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This article has been written by Nehal Misra, a student at Nirma University, Ahmedabad. In this article, she discusses the situation wherein an individual is blackmailed at an online platform.

Introduction

Blackmail is a method of coercion in which a person or group of people is threatened with releasing or disseminating either substantially true or false information about them unless specific demands are met. It’s usually harmful information that’s only shared with relatives or associates rather than the general public. It could include threatening the victim or someone close to the victim with physical, mental, or emotional harm, as well as criminal prosecution.

It is usually done for personal benefit, most typically in the form of power, money, or property. An existence without the web doesn’t appear to be a chance any longer. From getting to our messages, posting reports via online media, perusing the news, buying supplies, or simply utilizing Whatsapp, none of our ordinary exercises are conceivable without the utilization of the web. With various exchanges and a huge measure of information being traded routinely, there is a high danger of delicate data being spilt. Web-based media is quite possibly the most widely recognized stage where online tricks happen because of the abuse of the touchy data of a person. While web-based media monsters have been finding a way to defend their foundation. A large number of individuals have succumbed to coercion via web-based media. There has been an enormous increase in the number of individuals being influenced by cybercrime.

The digital trap

India has experienced an upsurge in incidents of cybercrime and sextortion, which is effectively blackmailing for sexual advantage, during the last decade. Sextortion usually involves a blackmailer who has access to a victim’s personal films or photos. Victims are blackmailed for money, sexual favors, or additional compromising material, with the threat of the blackmailer publishing the material they have on the internet if they do not comply. When one partner keeps graphic material from a relationship, revenge pornography is fairly common. With the fear of those graphic photos/videos being exposed online, victims are frequently pressured to stay in relationships.

People are frequently blackmailed via altered images in which their faces have been changed into sexual stuff. Cyber-stalking is frequently combined with revenge pornography and sextortion. Such crimes are greatly increased by social networking networks and dating websites. Smartphone applications contribute to the risk since users of video-calling apps are unaware that they are being videotaped. There are phone apps that record WhatsApp audio and video chats, applications that have access to all of the content in one’s phone gallery (such as games, photo-editing apps, and social network apps), and systems for recovering data from formatted phones. One of the most common reasons people become victims is a lack of awareness of such phone apps and tech-based capabilities.

Provisions related to blackmailing under Indian law

  • Blackmailing is a form of criminal intimidation, which is defined in Section 503 of the Indian Penal Code as “Whoever threatens another with any injury to his person, reputation, or property, or to the person or reputation of anyone in whom that person is interested, with the intent to cause alarm to that person, or to omit to do any act which that person is legally entitled to do, as a means of avoiding doing any act which that person is legally entitled to do, as the means of avoiding doing Criminal intimidation can result in a sentence of either type of jail, which can last up to two years, or a fine, or a combination of the two.
  • Section 384 can also be used to describe it: Extortion is punishable by imprisonment of any kind, up to three years, a fine, or both. The penalty is three years under this provision, and the offense is non-bailable and triable in any Magistrate.
  • The victim has the authority under Section 108(1)(i)(a) of the Criminal Procedure Code to contact the magistrate in her area and inform him/ her about the person she suspects could distribute any obscene matter. The magistrate has the authority to detain such individuals and require them to sign a bond prohibiting them from disseminating the material. This may serve as a deterrent to the accused. This is a quick redress section because the victim can file a complaint with the magistrate without providing any concrete evidence against the accused.
  • Any individual who publishes or threatens to disclose any intimate and compromising images of someone through any electronic means, including apps and other social media, is indicted under Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
  • A voyeurism case under Section 354C of the IPC can also be made with the help of other relevant sections from the Information Technology Act if a photo of a lady is taken obscenely and distributed without her knowledge.
  • Other laws govern sexual abuse: The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, this law was enacted to provide recourse to women suffering from domestic abuse; The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, this act protects a woman against sexual harassment at the workplace; Section 354 (A to D) of the Indian Penal Code 1860, lays down punishments for different types of sexual offenses; Section 376(2) talks about rape due to the abuse of authority in specific situations; Section 108(1)(i)(a) of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 has been amended to give the victim the power to contact the magistrate and file a complaint directly to the magistrate about the circulation of obscene material; The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, is aimed to tackle issues of sexual exploitation of children; Information Technology Act, 2000 also cover certain sexual offenses dealing with cyber-crime.
  • Section 66E of the IT Act, 2000 – Violation of Privacy—prohibits capturing or disseminating photos of a person without their agreement.
  • Section 67 of the IT Act, 2000 – Transmitting obscene electronic material- Sharing images or videos to defame someone is punishable
  • Section 67B of the IT Act, 2000-Child pornography applies- If the victim is a minor, below 18 years.
  • Section 67A of the IT Act, 2000 – Electronic material containing sexually explicit acts- Using hidden cameras to record and share video clips is a punishable offense.

