This article is written by Yukti Singh and Palak Jagetia, students of Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow. In this article, the authors explain how misogyny is rapidly growing on the internet.
You are scrolling down on your newsfeed and out of the blue you came across a dark meme, and to your surprise, it’s on you. Imagine what? You have been a victim of cyber-crime. Now what you did except for feeling disgusted, nothing? Really? Why? Because it’s not new and appears to be normal and even if it’s not then too do you really have a remedy? Well think on it. A few days back social media got flooded with the talks of Bois Locker Room and how it set new benchmarks for the growing misogyny in the society.
So, how can this society, which is a product of patriarchy, be reformed? And this faulty mindset when coupled with the misuse of technology, the problem increases exponentially. This piece aims to cater the problem of obliviousness among youth about the abuse of social media, and how these platforms often become the place that promotes bullying, misogyny, etc
So before delving into the solution, let us first analyse the problem.
Social Media Crime
- Cyber Trolling: A troll means deliberately offensive or provocative online posts, usually with an intention of eliciting reactions from others.
- Cyber Bullying: It is somewhat similar to trolling but it targets the individual with a goal of shaming. Trolls want to seek attraction whereas cyber-bullies want to hurt the victim.
- Revenge Porn: It is defined as the publication of private sexual images and films showing a particular person on the internet by a former partner of that person as an attempt to harm them.
- Cyber Stalking: It is the crime where the stalker uses Internet or other electronic devices to stalk someone. ‘Online Harassment’ and ‘Online Abuse’ are the words often used for online stalking.
- Child Pornography: This can be defined as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor which includes photograph, video, digital or computer-generated image.
- Cyber Extortion: It is a crime involving the attack or threat of an attack compiled with the demands mostly in monetary terms in return for stopping or remediating the attack.
- Copyright Infringement: Copyright, essentially refers to the laws that protect the original works of authorship like works of literature, or any other forms of work. And thus, sharing or saving someone’s picture without their consent should also fall under the category of Copyright Infringement.
Existing laws in India and relevant case laws
In Indian, there are many cyber laws but here, we will deal with the laws regarding the abuse of social media against women. According to the law, anyone can picture us in a public place and share it without our consent under Art. 19 of the constitution. However, publishing a photograph in a manner that may be embarrassing or mentally traumatic to the person involved in the photograph is prohibited under Art. 21 of the constitution because such pictures can permanently harm someone’s reputation in the society. But it shall be noted that taking pictures in itself should be taken as invasion of privacy, which isn’t the case presently.
- Section 354 A IPC: People who post lewd comments on any social media are in violation of this section. In addition, if someone posts or messages content related pornography against the will of a woman or demands for sexual favours, then such an act is also punishable.
- Section 354 C IPC: It deals with Voyeurism. It applies in cases where a man without the consent of a women captures the image or a video in which she is engaged in a private act.
- Section 354 D IPC: It deals with the concept of online stalking. The provision covers the ground of a case where an attempt is made to contact a woman through the internet to foster personal interaction. It includes monitoring the use of the internet by women. Thus, hacking the account of girls’ social media platforms and chats or even collecting their photos from social media would be an offence under.
- Section 499 IPC: It deals with the offence of defamation and concerns with those individuals who tend to believe that his/ her reputation is being harmed due to some visible representation published on the internet.
- Section 503 IPC: It deals with the cases of an individual threatening a woman with the intention to malign her reputation.
- Section 507 IPC: It concerns with the persons distinctly posting sexual remarks or images or videos which comprises of sexual remarks on social media.
- Section 509 IPC: It states that any word, gesture or act that intends to insult the modesty of the woman is punishable in the law.
- Section 66E IT Act: It refers to the violation of privacy, under this sharing of the images of a private area of any person without his or her consent is punishable. The term “private” includes naked or undergarment clad genitals, pubic area, buttocks or female breast.
