Sunday, September 2, 2018

5 key factors about hacking and the laws


Photo curtsy: Google 

Hacking is undoubtedly one of the worst issues that one wants to deals with. Often I get to see women complaining about hacking of their social media accounts, people including men and women fearing about and getting victimized by way of hacking of their email accounts , net banking profiles and overall, the computer devices. New netizens are more prone to getting victimized by hacking; so are their parents if these netizens are pre-teens or teenagers. It is important to know some key factors which are associated with hacking. These are as below:
The five key factors which everyone should know about hacking:
1.    The term hacking is not defined in any uniform style. Different researchers have defined hacking in different ways. All most all academic definitions have indicated that computer hacking or cyber hacking may mean unauthorized access to the computer, computer data etc, changing the data without any authorization etc. In a way, it is directly related to unauthorized data privacy infringement. A ‘smart’ example could be the allegedly unauthorized access into the personal documents including bank access details of the TRAI chief by the ethical hackers when the TRAI chief threw challenge that  ADHAR ‘hack proof’.[1]
2.    Indian laws especially Information Technology Act, 2000 (amended in 2008) does not address the issue as “hacking”. The issue is dealt with by not one, but three Sections, namely, Ss. 65 which prescribes punishment for tampering with computer source documents, 66, which prescribes punishment for computer related offences and 43, which speaks about Penalty and compensation for damage to computer, computer system etc.
3.    Hacking may literally start with unauthorized access or securing to the computer, computer system, computer network etc. Accessing or ‘securing access’ can be done by various ways. This may also include giving way to the hackers by opening suspicious mails/messages or links. It is for this reason that new users of internet and digital technology must be extremely cautious while opening suspicious mails/links etc.
4.    Hacking may also include downloading/extracting data etc, modifying such data, reproducing that data in an altered form etc. It may also include unauthorized access to the computer or computer system or data etc and infecting the same with viruses which will immediately or gradually destroy all data, software etc stored in the computer and computer system. Hacking may necessarily include unauthorized accessing and then using of the computer network, email id, phone number or social media profile for impersonating and unethical gain. It is for this reason that often people complaint about hacking when their accounts have been unauthorisedly accessed, data extracted/accessed and modified and email ID/social media profiles etc are used for impersonating by way of a fake avatar.
5.    Hacking may also involve denial of services, which is why a computer or computer system  thus affected may not get connected to the internet easily and according to the wish of the real owner of the computer or computer system etc, but according to the wishes of the hacker only.
Now you may understand that when your computer shows activities which are not generally expected, you must be alarmed that your computer or the computer network or the computer system has been affected by hacking : typically your device may slow down for no reason, you may start getting to see that the data is altered, your net banking account or email or social media account’s password and username and the related phone number and email id may get changed without your authorization, your documents including your photo may get published or circulated elsewhere without your knowledge. Most scary of these is the camera device of your phone or laptop or Ipad (when they are on switch on mode) etc may become active even when you are not using the camera. It is for this reason that  cyber security experts suggest to not to use the electronic devices when one expects complete privacy from the outside world, like when one is in the washroom.

So, what about the punishment?
Do Indian laws address hacking as “hacking” ? The answer is NO.  But this does not mean that the act of hacking is not punishable.  As discussed above, when the constituting elements mentioned under points nos 3, 4 and 5 create unauthorized access to the computer, computer system,  data etc, Sections 65, 66 and 43 may immediately be applicable for booking the offences for tampering the computer source code, computer related offences and damage to the computer  system etc. As such there are two types of punishments that are prescribed for hacking related offences : punishment as per civil offences which are regulated by S.43 and punishments as per criminal nature of the offence, which are regulated by Ss. 65 and 66. In the later, the punishments may include imprisonment for a period upto three years  and/or fine which may extend to Rs. two lakhs. In case S.66 is applied, then the fine amount increases upto Rs. 5 lakhs. Again, if the act of hacking is judged as per S.43, then the provision would be read with S. 45 of the Information technology Act, which indicates that, a maximum of Rs. 25, 000/ may be paid as compensation to the victim for such offences (this is especially so because S.43 does not mention any specific amount of compensation and this lacuna is filled by S.45 which prescribes residuary penalty).  However, the recent trend may show that most of hacking related cases had been booked under Ss. 66, 65 and 43 so that the perpetrators may undergo jail term as well as are bound to pay fine.
Interestingly, the Information Technology Act does not restrict the criminal liability to a specific age as is seen in the Indian penal code. Hence, even if it is a computer genius as young as 10 or 12 years of age, he/she may not escape the clutches of law in case he/she has done the offence/s which may constitute hacking. Considering their age and maturity level, Juvenile Justice  (care and protection) Act , 2015 may also be applicable.  Again, this would NOT mean that parents would be considered completely innocent. Very recently the courts in Gujarat had made the parents liable for underage kids driving two and four wheelers.  If the children are arrested, the parents may have to pay for negligence in monitoring the wrong doing of their children.
I end this piece with a positive note: if we adults are aware, then our children will also be aware and we can prevent the digital as well as real life privacy infringement in a swift way.

