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 http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/

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 http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com

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).
www.Stopbullying.gov 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 Stopbullying.gov  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 “..........is 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 http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Help young generation to understand their duties and rights on cyber space: Model Policy Guidelines for Directing Students for Positive Use of Internet Including Social Networking Sites and Whatsapp


Better late than never! Let us start 2018 with a positive note: let us teach our younger tech savvy generation how to respect women, men and people from LGBTQ groups online.  I was invited by  UNICEF to represent them in the West Bengal State child protection committee meet on child rights and deliver lecture  on online exploitation of children on 21st November, 2017 . I  delivered lecture on "Children as consumers and contributors of offensive contents online and role of POCSO Act: a Therapeutic Jurisprudential approach." 
We know children are smarter than us the older generation in cyber related issues. But at the same time, it is also our duty to guide children to be more responsible while on internet. I take pleasure in sharing this model policy guidelines which was prepared by me sometimes back. This model policy guidelines may be used by schools, colleges and other stake holders

Objectives & missions of the policy guidelines: To protect children from adversities of internet and educating them for a positive use of internet and social-networking sites.
Scope of the policy guidelines: It may be used to educate children from 1st Standard to plus 2. It may also be used to provide guidance for teachers and counsellors to help children for positive usage of internet and social networking sites.
The guidelines:
1.Every school must encourage children to participate in debates or discussions on internet rights, positive and negative effects of the same. This may be made as a part of the subject of computer science, or as a part of C.C.
2.Junior students (from the age group of 4-8) must be encouraged to take part in awareness building sessions. In such sessions, the students may be shown how to handle the devices properly and why not to switch on devices without parent’s supervision or permission. For this purpose the schools can consider making small skits with the help of older children and the teachers, or use movie clippings or other audio-visual learning materials.
3.Students from the age group of 8-13 must be encouraged to attend awareness sessions where they may be taught how to use the internet for positive gain. Given the fact that many study materials and books provide internet links or pages on specific subjects, the students may be encouraged to open such sites in the presence of the teachers. Parent-teacher-student sessions must be made to sensitise parents about the positive use of internet and digital communication technology. Students may be introduced to issues including grooming by paedophiles, values of good talk and bad talk in the internet etc. Students may be slowly introduced to social networking sites. It is not necessary to direct the students to open their accounts. But the students may be asked to take part in discussions on the policy guidelines or terms and conditions that are
offered by social networking sites, email service providers etc, and then create their own accounts in the social networking sites.
4.Students from the age group of 14-17 may be encouraged to open accounts in the social networking sites and add their parents and teachers in their friend circles. They may be encouraged to create their own safety rules and privacy rules and discuss about them with younger students in class debates or awareness sessions. Students may also be encouraged to access informative pages in the social networking sites for gaining more knowledge.
5.It is important to teach students about rational coping mechanisms if and when they accidentally fall victims of cyber crimes. They must be taught how to use the safety tools to protect themselves, when and how to contact the principals, teachers and parents.
6.Schools must arrange for workshops on guiding students for positive usage of internet, which may include sessions on copyright violations as well. In such workshops, students may be encouraged to express their thoughts. Such workshops may be conducted with the police personnel, cyber crime experts, and NGOs as resource persons.
7.Senior students (from the age group of 16-18) may be encouraged to create their own blogs or vlogging sites either on their own or as group effort to show case positive usage of internet.
8.However, it must be noted that this policy guideline should not be used if the schools wish to use it as the sole guideline for separate types of offences. The author offers to cooperate with the schools to build up unique policy guidelines on the basis of this model policy guideline depending upon the need of every organisation. It is hoped that if the above guidelines are adopted, crimes targeting children by children and adults may be curbed.