How to deal with blackmail

  • The first thing to keep in mind is that you should never take issues into your own hands. If you decide to use your threats, you will almost certainly be arrested and the blackmailer will be able to carry out his or her threat. Similarly, just complying with the requests can sometimes result in additional demands or even the blackmailer carrying out the coercive threat out of spite after you have complied.
  • The police are tasked with locating and punishing criminals. Make a call to them first. Extortion and blackmail are crimes, and it is their responsibility to enforce the law. In certain circumstances, the threat of danger is less severe in reality than it appears in your mind.
  • Follow the instructions of law enforcement, even if they appear counterintuitive. They may compel you to go through another round of blackmail at the hands of your tormentor to gather enough evidence to convict you. Alternatively, they may tell you to deny the blackmailer or take other steps to entice them to leave. Whatever advice is given, take it. The police are trained specialists who understand how to handle these cases and what evidence will be needed to ensure that your blackmailer can never abuse you or anyone else again.
  • Of course, contacting your attorney for assistance in dealing with these challenging legal problems is always the best option. An attorney can not only aid you in gaining perspective while safeguarding your privacy, as indicated above but he or she can also aid you in navigating the appropriate process for getting help with your situation. An attorney may be able to propose alternatives that you might not have considered otherwise.

What you need to know if someone blackmails you on an online platform

Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp make us feel more connected and for the younger generation, a day without social media has become unimaginable. In a few years, these platforms have gained a lot of popularity and attracted millions of users worldwide. While the benefits of social media for society are uncountable, it has its disadvantages as well. The darker side reveals that these platforms are being used by antisocial elements to blackmail others for their advantage. There have been many incidents of innocent people being blackmailed through Whatsapp and Facebook. Blackmailing takes place when someone threatens you and demands financial or other forms of benefits. As per the law, blackmailing is a serious crime and it can have negative effects on the person who is being blackmailed. If you are being blackmailed by someone, you should always seek help from law enforcement bodies. Suffering silently would have undesired effects on your health and mind.

  1. If you’re being blackmailed on social media, don’t put up with it and remain silent. Instead, you must combat the blackmailer from the very beginning.
  2. If you are a victim of cyber-blackmail, you should report it to the local police. However, before going to the cops, speak with a lawyer and get good guidance on how to track down the blackmailer. This can help you build a stronger case. You might be able to prevent the blackmailer from blackmailing others by reporting the issue to the authorities.
  3. Victims of cyber-blackmail can also anonymously report the offense at www.cybercrime.gov.in. The Ministry of Home Affairs has put up this dedicated website for reporting cybercrime. The victim must create an account by providing his mobile number and name to file a complaint on this website. The victim can also track his or her case on the internet.
  4. If the victim has reported the incident online at www.cybercrime.gov.in, the complaint will be handled by the respective police authorities of the States or UTs based on the information provided by the victim.
  5. If you’ve been the victim of any type of cybercrime, don’t remove the perpetrator’s images, emails, or other material because doing so makes it difficult to track down evidence in the virtual world. Consider collecting pictures or printing off the evidence and reporting the incident on the forum where it occurred, such as a social networking website or a blog, where harassment or crime has occurred. 

How to file a complaint about a cybercrime?

A complaint can be filed anywhere, as cybercrimes don’t have any jurisdiction. As per the ARDC (Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission), one can approach three places in any city to complain about a suspect:

  • Cyber cells: They’ve been set up specifically to deal with cybercrime victims. They are under the jurisdiction of the police department’s criminal investigation division. You can register an F.I.R. at a local police station if a cyber cell is not available where you live. You can approach the police commissioner if you are unable to file an F.I.R. An F.I.R. must be registered with a police station.
  • National Commission for Women: The is a non-profit organization that assists victims of Internet abuse in dealing with law enforcement. To speed the investigation, the Commission has the authority to appoint an inquiry committee with the authority to undertake spot investigations, gather evidence, question witnesses, and summon the accused.
  • Reporting on social media websites: Reporting on social media websites is an option if both of the above options are difficult to do for whatever reason. Most of these websites have the option of reporting the crime since they are required by the IT regulations of 2011 to take action within 36 hours of receiving the information to prevent the spread of objectionable materials.

Conclusion

To ensure that everyone can securely and respectfully report cybercrime, the system must be a formal and confidential procedure for receiving and registering complaints, ensuring that the occurrence is investigated with promised secrecy. More importantly, legal, institutional (sexual harassment committees at universities and schools), and community protection mechanisms (such as NGOs) for these victims must be established, as well as legal and psychological support to encourage victims to come up and hold abusers accountable. Society must be aware and accepting of the victims, rather than marginalizing them. Individuals facing this issue must make a bold move to come forward and speak up. They should be aware of their rights and not give the exploiter a chance to thrive on their silence. Thus, society must encourage the victims to come forward and NGOs and the government can also take measures to create an environment that encourages the victim to share his plight and not succumb to the demand of the blackmailers. Moreover, the government must extensively take drastic steps to curb the hiking rates of cybercrimes in India. Most importantly the government needs to pay emphasis on the protection of the reputation and privacy of the victims.

References


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