uniform law to recognize several cyber offences against women. Majority of countries have no laws for prevention of cyber bullying, stalking, impersonation  of women, online sexual offences  targeting women.  Sexting and revenge porn still fall in the grey line in majority of the countries. It is still considered a taboo for women to watch porn ; women who are caught watching porn/porn contents  are severely moral policed by the society . But on the other hand, when men watch porn including revenge porn and nonconsensual porn, it is still considered as normal because unless the websites flag them as illegal , men (and in certain cases women and  children too) may not be prevented even by the courts because apparently the victims would not have moved the police and / or the courts for taking action to take down the offensive contents .   Majority of these victims may be completely unware of the fact that they have been made subjects of  online consumption as ‘sex items’. Consider the case of  socio-economically poor  women who may be trafficked and their videos of having sexual activities may be floating for many years without making them understand how they are being ‘consumed’ by millions.[1]

“Think equal, build smart, innovate for change” would be possible only when the society including the government stakeholders  as a whole come together to take a holistic step towards preventing cyber victimization of women and creating safe place for women and girls online and in real life.

Wish you all, a very happy WOMEN’S DAY . Lets “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change”.

 

[1] See for example Halder D., & Jaishankar, K. (2014). Online Victimization of Andaman Jarawa Tribal Women: An Analysis of the Human Safari YouTube Videos (2012) and its Effects. British Journal of Criminology, 54(4), 673-688. (Impact factor 1.556). DOI: 10.1093/bjc/azu026.

 

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

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Trolling on Instagram photos: Should women restrain from uploading personal pictures?

CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DEBARATI HALDER

Image curtsy : Google

 

Off-late I have been getting to see many incidences of trolling on personal pictures of individuals, especially women on Instagram. These photos may include photos of young women and girls in trendy clothes, showing more skin than expected by orthodox societies. Such pictures may attract the attention of self-acclaimed moral police trolls who wish to condemn women for their choice of outfits; these trolls use extremely harsh words which may even go to the extent of threatening women for their choices. They may even broaden their harassment pattern by sharing the target pictures through different profiles to defame the victims, threat the victims and create many more morphed images of the victims and this may go on till the victims reach a stage to withdraw from the social media. This indeed generates various levels of criminal liability, some of which have been addressed by laws in India. Apart from self-acclaimed moral police trolls, several women have also complained of fashion police trolls who intentionally data mine and troll women, whose fashion sense according to the trolls is not upto the mark. Unlike the moral police trolls, the fashion police trolls  may not create security or life risking threats, but they may definitely target the reputation of the victims and  their self-esteem.

 

