Tag: Twitter

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

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.

Public Tweets, privacy and necessity to be private in public eyes

CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DEBARATI HALDER

When  the Bengali cinema lovers just woke up from the first shock of the death of the legendary actress Suchitra Sen, came the news of the death of Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor, better known to many as the wife of Dr. Shashi Tharoor, the extremely noticeable union minister of India. People were in awe of Suchitra Sen even when she was lying in Keoratola crematorium ground waiting to be cremated by her daughter. The main reason: she was an extremely personal lady and unlike many of her contemporaries, she neither appeared in public for more than twenty something years, nor did she encourage anyone to know more about her through the electronic media. She was not present in either Facebook or Twitter and no one knew how she looked like after she appeared in her last cinema. We, the generation who grew up watching  Big Bs getting older looks and new actors like Shah Rukh Khan and his contemporaries taking the stage from the older generation, hardly watched any Bengali cinema during the late 80’s or 90’s until Rituporno Ghosh brought back the magic of commercial Bengali cinema back to us in late 90’s and early 2000s. We, like our parents and grandparents, wanted to see Suchitra Sen and be in touch with her, but in vain. Internet and social media never appealed to her to get reconnected with her fans. But when she died on 17th January,2013 Facebook and Twitter were swept over by comments, condolences and pictures of her. I even came across “Suchitra Sen hot” key words in Google even though the images showed her two granddaughters who are also actors and not her in any such ‘hot scene’. Photographs of her exhausted and distressed daughter and mourning granddaughters in the crematorium were shared by many electronic news channels and these were hot favourite in the net on the day until suddenly the private lady was eclipsed by another very much public figure Sunanda.
          I loved watching Shashi and Sunanda’s photographs over the internet like million others. They were very much ‘public’ and I was one of Shashi Tharoor’s 2,050,605   followers in Twitter. Occasionally I used to  reTweet his very informative Tweets and like many others I took deep interest in  reading the family drama involving his ‘hacked Twitter account’, his wife and a Pakistani journalist( see http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/tharoor-makes-statement-about-marriage-after-wife-sunanda-s-twitter-outburst/article1-1173465.aspx) . I like million others, took him to be a public icon who should be ‘followed’, ‘watched’, talked about and criticised for his views. I obviously was not following Sunanda and I am sure, like me, there are many who started scrutinising her tweets for the first time when Shashi Tharoor gave a joint statement with her  regarding their marriage and  news channels started increasing their TRPs by publicising this. Interestingly, it was not Shashi Tharoor’s tweets which drew attention, it was Sunanda’s ones. Simultaneously, the Pakistani journalist involved therein  probably received millions of visitors for her tweets within a few hours as well. Some of Sunanda’s tweets and Pakistani journalist’s tweets did definitely provide a chain of blame game centring ‘a husband’ and  two women’s relationships with him. I instantly wondered how one can become so much public about one’s assumptions regarding personal relations. This incidence is not an example of bullying; I have seen many instances of death caused by Facebook bullying which were public and the death was caused mainly by the emotional stress the victim went through after realising what the audience (who are watching the bullying communication) would think about him/her. But this is definitely a very bold example of right to express oneself publicly and what could be the consequence in real life. Many academic researches on online victimisation have shown how a particular communication, seeing an unwanted image or even constantly thinking of the issue take a toll on the health of the victim. This may have played an important role in her ‘unnatural’ death along with other factors as are now being revealed by the police, doctors and also by the media. But the question is, does one really need to be this much public in the social media in certain cases even if he/she is a public figure?  Both Sunanda and the Pakistani journalist had pulled in lots of issues in their respective tweets and indeed the diplomatic relation of the two countries is also involved now. This is one brilliant example as how an issue which should have been a private affair, can draw more than desired attention because of the ‘public nature’ of  it. Some may say they are public figures and they should be transparent. But is this much transparency wanted especially when it has resulted in a death? Apart from personal Tweets, the investigation have  also started analysing  CCTV footage, personal text messages , emails that have been exchanged within all three of them. But as the criminal procedures and constitutional rights guarantee, some of such evidences would never be published respecting the right to privacy of the people involved. The ‘public Tweets’ may remain forever giving a sad example as how desire to remain in public eyes through publicly expressing personal thoughts may create an unwanted image which may never be broken and which can become chosen item for trolls for jeopardizing the situation more.
          India is undergoing a tremendous change in legal procedural codes in respect to media reports ( including reports, status updates or tweets by civil society members) of the crimes, privacy of the victim as well as the accused with the case of sexual harassment of law interns by judges. The transition may take our privacy law understandings to new heights which may have positive as well as negative implications. This case of Sunanda Tharoor may remotely add some contribution to the ongoing transition if and when the prosecution starts throwing light on the publicly expressed private comments in the social media and the ‘sharing’ of these by other fellow Tweet-handles. Nonetheless, this would remain an example as where to draw a limit line of privacy in the social media when one is very much 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. (2014),Public tweets, privacy and necessity to be private in public eyes19th January,2014, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/