* This model policy guideline was first published in http://www.cybervictims.org/moderlpgccvc.pdf by Dr. Debarati Halder. 
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), "Help young generation to understand their duties and rights on cyber space: Model Policy Guidelines for Directing Students for Positive Use of Internet Including Social Networking Sites and Whatsapp", published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com on 28-01-2018

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

#MeToo : Tales of victimisation in real life as well as on internet

Way back in 2012 my sister gave me some Hollywood magazines which she was reading in her long flight to India. These are the tit-bits for any reader who would like to know what is happening with the lives of film stars and celebrities who mesmerise us on screen. I got to see how several film stars of West including Hollywood were affected by voyeurism by enthusiastic fans and profit making photographers. Indeed these fans and photographers may make huge money because of a huge group of consumers: the common cine lovers. Soon there was more news about celebrity hacks; their gym photos, private holiday photos, private moment photos, private bathing photos were leaked online and by the time one or two victims could get back to the police; the world knew about their private lives. The positive point to think over this issue is, several women film actors had taken such online privacy infringement seriously and either took the matter to the police or had filed law suits against gossip magazines or channels who unethically published their private photos or videos. I call this “positive” because these women had defied the common understanding that approaching the police or the courts for online harassment including sexual harassment like leaking of private photos or videos is nothing but publicity stunt. Unfortunately in India several female film stars including upcoming film stars or serial actors also fall prey to the same sort of victimisation and when they turn towards the police or the courts, many a times, it is seen as publicity stunt: not to forget, their Western counter parts also do go through the same. But at the same time, I have not found many Indian women film stars and serial actors who took the matters of online sexual victimisation as seriously as their Western counter parts ( I addressed this issue in my article “Celebrities and cyber crimes: An analysis of the victimisation of female film stars on the internet” http://www.doiserbia.nb.rs/img/doi/1450-6637/2016/1450-66371604355H.pdf ).
But women actors may be the most ‘exploited’ species among working women: consider the blunt, straight forward speech of Madona during Woman of the year award in 2016. Social media channels were flooded with comments, emogies and thumbs ups praising her for boldly expressing how she had been sexually violated in real life and how she continues to be violated online at present. Why she had to be the victim of sexual violation? Apparently it is because of the presence of ‘God fathers’ in the workplace who may coerce the women to enter into a non-consensual sexual relationship which would ensure continuous job protection. For the last couple of days, several female actors from Hollywood have started protesting against such sexual exploitation with #metoo . The campaign had been so strong and viral that it has touched almost all continents and millions of women who may have been sexually victimised or violated either by way of penetrative sexual assault or by non-penetrative sexual assault or by sexual harassment in workplaces, public places as well as in their homes, have opened up about their victimisation.
India has also been touched by #MeToo campaign. Several women have expressed their solidarity by pasting on their time line the following lines:"Me too... If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote 'Me Too' as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. Please copy/paste.". This was originally shared by actress Alyssa Milano and others as a protest against sexual victimisation by Harvey Weinstein, a noted  producer-distributor who had been ousted from Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on 15th October, 2017.
Most of my 900 friends on Facebook who had been sporting #MeToo in their profile time lines for past 72 hours had been sharing several forms of victimisation; most common is definitely sexual gazing at public places and work places. I had posted in my time line about online sexist comments and pornographic  stuff including misogynist posts which I often get to see in my message box (thanks to continuous privacy ‘tactics’ that I practice for  my Twitter and Facebook timelines, I do not get to see such violating and victimising stuff in my time-line except on rare occasions). Several of my friends and acquaintances have simply shared the  “metoo” message  to show their solidarity with the cause, which I am sure, has definitely affected them, but they may not be feeling comfortable to openly express the same. Two posts however have actually attracted my attention even though they do not speak about cyber sexual victimisation or workplace victimisation : one by Sauranshu Sinha from Delhi and the other by Dr. Kalki Subramaniam from Pondicherry. The latter, a transgender activist and a trans-woman herself wrote a poignant note using #metoo. A part of her message (which is open for public) reads as follows “.........................................Around the world, every transgender woman, and in India almost every cis/transwoman goes through this brutal, uncouth, insensible torture. No more can they do it to me today. I stand tall and strong. Yet, i must say I was a victim too.”
Sinha is the first man I noticed who wrote about his experience of being sexually violated when he was a 6th standard student. A part of his message (which is open for public viewing) using #metoo stated that while he was travelling in a bus, a man touched him inappropriately and opened his zip to show Sinha his private parts (translated from Bengali). Sinha was a victim of sexual exploitation as a young boy who shared his solidarity with #metoo.
I know several of my friends, women and men who did not share their own experiences or neither shared #metoo, would have been victims themselves at one or other point of time. There are several individuals who may probably never understand that even comments like “hi sexy” or “wanna talk, reply back” may also be victimising especially when the receiver feels insulted, hurt, alarmed or feels his/her modesty has been harmed. There are several victims of online sexual harassment who may never speak up about their bitter experiences due to fear of more exposure. Thousands of women may remain silent even when their friends are marching along with #metoo to expose the sorts of victimisation they had gone through and alert the society.  Yet, I welcome #metoo campaigners. When people dare to share, there remain positive chances for the policy makers and law-makers to executors to note the pain. Let us hope that #metoo brings a change not only in the mindsets of people, but also in the process of implementation of laws. We need to understand that women who had been victimised and turned up to share their experiences, should get due protection and respect from all of us. Let us unite to defy sexist misogynist trolls from making #metoo and all of us victims again.
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. (2017), "#MeToo : Tales of victimisation in real life as well as on internet, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Virtual friendship: what’s the reality in it for women