Now let us see what sorts of harm or damage can be done by both types of trolls:
trolling can creation of threat, intimidation
trolls necessarily create posts which are defamatory; these can be teasing remarks  and extremely  insulting comments
trolling can result in reputation damage, violation of privacy, unauthorised access to data, copyright violation (in certain cases)
Trolls are necessarily bullies. But bullying and trolling are not the same. Trolling can be more vicious than bullying. Trolling infact attracts more perpetrators and more victims in the same thread. These victims and perpetrators may not be known to  each other  previously; resultant, the new “victims” who may have joined the thread to support or disagree with the primary victim  may finally put all blames to the primary victim for the victimisation by way of trolling. Trolling is more public than bullying. As such the effects of trolling may be more traumatising than bullying. Trolling can not only damage reputation of the primary victims, trolls may go a long way to harass cyber bystanders or commenters who may support or disagree with the victims as well as with the trolls. The situation worsens if these bystanders or commenters are women; trolls may threaten these secondary victims with legal consequences (for aggravating the issues) which may force the latter to withdraw from social media just like the primary victims.
This may adversely affect women’s usage of Instagram : Instagram unlike Facebook may instantly help the user to get connected with people/group with common interest especially when the user uses the hashtags. The pictures/videos armed with hashtags may help the user to reach a wider audience. Several people including women aspiring to showcase their creativity in fashion industry, upcoming models, actors singers, anchors, performers etc, who use the platform for getting connected with the industry people, mentors and a wider audience, may suffer hugely if trolls attack them on Instagram. Victims may not only feel completely withdrawn, they may also be pulled into unnecessary legal tangles especially if the trolls misuse their pictures which may have been uploaded by the victims for promoting certain brands (which in turn may not appreciate such negative publicity of their product).
        But this in no way should mean that women should restrain from uploading pictures on Instagram. There are several ways to protect the privacy, reputation and the copyright of the pictures of the users :
1.  Women and girls should always opt for privacy options in Instagram. This may reduce the responsibility of the users and increase that of the website. The victims may directly charge the websites for not applying due diligence and  neglecting the security features which should have restricted unwanted people from infringing the privacy and copyrights. Further, in case the women wish to make the profiles open for public and had been harassed/trolled/stalked/unauthorisedly accessed etc, the victims must report the matter to the websites. The websites would not be letting the victim know the about the original identity of the harasser in case the profile is that of unknown person/s; but they would be duty bound to repair the damage, i.e. , restrict the unauthorised circulation of the image of the victim and generating anymore message that may harm the reputation of the victims. S.79(3) of the Information technology Act, 2000(amended in 2008) (exceptions to exemption from liability of intermediary in certain cases)  may be applied in such cases.
2.  Indian laws do not recognise online trolling and bullying as separate offences. This definitely had created problems for proper justice delivery to the victims. However, basing on the modus operandi for trolling several penal provisions may be applied; for instance, S.509 (punishment for harming the modesty of women), 507 (criminal intimidation by anonymous person), 499 and 500 (defamation and punishment for the same), 354D (punishment for stalking including cyber stalking) of the IPC may be used for posting intimidating, insulting, defamatory comments, stalking, creating threats etc.
3.  If trolling results in creation of Fake avatars especially sexually explicit contents, obscene contents etc, and if this involves unauthorised access to data, manipulation of data etc, the police may also apply provisions including Ss. 43(unauthorized access to the computer, data etc) 66 (punishment for computer related offences), 66C (punishment for fraudulently using password, unique identification features etc of any other person), 66D (punishment for cheating by impersonation), 66E (violation of privacy)(incase the picture has been used to create morphed pictures/images), 67 (punishment for creating sexually explicit contents), 67A (punishment for creating obscene contents ) of the Information technology Act, 2000(amended in 2008), S.354C IPC(punishment for voyeurism) etc. Police may also necessarily apply provisions from Indecent representation of women (prohibition )Act, 1986 for indicting the accused for indecent representation of the victim online.
Some of the above mentioned laws are non bailable and cognizable. This means that trolling may not be considered as a simple offence especially if it results in heavy offences including creation of sexually explicit contents ( the contents include not only the images, but the texts as well) etc. As such, women should not refrain from using Instagram fearing trolling. But they must be aware of their rights against trolling and the duties of the websites.
Let us unite against misogynist trolling. Let us spread the message that trolling, its modus operandi and its consequences should not be taken lightly and the criminal justice machinery must emphasise with the victims of trolling.

 

 Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2018), ” Trolling on Instagram photos: should women restrain from uploading personal pictures?” 15th January, 2019, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com

 

Judges, cops and civil servants: Can they have Social media friends in reality?

CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DEBARATI HALDER

Image courtesy: Internet 

In the fag end of May, 2018, news channels flashed the story of Major Nitin Leetul Gogoi, the army man who is hero to some and villain to some because of his controversial act of tying a Kashmiri man to a jeep using him as a human shield against the stone –pelters who were targeting army actions in Kashmir last year. He became (in)famous to many because the clippings of his controversial act became viral on the web. He grabbed the headlines again this month because of his controversial Facebook friendship with a Kashmiri woman who, the media says was trying to check in   with the Major and another person in a local hotel in Kashmir. It was reported that the said woman had claimed that she knew the Major through Facebook and his account was not in his real name. We know that social media including Facebook is used for secret surveillance by the government agencies and it has positive and negative aspects as well. Fake accounts are used by the police to detect and trap criminals including paedophiles, fraudsters and even terrorists.
But here, I am not actually concerned about pattern of use of social media by the government officials. I am concerned about professional ethics of certain categories of government servants who may not be allowed to befriend common people like what social media offers. This category may include judges belonging to higher and lower judiciary, government officials belonging to certain all India services including group A and B of central services etc.
Let me explain it broadly here:
Since ancient times judges are considered to be of high moral and judiciary is considered to be “an institution of integrity”. Several judgements including K.P.Singh vs. High Court of H.P. &ors,[1]High Court of Judicature for Rajasthan vs. Ramesh Chand Paliwal,[2]Tarak Singh vs. Jyoti Basu,[3]etc had established the fact that judges are expected to be like hermit, they should be honest and should “adhere to a code of moral value”.[4]In short, they should be inapproachable personally but approachable as an institution to be impartial. What does this mean? Judges cannot be on par with general individuals who may approach the institution of justice, i.e., the courts for seeking justice. They should not make themselves individually or privately approachable so that the possible litigants, who may approach their  courts, may not influence him. It is the principle of fair justice which to a large extent governs the code of conduct of judges. But we need to remember that in this era of social media, any individual can hardly be out of the net . While it is still expected that judges should not make themselves privately approachable, I myself have loads of Facebook friends who are in the judiciary. They share opinions, their personal photos with their chosen friends just like any other individual. But yes, their circle of friends may not be as big as any other common social media user. Many of them are directly connected with the Facebook pages of District legal services authorities, which not only spread awareness about legal rights, but also showcase performances of the particular government offices.  However, I do not have Facebook friends from higher judiciary, but nonetheless, many of “Their Lordships” may be easily approachable because of  digital messaging services like WhatsApp, which may be used to create ‘groups’ as well.[5]World wide this has become a cause of concern now; it has been suggested by many that judges while in service, should try to avoid social media as this may pull them in unnecessary trouble and make floodgates open for questioning their integrity.[6]But again, we can neither ignore the strong (social media) presence of judges like Justice Markendey Katzu, former Supreme Court judge who had courted controversy because of his blog posts, social media posts for strong criticism of court decisions.[7]Doesn’t this show that he may still be considered as falling in the ‘restricted netizen’ category even as a retired judge? Probably yes because he may never be seen as a general individual who may criticise judges and their judicial understanding of cases by virtue of his being a judge himself who is expected to not to lower the respect the judiciary; probably no, because he may still use his right to speech and expression to express his displeasure for the judgements which according to him, are not fare. But still then, he could not be equal to general individuals: the court questioned his act towards publishing post in social media criticising court’s decision in crucial cases like the final verdict of the sensational case of Soumya, who was killed by her rapist.
       High level civil servants including bureaucrats, officers of Indian Police Services etc have a high presence in the social media too. Most of their accounts may be private accounts. But there are several pages of their offices which may be made by their respective offices. This actually shows that even though the government and the courts continue to question data policy of social media companies like Facebook or Twitter, these social media sites are very much involved in government outreach mechanisms: for example, see the websites of certain city police offices/headquarters; all may show their Facebook presence. http://ahmedabadcitypolice.org/, https://www.bcp.gov.in/ ,http://www.tnpolice.gov.in/CCTNSNICSDC/Index?0 ; all may have their Facebook and twitter pages where individuals may access for information and even to reach out concerned police offices for immediate lodging of complaints. But private accounts of IAS or IPS officers are not connected with these pages. This means that they have a separate private presence in the social media. Their friends, their posts and their photographs are their private affairs just like any other general individual who may use social media sites for reaching out to friends. But still, they may not be out of surveillance for their conduct in their private social media accounts. Their children may also be held accountable for sharing parents’ pictures which may raise questions about their integrity: erstwhile J&K DIG Beig invited hoards of controversy when his son posted certain pictures of his dad which raised media storm because the posts suggested that Beig was abusing power.[8]Even though the son removed the posts, the pictures and hashtags were made viral and they are still available on internet.  It may actually mean that these officers may not have a private life even in social media. Gogoi in the same way, may also not have that privacy even if he may claim that he and the woman in question personally knew each other and this friendship was neither professional, nor was an abuse of power for harassing the girl offline or online.
In short, why such friendships between officers and civilians, their online presence and activities may raise questions at all? Misuse of power to harass and exploit civilians especially women could be one primary reason for such enthusiasm. But in case the friendships are genuine, posts by the officials reflect their personal and independent opinions and photographs shared in their social media sites are personal memoire , why they should be targeted and who makes these posts (in)famous for public and media? It is those ‘friends’ who may knowingly or unknowingly feed the enthusiastic ‘third persons’ by sharing /showing the private posts that may appear in their time line feeds. Remember Merin Joseph, the young IPS officer from Kerala who being a police officer herself, could not remain safe online? She had to encounter fake profiles with her picture, trolls and misogynist posts even though she was sharing some posts as a private person and not as an on duty officer. Trolls attacked her  posts and albums, some of which were not for public viewing. Privacy may be myth for these public servants  especially when they are active  in their private  social media accounts. Compared to 1990’s public servants have become more accountable now because of their web presence. After each UPSC result declarations, the social media accounts of successful candidates may immediately come into lime light. It works positively because their conduct becomes more transparent to public; it works negatively because they may slowly lose privacy being within the private social media account. The very much private personssuddenly come under lime light as not only the common people , but also the media starts data mining  to know them more than what is expected to be known. One name which comes in my mind right now is of Sandeep Nanduri, IAS, who is presently the District magistrate and collector of Tuticorin district. He had taken over as DM and collector Tutircorin at a very crucial time when the district was having agitation over Sterlite copper industries plant closure issue. Nanduri’s Facebook account may reveal his activities as a government official as well as a private individual. This may further mean that not only he himself, but his wife may also be targeted by trolls, stalkers and miscreants who may wish to approach him.
Untill now there is no clear-cut code of conduct framed for restricting judges and grade A and B officers of central government or even state government services from using social media (except  for certain issues like restriction from spreading hatred, criticising the government in certain key issues, leaking confidential data etc) and befriending  common people. They however may have to rely on the social media policies for data protection. But again, in such cases, they may be held responsible for choosing their virtual friends. We should not forget that there are instances  of honey trapping of government officials by ISI secret services; this may however show that privacy of the government officials may easily be breached if they themselves are not vigilant enough for their social media ‘friends’. There are clearly two arguments which may made in this regard: (i) such government servants may be completely barred from making themselves available to ‘public’ through their private social media  accounts , (ii) being part of  digital India movement they must be approachable to people through social media as well. However, considering the privacy and security aspects, I feel it is high time that government  makes a clear  policy as how they should be protected from predators and how they should conduct even when they are ‘privately public’.

Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2018),Judges, cops and civil servants: Can they have Social media friends in reality?”3rd June, 2018, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com


[1]LPA No. 163 of 2009
[2] (1998) 2 SCC 72
[3](2005)1 SCC 201
[4]See for more in http://hpsja.nic.in/ethics.pdf. Accessed on 26.05.2018
[5] For example, see Maniar Gopi (2017),Vadodara: Gujarat HC slams VMC commissioner for sending WhatsApp message to judge. Published in India today on Semptember 8, 2017 https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/vadodara-gujarat-hc-vmc-commissioner-whatsapp-message-judge-1040341-2017-09-08
[6]For better understanding, see Singh Shaziah (2016), FRIEND REQUEST DENIED: JUDICIAL ETHICS AND SOCIAL MEDIA, Published in Journal of Law, Technology & the Internet · Vol. 7 · 2016. Accessed from https://scholarlycommons.law.case.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1099&context=jolti on 25.05.2018
[7]For more understanding, see Vaidyanathan.A (2017), Justice Markandey Katju Submits Apology In Supreme Court Over Post Criticising Soumya Verdict, published in https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/justice-markandey-katju-apologises-to-supreme-court-over-post-criticising-soumya-verdict-1645845 on 06-01-2017. Accssed on 25-05-2018
,.
[8]For example, see Bashaarat Masood (2014),J&K DIG’s son posts photos of ‘Dad & I’ enjoying perks of power, published in http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/jk-digs-son-posts-photos-of-dad-i-enjoying-perks-of-power/ on Octiober 29,2014. Accessed on 25.05.2018