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), " 5 key factors  about hacking and the laws”  3rd September, published in

[1] See Rachel Chitra(2018), Hackers deposit Re 1 in Trai chief's account. Published in on 30/07/2018

Friday, July 20, 2018

Recording sexual assaults and rape in mobile phones: How laws fail to control growing sexual assault on women and children


Picture curtsy: Google

17 men including a 66 year old lift operator allegedly continued to rape an 11 year old girl for months in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. The gruesome episode of “aggravated penetrative sexual assault” (as S.5(g) of the Protection of children from Sexual offences Act, 2012 explains, whoever commits gang penetrative sexual assault on child, is said to commit aggravated penetrative sexual assault) came in light in mid July, 2018 when the victim confronted about it first to her sister and then to her parents.[1] This is not the first time that aggravated child sexual assault has been reported from  metro cities which may boast of rigorous campaigns against any sort of sexual violence against women and children by government as well as non government stake holders. This will neither be the last time. Sexual assault against women and children is a social epidemic which happens in every society, in eastern, western, northern and southern hemisphere. Sexual assault on women and children whether aggravated or non aggravated, may be caused due to various psycho-social reasons: while on one hand researchers relate this to pervert mind set of human beings, on the other hand, several examples related this to misogynist mindset, caste oppression, class oppression etc. However, what is more concerning is the growing tendency in the assaulters to record the sexual assaults in their digital devices. In the Chennai case, the assaulters allegedly raped and recorded each another’s act of raping of the child victim. These videos were used to blackmail the child to prevent her from reporting and surrender to more sexual assaults. Often it is asked as why do these rapists, sexual assaulters, physical assaulters and bystanders record the incidents?
        We do have one answer: these videos are made to blackmail and threaten the victim so that she would be surrendering to the assaulter’s demand for more sex.  These videos actually create something which many of us know as non-consensual porn (and not revenge porn necessarily). Noticeably, one of the main aims of the POCSO Act was to curb pornography, especially child porn materials. Ss. 13 and 14 of the POCSO Act therefore spoke about creation of child porn materials using children in any form whether or not such contents may be used for self gratification or for circulation for unethical profit and punishment for the same. On the other hand, if the victim is an adult, one may have to club up Ss.375 (rape), 376D(gang rape), 354 C (voyeurism) of IPC, Ss.66E (violation of Privacy), 67 (punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene materials in the electronic form) , and 67A (punishment for publishing or transmitting sexually explicit materials in the electronic form) to address the issue of creation of gang rape videos. However, as may be seen in several reported cases of sexual assaults, rapes and gang rapes, such existing laws could hardly do anything to control the (pervert) human minds from creating sexual assault videos. While in majority of the cases, such videos are made to blackmail the victim/s, possibilities of other reasons for creation of such videos cannot be ruled out; these reasons could be as follows:
Ø Using the same for self sexual gratification post the physical act of raping, sexually assaulting women and children.