6th August, 2017 my WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts were flooded with Happy friendship images. I was not well aware about friendship day as I was for Raksha Bandhan because back in our school days, we loved to wait for  “Rakhi” which used to come in different shapes made of colourful  sponge  topped with tiny little shining stars. Irrespective of gender, we used to tie Rakhi on each other’s hands and gift our own crafts (the “home made Rakhi”) to our elders, teachers and our best-friends. In my family, this was an occasion to pamper our grandfather with our own Rakhi who was generous enough to give us the sisters a treat in a nearby Chinese restaurant for “rakhi”. My family was not alone in celebrating Rakhi in such a manner. There were many families irrespective of religion who would extend Rakhi greetings and children would come over to each other’s places to show their Rakhi that they got from their siblings, friends or even grandparents. That was our ‘friendship day’ too as we the Bengalis carefully nurtured the custom of strengthening social bond with tying of Rakhi to our friends irrespective of their religion, cast or place of birth, instilled by none other than Rabindra Nath Tagore. We never saw texts wishing of “rakhi” or “Freindship day”. The greetings cards made especially for this were special items in gift shops which some of us bought for presenting a ‘memorable gift’ to their acquaintances. That was some thing REAL in real world.
There were spats of incidences this Friendship day and Raksha Bandhan day which made me think where we are heading to:
People wish happy friendship day to strangers whom they have never met or heard their voices in their lives. Women especially are flooded with such messages accompanied with images from ‘friends’ all over the world. An expert researcher may definitely find a nexus between sending friendship messages and subsequent online harassment to these ‘friends’. Such messages actually initiate a strange relationship and may even make women recipients believe that the senders have genuine interest in extending friendship. This internet culture is especially noticeable in young women and also first time users of social media including messaging apps in the smart phones. The virtual friendship or even any relationship can be so addictive that individuals may even forget their real life family or friends with whom one has actually grown up. Unfortunately there is no law for internet-deaddiction or rather virtual relationship deaddiction. Laws are made to control crime or prevent escalation of crimes. But consider when individuals forget their liabilities and duties to their real life family members or friends for their virtual relationships: a unique condition may arise in such cases where the neglected member may have to plead to the courts for directing the concerned person to ‘pay attention’ failing which, he/she may have to ‘pay’ for his/her irresponsible nature. Such unique conditions may include not only negligence of his /her moral responsibilities towards own families including caring for older or younger generations or dependants, but also may include exposing own family members or real life friends to extreme danger including various types online offences whereby the latter’s privacy may be infringed due to callousness of the earlier.
August is the beginning of  festive season in India, followed by major festive months including September and October. Let us share the happiness and positiveness among our family and friends first and then to our virtual friends some of whom may not even be “real”. We need to understand that once the family unit provides a strong mental support to any individual including children, no negative force may destroy the inner peace and yes, the reputation of the said person. Sharing happiness and sorrows alike may also make it easier for any one especially women and girls  to combat online harassment especially those kinds which directly affects our reputation.
Let us be independent from fear of virtual reputation damage which may be caused due to unknown virtual friends.
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. (2017), " Virtual friendship: what’s the reality in it for women”10th August, 2017, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Facebook way of saving “face” : The profile picture guard by Facebook