- Section 67A IT Act: It talks about transmitting sexually explicit material. In this sharing of any image or video which shows a person is engaged in a sexual act is included. Notwithstanding the image is real or morphed, the act is an offence.
- Section 67B IT Act: It covers the transmission of sexually explicit material depicting a child under 18 years of age. This includes not only the depiction of a child in a sexual act but the creation and circulation of any kind of digital text or image that depicts a child in an obscene manner. The image being real or morphed notwithstanding, the act is an offence.
- Section 14 and 15 POCSO Act: Here, child pornography is prohibited. Even sharing and storage of any kind of child pornography content with the intention of sharing it is an offence under Section 15.
Recently the very highlighted case of “Bois Locker Room” is a perfect example of the blooming toxic masculinity and the cyber-crime in the society. Those involved were booked under S 66E, S 67A, S 67B of IT Act, 2000; S 354C, 354D of IPC, 1860 and S 14 and S 15 of POCSO.
The courts in past, have given multiple rulings dealings with the issue at hand. Some of the landmark cases are mentioned below.
- Ritu Kohli v. Manish Kathuria: This case brought the gravity of cyber-stalking into the limelight and accused was booked under S. 509 IPC as the convict in the present case threatened Mrs. Ritu for sharing her nudes through a series of e-mails and further sent letters to her address asking for the same.
- Karan Githora v. State: This is the only case on cyberstalking to reach judiciary. In this, a complaint was filed under S. 66A, IT Act. The victim agreed for sexual intercourse and sharing of intimate pictures with Mr Girotha because she was under the impression that they are going to marry, but he refused to marry her and threatened to circulate her pictures. The court, however, held that the pictures were completely consensual. This case highlights the loopholes in the system and shows the requirement for more stringent laws.
- Raghuraj Singh v Air force Bal Bharti School: This was a case of revenge pornography in which the accused created a pornographic website and listed names of some school classmates and teachers and the accused was charged under S 67 of IT act, S 292 of IPC and Indecent Representation of Women act.
- State of Tamil Nadu v Suhas Katti: This landmark case was the first instance when somebody was charged under S. 67, IT Act, S469 and S 509 of IPC for harassing a girl (a relative of the victim). The accused harassed the victim by sending her obscene posts and threatened her .
- Air force Bal Bharti School v State: The accused in the present case, tried to teach a lesson to those who made fun of his face and so morphed their pictures with nude photographs and was booked under S. 43 and S. 66 of IT Act, 2000 and S. 509, IPC.
Laws in other countries
United States of America
- Communications Decency act regulates the indecency and obscenity on the cyberspace in the US.
- Many US states also have laws that mandate the schools for providing sex education and cyber education.
- Online safety Laws: This law has some special initiatives like making the website legally responsible for abuse with their users and appointment of anti-harassment ambassadors in school to protect and educate school children.
- Cyberbullying: The Malicious Communications Act, 1988 looks after the comments that may cause “distress or anxiety” apart from the remedies of defamation in torts.
- Revenge Porn: A Criminal Justice and Courts bill, 2015 has been specially introduced to the acts of revenge porn, and many have been prosecuted since then.
- Anti-Harassment Laws: “Trolls” can be prosecuted under this act with a maximum of 2 years of infringement.
Many other laws, especially designed to include all sorts of hate crimes, stalking, identity theft, online grooming, etc. are proposed in the country.
Preventive and curative ways to protect oneself
Privacy Setting: Some websites provide features that prevents downloading or taking screenshots of your profile and posts like the safety guard feature of Facebook. But such user-friendly policy regulations should also be mandated for all other websites. In a similar way, one can also control the visits on one’s timeline.
Report Abuse: Reporting abuse on social media is a tranquil process, you can report abuse by a few clicks, and the procedure varies with the site. And this feature is not just a remedy to you, but is also a responsibility towards other users, which may be victims of the same abuse. And so, don’t just prevent yourself, but also report such person/post to make the respective platform safer.
Helpline No. and portals: Indian Government has a special portal named “National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal” and a helpline no. “155260” where you can complain to seek help with assurance of confidentiality.