Ø Using the same as erotica for sex-service providers including sex workers from whom these assaulters may ‘buy’ sex.
Ø Showing the same as sexual valour to ‘friends’.
Ø While the above may be used for non-profitable reasons, such videos may also earn good money for the creators/producers if the same is circulated for consummation by consumers of ‘porn videos’ of deep dark net.
Ø In certain cases these videos may also be used to threaten members of socially and economically (extremely) backward communities so that such members do not get indulged in any activities that may have been prohibited by  so called ‘social norms’ which may not have any legal support.
In my recently published monograph titled Child sexual abuse and protection laws in India (published by Sage, ( I have shown how sexual contents available in the cyber media including digital messaging services, social media websites and adult websites may impact on the adolescent minds who may have been brought up in a restricted, orthodox society where sex education itself may be considered as a taboo.
The existing laws here miserably fail to prevent creation of sexual assault videos because the perpetrators may remain anonymous creators/publishers. Interestingly, the Telecom Regulatory authority of India (TRAI) allows an individual to have multiple numbers of SIM cards. Even though the mobile network services are now being activated only on verification of Adhar data, there still remains a policy gap which allows customers to get “free Sims” which may have been pre-owned, swap Sim cards with other holders who may not be using such Sims for legal purposes etc. Along with this, the possibility of spreading the said video/s virally on the net also creates a huge problem to identify the real publisher/creator of the video. The courts may prescribe punishment in such cases by identifying the accused in the videos and on the testimony of the victim and the perpetrator himself that the video was created during the rape /sexual assault. Indeed the role of cyber forensic examination may not be denied here. But that may involve a lengthy process especially when the investigating officer may not be aware about the whole mechanism. But unfortunately no law can practically prevent any assaulter from recording the crime when it is happening. Resultant, more videos/still images may be created and may remain unnoticed as long as the investigating team may explore all possible devices and networks through which the same was/were created, stored and circulated, which is practically impossible.
Facebook has come with face-recognition mechanism to prevent online circulation of sexual assault/rape /revenge porn materials. Other social media websites may also follow the same method. But what we need to know is such videos may not always be circulated through such websites. As I mentioned above, they may be stored in multiple devices or may be made viral by networking services including  digital messaging services. As such, the government stake holder like the TRAI, manufacturers of smart phones, hi-tech digital devices, digital messaging service providers, telecom service providers and other international mobile network service providers must join hands in creating a solid policy to identify mechanisms to prevent misuse of the digital device equipped with camera, the Sim cards and of course the mobile and digital network and communication services.
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), " Recording sexual assaults and rape in mobile phones:  How laws fail to control growing sexual assault on women and children”  20th July, published in