Long back in 2005 when I was newly introduced to a very popular social media “orkut”, I proudly showed off my profile with my own picture  which was clicked during a family wedding. Internet communication technology was new to India and we women were regularly being targeted because of the easy availability of our presence. This was largely due to lack of security in the social media as well as internet. We did not have two step verification for Gmail; Yahoo chat messenger, which was extremely popular during those days, almost made everyone’s personal information that were uploaded for the website, available to anyone who wanted access the user. It was during that period that I learnt about cloning of profiles which were made to harass individuals, especially women. The profiles may not be hacked, may neither be directly accessed by way of sending friends’ request; but the profile pictures may be downloaded and a new profile may be created with the available profile picture and profile information. Way back in 2006-7 I already had several women victims who contacted me for help and guidance. Almost all of them had common problem : harassment by way of creation of fake avatars. I have been part of the feminist movement which vehemently protested making women as ‘sex object’ on internet. Indeed women are made as ‘sex objects’ and they are regularly targeted by  misogynists, perverts and online traffickers who may selectively pick up women and girls by seeing their profiles, profile pictures and shadowing their online activities.
Let me go back to my own experiences where I received the first harassing comment (which was not stalking, neither resulted due to hacking) which was plainly nothing but ‘bullying’. My first profile picture in Orkut received a remark which mocked at my supposedly ‘over made-up   face’ and ‘blood red lipstick’. I knew this was just the beginning and if reciprocated, the bully may be extremely provoked to reply back. But this was not the first and last incident. I have received various negative comments, I have had my own period of being victim of a female stalker who monitored me and did send defamatory mails about me to my husband and again I had noticed several attempts to open Facebook accounts with my name and email ids. The later was detected and prevented by me because I never neglect the security messages sent by websites in my mails.
In my research I have seen that often the police and lawyers refuse to help the women victims and start the blame game. This is because they may not be aware of the mechanism to help and counsel the victims. In my opinion, websites must also be made responsible for third party victimization of women especially when the genuine reports of violation fail to move the websites.   However, the websites concerned, may constantly develop safety policy guidelines for users to make the users take self prevention mechanisms. I have been part of Facebook women safety program for quite some times now.  I continue to demand for more liability on the part of the websites especially for women and this time my concern was safety of profile pictures of women.  I was extremely happy to see the developments in the security and policies of Facebook which was introduced in India on 22nd June, 2017: ‘The profile picture guard’. Every woman must avail this opportunity to safeguard their profile picture since this is the most chosen target of all the images that may be uploaded by a user. The step by step guide to how to use this ‘guard’ is explained by Facebook team @ https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2017/06/giving-people-more-control-over-their-facebook-profile-picture/
However, I understand that it is not the women only, but children are also extremely vulnerable targets of sexual predators. Men are neither excluded. All users must use this facility and it may definitely help to reduce ‘image stealing’ for various malicious purposes including morphing, hacking and creation of fake avatars. But we need to understand that is not the ultimate answer to prevent revenge porn cases. While image of an individual may be saved because Facebook may detect the particular stolen image easily after receiving the report, there is a still remains a lacuna for other photographs which are in the personal albums. We must also note that the website will not suomotu take action for the cloned or stolen images. The victim must report the profile and the concerned profile picture along with the “shielded picture” as evidence.

Its nonetheless a big step in the history of cyber security for women and I congratulate Facebook for taking this initiative. But again, ……… accidents do happen and we need to be stronger to recover.
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. (2017), "The Facebook way of saving “face” : The profile picture guard by Facebook”  23rd June, 2017, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com