Cyber Complain: It is a simple process which starts with filing an application addressing the chief of the respective cybercrime division, then all the other details like name, contact details and proof if any (specially in cases of harassment) are to be submitted. Furthermore, in case the victim does not have access to cyber cell then, FIR can also be lodged at a local police station.
Below mentioned are the suggested amendments in the laws and functioning of social media website
- Morphing: Laws should be strengthened in order to keep check on the acts involving morphing. Presently, S. 66E S. 67A and S. 67B of IT Act broadly includes only those pictures that depict the person indecently, or involved in any sexual act and only these acts are punishable. However, there is an urgent need for laws that prohibit morphing of pictures for the purpose of mockery, etc. Law on this should be made on the principle that, what the morphed picture depicts is not important or essential to constitute a crime, the morphing of any kind should be a crime in itself, because if nothing else, it is still an invasion of privacy. And thus, the amount of harm constituted to the victim should not be the parameter to constitute crime.
- Strengthening of privacy setting provided by the social sites: India provides a great consumer base to almost all social media sites. So, apps should design their privacy settings keeping in mind the interest of their largest consumer. And the government should take the onus to mandate certain kind of privacy features like preventing others from downloading or copying your picture in any way, etc on all the apps that function in the country. Also, government should encourage the platforms to initiate actions like that of Google, in which google in 2015, announced a policy where it took upon itself to remove all the pictures of the people who suffered because of non-consensual abuse of their indecent pictures or videos.
- Laws holding websites legally liable for abuse on their platforms: Such law would force the websites to design stringent privacy settings to protect their users against abuse.
- Appointment of anti-abuse ambassadors in School premises: A step like this would help to ensure the safety of school children (the ones new to the world of social media) by creating awareness among them and providing them with help if needed.
- Copyright infringement act should be amended: Laws should be made that brings the sharing of somebody’s pictures that he/she has posted under the copyright infringement acts. As presently websites like Instagram, clearly states in their copyright rules that if you appear in a photo or a video than it does not mean that you are copyrighted in that photo. But such policies need immediate reforms.
- Strengthening of privacy rights: Entering a public sphere should not in itself be perceived as a move of forgoing the privacy rights. For example: Many social media platforms allows other users with the licence to repost/retweet or share any post available on the site as it is believed that you yourself forgo your right by putting up something up on social media.
- Mandatory Pop-ups: Government should mandate all the social media sites, to pop up the all the laws that a user should be made aware of, this would particularly help educate the youth and children about their rights and duties while using a social media site.
Other Laws that should also be taught to children:
- Cyber-crimes education: Although CBSE has recently introduced a module on cyber crimes for students of classes 9th-12th, but it has two problems viz it is not a mandatory subject and such books should be included in lower classes as well.
- Juvenile offenders: Everyone should be made aware of the fact that sharing the name of the juvenile offenders, as in the case of “Bois Locker Room” is also an offence. And if these people are proven non-guilty then people bad-mouthing about these offenders may end up committing the act of Defamation.
- Forwards: One should also be taught forwarding a wrong troll/offensive image, etc is same as accepting and endorsing it as was established by Madras HC.
- Children should be taught the importance of privacy, and how any amount of trust in person should not be the validation for sharing of private pictures with one another, and how to protect oneself from cyber abuses.
Once we are able to work on the above-mentioned points, the solution to this growing rape culture and misogyny increasing more due to the abuse of technology will be automatically reduced.
The misogyny is growing in the society and misuse of social media sites is adding fuel to this fire. The only way to cater to the above-mentioned problems is to create awareness about cyber laws and other related laws. Also, if we want to nip this problem in the bud then parents and teachers should understand their responsibility specifically towards providing sex education to the children thereby trying to eradicate this misogynistic ideology from the society. And the government should strengthen the laws like making websites legally liable, etc as social interactions cannot remain de-controlled and unregulated as they are in the status quo.
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