[1] For more, see

Saturday, June 2, 2018

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


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., , ; 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 persons suddenly 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

[1] LPA No. 163 of 2009
[2]  (1998) 2 SCC 72
[3] (2005)1 SCC 201
[4] See for more in 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
[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 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 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 on Octiober 29,2014. Accessed on 25.05.2018

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Making pregnancy vlog? Beware! You may be feeding the porn consumers

Often it is told that womanhood comes to full circle when a woman becomes a mother.  Being a mother either biologically or by way of adoption is indeed a unique experience because it not only gives the joy of nurturing another life, it may make the woman more responsible in every sense.  For every woman the phases of motherhood bring special moments. For some, these phases may start right from the day of conceiving, for some it may start when she decides to adopt a baby, for some it may start right from the moment of the birth of the baby. In this digital era many couples (especially women) like to capture the moments of motherhood by making digital photo albums or vlogs . In India this phenomena is rapidly catching up. Pregnancy photo shoots, baby birthing photos and videos, new born photo shoots etc are trending now a days. YouTube  and Instagram are chosen platforms to upload such videos or images. YouTube especially  provides wonderful opportunity to easy creation of amateur vlogs. YouTube users may also use specific tags for listing the video with certain steams like pregnancy and child birth, medical learning, fitness during pregnancy, know hows  of child births and neo natal care by new parents etc. Many of such users love to share such vlogs or images (through other social media platforms and digital messaging apps ) with their virtual friends and groups. I personally have come across several of such videos and images which may have been as old as 2, 3 or even 5 years.
But they may not bring back the good old memories always. Pregnancy and child birthing videos and images are hugely consumed by porn industry consumers as well. Several researches on pornography including non-consensual and revenge porn have shown existence and growth  of different sorts of porn contents which may include black porn, older women porn, nude porn, voyeur, amateur porn, big belly porn and preggo porn. The last one, i.e. preggo porn is actually made with women showing different types of pregnant belly formation, sloth movement of pregnant women with huge belly, (supposedly) movement of the baby within the belly and the corresponding gasping or painful twitching of the body of the pregnant woman and necessarily the breasts which may be half covered. These contents are made by porn actors who may or may not  be pregnant in real life. Generally these porn actors may be clad in under wears right from the beginning of the video to give an impression of real life birthing scenes. Several videos may also show women slowly removing dresses: such videos may actually give impression that the woman suddenly developed labour pain at home or at some place other than the hospitals. All such videos may have similar tag lines like the original pregnancy and birthing videos, i.e., pregnancy, child birth. The ancillary tag line could be ‘fake’ or ‘prank’ or ‘sexy preggo’. As such, these taglines may also pull the real pregnancy and birthing videos in the pool of sexually consumable contents.
Getting sexual gratification from the birthing scenes and scenes of labour pain is indeed a sign of perversion.  But what is more disheartening is how the porn industry has grown preggo porn stream on the basis of this perversion. If one notices the comment sections of such videos, one may see that the woman in the video may be asked to act more accurately in the next video, the woman may also be asked  to make videos with different pregnancy postures and sounds of pain which may create more erotica. The producers and actors of these videos may earn a good profit depending upon their presentation and ‘perfect’ acting. Unfortunately the real pregnancy vlogs may also be consumed with equal ‘interest’. The new mother  may get trolled in the comment section for her belly shape or for taking too much time to make the ‘birthing sounds’ or ‘labour pain’ moments which may be sexually gratifying for the ‘consumers’ of the videos. Some may even get trolled for ‘wasting time’ of the viewer. Often the creators of genuine vlogs may not get time to look into the comments which may be extremely disturbing for any new mother. Even if the creator would have disabled the comments, the links of the videos may still be shared with a malicious object to consume it as porn.
While the ‘victims’ may definitely take the matter to the websites for removing the offensive posts or to the police and courts  for taking action against the comment maker for making obscene, sexually explicit or  misogynist or (as it may happen  in several cases) racist and hate comments, the website, the police and courts and above all, the families may find hard to prevent themselves from ‘victim blaming’ for uploading ‘those private moments’ for ‘public viewing. In remote possibility, the content may even be considered as non-consensual porn (but not revenge porn) in case the police and the courts decide to book the perpetrators who may have made obscene, sexually explicit or  misogynist or racist and hate comments or who may have shared the video as porn content  to others either for unethical gain or just for the sake of sharing ‘another porn content’. The legal provisions for voyeurism may also be applied in this regard along with provisions for making word etc for harming the modesty of women, inappropriate representation of woman concerned etc. But the new mother may not be saved from acute trauma and depression which may arise from this.
Pregnancy vlogs may be considered as unique examples of rights to expression which should not be violated at any cost. But again, we as responsible society must work together to prevent such wonderful moments to be destroyed by perverts and perpetrators.
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),Making pregnancy vlog? Beware! You may be feeding the porn consumers” 27th March, 2018, published in

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Right to Love on social media on Valentine’s Day


Image curtsy: Google
Come Valentine’s Day and social media and digital messaging services like WhasApp or Snapchat are flooded by beautiful heartwarming messages, pictures and emogies. Nonetheless, Facebook, Instagram , Whatsapp YouTube and also some adult networking sites may see more contributions of nude videos, revenge porn, fake avatars as well by jilted lovers. The other type of messages that one may get to see in these platforms are those from moral policing groups asking people to refrain from ‘celebrating Valentine’s day’ in Facebook, Twitter  and other social media . Such message can be ‘shared messages’, can be opinions or even can be clear  threats to ‘whoever’ ‘celebrates  ‘Valentine’s day’.
The question is, do we have something called Right to love? Can this right be considered to  be violated if someone posts messages against celebration of Valentine’s day ?  Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) does not specifically speak about right to love, but it flows from Article 16 (Right to marriage and family) and Article 19 (freedom of opinion and expression).  All most all countries with modern constitution including India, UK, Singapore, US, Canada, Australia, countries from European union including Germany, France, Spain  etc  do recognize the right to choose and communicate with   dating partner, live-in partner , same sex partners and heterosexual partners for emotional bondage including marriage  because these countries  recognize right to express opinion, freedom of speech and expression and also right to marriage and family. While right to form family by way of live-in relationships or  homosexual partnerships  have been recognized by  several countries by way of legitimizing  the rights of children born out of such union or  adopted in such marriages, some countries may  not recognize Live-in relationships or same sex marriages in real life
But right to chose emotional partners and right to communicate to the same on cyber space are not barred by any law. For example, even when Indian Supreme court did not apply doctrine of severability to S.377 todecriminalize same sex union and consider the rights of transgender people to be recognized as 3rd gender people, or even when the US did not legalize gay marriages,  Facebook had pages and groups meant for socializing and creation of emotional bonding between  LGBTQ people.  Right to love is rather an abstract idea which may be expressed when a person starts expressing the love to his/her chosen person on a specific platform. Seen from this aspect, right to love on cyber space may be barred only  under specific circumstances, i.e., when the same expression offends the ‘target’ person because he/she may not like to develop any emotional relationship with the person expressing  the feelings either because the relationship falls under the concept of stalker and victim, ex lover or spouse where the victim ex does not want to be connected with the other person anymore, or  a real life acquaintance including workplace acquaintance who had accepted to be friends with the other person  expecting reasonable distance and privacy , or a stranger  who may not like to be approached by way of expressing  eros.  Similarly, positive reciprocation of love on cyber space may not be offensive unless the receiver/reciprocator is knowingly committing any mistake like that of  breaking  trust  of a married partner.
A person may however be deterred from exercising his/her right to love an acclaimed criminal only when such relationship may prove to be hazardous for the security of the nation or for the society at large.  But he/she may not be held guilty for such love affair on cyber space when he /she can prove his/her innocence in knowledge about the particular acclaimed criminal. He/she may even claim compensation under certain circumstances when such fraudulent relationship causes damage to him/her as well. But note that I am speaking about being offended from the perspective of the receiver of the message carrying an expression of love and not the bystanders in case such message are posted on some one’s timelines or in a common group or in a page and it is publicly visible. Moral policing groups against celebration of Valentine’s day may go ahead with their propaganda of   threats of ‘devastating results’ on the understanding that whoever  exercises right to love either by way of expressing love for some one, or by  showing a status ‘in love with X’ or by even reciprocating to such message by  words or emogies or even by thumbs up  should be considered as ‘dangerous’ for the society as a whole.  Some radical groups have even come up with warning that people exercising their’ right to love’ will be straightaway married  off  or they will be warned to stop displaying (exercising their right  to) love. Understandably  such sorts of warning messages may have been made to create fear in the minds of  individuals who may belong to orthodox patriarchal families where love marriages are not allowed  or where threats of honor killings exists . Such radical groups  are targeting those individuals who may be new generation social media users and whose families including parents may not know their digital whereabouts.  
The question is, would such announcements by such radical groups be considered as hate speech or threat speech? There may be varied opinions for this.  If the statement/s show that the commentator/s  may track the whereabouts of the persons  who are expressing their love on Facebook or any other social media  on valentine’s day to commit some harm, the speech may be considered as threat speech especially because they may indicate violation of privacy and also intention to commit harm (even if it is arranging marriage, which may be the ultimate the aim of the love birds). Women especially may feel threatened because this may result in offline and online reputation damage, rape threats (especially if it is an inter religious affair) or even   grave threats to their lives.  Some , including the   social media website may consider  such speech as absolutely normal because such speech may seem to be very broad  to be fitted within  the meaning of hate speech or threat speech because such speeches may be ‘general’  and may not target any specific individual, class or community of people.  But we must not forget  that online mob violence may become extremely dangerous especially when such instigating comments or posts are made. Concerned authorities therefore must not ignore such ‘warnings’.
But I would have been happiest would the moral policing groups turn their attention to evils done on cyber space and send messages to the world including possible perpetrators to refrain from creating revenge porn on the Valentine ’s Day. In my observation I have seen that on such days several jilted lovers, revengeful persons and stalkers may create revenge porn stuff to grossly violate women’s reputation including rightsto privacy.
Let us join hands to prevent spreading of hate and threats through social media. Let us grow love and not hate.
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), “Right to love on social media  on Valentine’s Day ” 10th February, 2018, published in

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Why cyber bullying should never be taken as a holistic term for cyber harassment


In a recent academic conference where I was speaking on cyber bullying, I got some ‘strange questions’ as why I am not covering topics like pornography and obscenity.  To me, these questions were ‘strange’ because I was delivering lecture specifically on cyber bullying. But to the individuals who asked the questions (and this group included academicians and practitioners from women’s rights group as well), this seemed to be a genuine concern as why cyber bullying does not mean cyber pornography, cyber obscenity, revenge porn, cyber stalking or the concept of cyber harassment.
Decoding cyber bullying:
Many of us believe that cyber bullying is the holistic term to explain the concept of cyber harassment. In reality it is not. 
 Cyber harassment or online harassment is a holistic term which may include various types of harassments including cyber bullying. The term cyber bullying is defined as “abuse/ harassment by teasing or insulting, victims’ body shape, intellect, family back ground, dress sense, mother tongue, place of origin, attitude, race, caste, class, name calling, using modern telecommunication networks such as mobile phones (SMS/MMS) and Internet (Chat rooms, emails, notice boards and groups)”(Jaishankar, 2009). explains cyber bullying as “.........Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation.”
A clear reading of the definition of Jaishankar and the explanation provided by  would suggest that cyber bullying includes conveying or posting of insulting, degrading, teasing, messages in the victim’s timeline, in groups or forums etc. Bullying messages are also conveyed through one-to one chatting mechanism. Bullying messages may typically be like “ you are a liar”, or “you look ugly”, or “ you are worthless”, or “x is a black spot in the team”, or “x is a big zero when it comes to trendy fashion” etc. Presently, India does not have any cyber bullying prevention law.
However, it would be wrong to say that cyber bullying happens to children. Adults may also be victims of bullying, including workplace bullying.
So when does bullying turn into stalking?
Often people confuse cyber bullying with cyber stalking. We at Centre for Cyber Victim Counselling had provided a functional definition of cyber stalking in our 2010 research report which is as follows:
“In one word, when ‘following’ is added by Mens rea to commit harm and it is successfully digitally carried out, we can say cyber stalking has happened" (Halder &Jaishankar, 2010).
S.354D of the Indian Penal Code (inserted via Criminal Law amendment Act, 2013) defines cyber stalking as follows:
“Any man who follows a woman or contacts or attempts to contact such woman to foster personal interaction repeatedly despite a clear indication of disinterest by such woman or whoever monitors the use by a woman of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication or watches or spies a person in a manner that results in fear of violence or serious alarm or distress, in the mind of such woman or interferes with the mental peace of such woman, commits the offence of stalking.” 
Seeing from the above perspectives we can see several stages of cyber stalking

The first stage of cyber stalking can be Repeated Pursuing

The second stage can be data mining and/or monitoring.

The third stage can be creating threat /fear in the mind of the victim.

Repeated pursuing can be in the form of sending /posting messages which may not be insulting or degrading or annoying at the beginning. This is because the stalker (especially in case of interpersonal stalking) may not necessarily like to insult or humiliate his ‘target’. The main aim of the stalker may be to persuade the victim to enter into an emotional relationship where the stalker may be a dominant figure. The messages may turn insulting or degrading when the process reaches the third stage, i.e., when the sender wants the victim to feel threatened. Stalking may adopt the process of cyber bullying when the victim refuses to abide by the ‘commands’ or ‘demands’ of the stalker. The later may then start sending insulting, annoying, degrading messages in order to create a fear of constant harassment and defamation of the victim. Bullying therefore changes into the phenomena of cyber stalking when the bully becomes obsessive with his victim and continues to post hurting, degrading, insulting messages as long as the victim does not start developing a sense of fear; when he starts monitoring his victim to see the outcome of bullying or rather, to see how far the victim is affected by bullying.
Revenge porn and bullying
Again, revenge porn and bullying can be completely different forms of online harassment. Revenge porn “ an act whereby the perpetrator satisfies his anger and frustration for  broken relationship through publicizing false, sexually provocative portrayal of his /her victim by misusing the  information that he may have known naturally and that he may have stored in his computer, or may have conveyed to his electronic device by the victim herself, or may have been stored in device with the consent of the victim herself; and which may essentially have been done to publicly defame the victim.”(Halder &Jaishankar, 2013).
Revenge porn may necessarily include unethical using of images of the victim for taking revenge and creating a fake avatar of the victim which may signify the later as that of bad character. Unfortunately many countries including India do not have any focussed law to prevent and punish revenge porn. However, several legal academicians including cyber civil right activists in the US  have proposed revenge porn legislations and such proposals have been considered as legal provisions to criminalise revenge porn. In case of revenge porn, the perpetrator may or may not include bullying tactics to create extra humiliation to his/her victim. I have observed that in several revenge porn cases, the perpetrator may limit his act to posting to his own time line with a tagline indicating that the victim is of bad character, or may create a fake avatar either in the social websites like Facebook or Twitter etc indicating that the profile owner may solicit sex, or may upload the image to adult networking websites where all images may be ‘consumed’ as erotica. Revenge porn and bullying may be clubbed up only when the perpetrator posts/sends annoying, insulting, degrading messages to the victim or to a group to humiliate the victim with the revenge porn content, i.e., after he has already created revenge porn and wishes to continue harassing the victim with teasing messages. However, I would still not agree to call it cyber bullying; it would be categorised as defamation if seen from the perspective of defamation laws. S.499 of the Indian Penal Code which states as follows:
“Whoever, by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person, is said, except in the cases hereinafter expected, to defame that person. Explanation 1.—It may amount to defamation to impute anything to a deceased person, if the imputation would harm the reputation of that person if living, and is intended to be hurtful to the feelings of his family or other near relatives. Explanation 2.—It may amount to defamation to make an imputation concerning a company or an association or collection of persons as such. Explanation 3.—An imputation in the form of an alternative or expressed ironically, may amount to defamation. Explanation 4.—No imputation is said to harm a person’s reputa­tion, unless that imputation directly or indirectly, in the estimation of others, lowers the moral or intellectual character of that person, or lowers the character of that person in respect of his caste or of his calling, or lowers the credit of that person, or causes it to be believed that the body of that person is in a loathsome state, or in a state generally considered as disgraceful.”

As may be seen from the above, cyber harassment or online harassment therefore is a bigger term which includes forms of harassment including cyber bullying. It is essential to understand the differences because the terms may signify different types of criminal or civil wrongs and as such may attract different types of punishments by courts of law. For instance, if a victim who has encountered impersonation (not amounting to revenge porn, but an ordinary impersonation whereby his/her image had been used to create a profile in the matrimonial site), he/she should not report the incident as cyber bullying to the concerned website. It should be ‘impersonation’, meaning the perpetrator has unethically and unauthorisedly used the personal picture and information of the victim to create harassment. Depending upon the mens rea, nature of the profile and impact of the same on the victim’s reputation, the police may book the offender under various provisions under Information Technology Act and also under Indian Penal Code for impersonation(for example, Ss 66D of the Information technology Act, 2000(amended in 2008), Ss. 416 & 417, 499, 500 IPC, etc) . In case the victim is a woman, the police may also include provisions meant for harming the modesty of women (S.509 IPC). Similarly, in case of stalking, the victim should rather report the crime as stalking and not cyber bullying because the legal provisions in India do not recognise any offence of cyber bullying, but prescribes stringent punishment for stalking. Whereas, in other jurisdictions, where both cyber stalking and cyber bullying are recognised as offences, both may have different types of punishments. Further, the social media websites may also have different reporting mechanism for cyber bullying and cyber stalking.
  However, cyber bullying still remains in a grey area from legal perspectives. More research is needed to develop a good universal understanding which may help to demarcate why cyber bullying be considered as Bad Speech. Further, research is also needed to create deeper demarcation between different forms of online harassment for the purpose of better policy developments.
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), “Why cyber bullying should never be taken as a holistic term for cyber harassment” 4th February, 2018, published in