Indian law says not a single innocent must be convicted. But is this ideology shielding hundreds of guilty individuals in some way? In my opinion, it is a yes. Many victims are provided the justice they deserve due to the fear of breaching this ideology. A crime affects not just the individual and his family but also the society he lives in thus the human society at large.
International Crime Victimization Surveys (ICVS) says that one in five adults will be victimized by a typical crime every year, also some of them re-victimized. This survey is approved by UNICRI (United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute). But the cyber victims are not considered as a type of victims, for example, the types of Victim/victimization identified by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime, does not include cyber victims/victimization.
But the concept of cybercrime and victimization in cyberspace is less known around and especially in India. Even though there is a less possibility of physical injury through cyber crimes, there is a huge mental and traumatic injury which might remain for the rest of one’s life.
There is no proper awareness about the cyber crimes among the people in India. The reasons might be various for inefficient laws governing the cyber crimes, no knowledge about the existing direct laws, lack of knowledge of the proper use of cyberspace, lack of knowledge of being victimized online.
Victimization of ‘cybercitizens’ and also of those who are not in the ‘internet’, has grown at an alarming rate, in spite, India has an exclusive legislation dedicated to information technology, e‐governance, e-commerce and also e‐socialization to a certain extent; this has hardly helped in curbing the ever-increasing victimization of individuals in the cyberspace in India.
Awareness of Cyber Culture:
Cyberculture generally expresses norms and cultures followed in cyberspace or on the internet. “the culture that has emerged or is emerging, from the use of computer networks for communication, entertainment and business. It is also the study of various social phenomena associated with the Internet and other new forms of network communication, such as online communities, online multi‐player gaming, and email usage”
Based on a survey by Centre for Cyber Victim Counseling (CCVC), among a total of 73 respondents, 56.2% are aware of the basic age limit for joining any cyber community/groups/social networking sites. The awareness about this is important as most of the users are pre-teens, teenagers or young adults. This might reduce the victimization of innocent individuals online.
Using of Safety Tools:
According to the survey by Centre for Cyber Victim Counseling (CCVC) 69.9% of the respondents are aware of various self-protection tools in the internet like filtering emails, blocking unwanted persons, security locking one’s personal walls, albums and information on the social networking sites etc. 30.1% do not believe in restricting their emails or chat boxes or social networking sites only to known friends and they do not use these safety options. 37.0% respondents mail or message back to any emails or messages that they receive from unknown sources including strangers, spammers etc. 74.0% respondents share their personal information such as actual residential place, telephone numbers, personal favorites, personal pictures, whom they have never seen before in real life, but are in regular contact through emails / messages / phone calls etc.
Exercising Freedom of Speech in the Cyber Space:
Freedom of Speech can be subjective online; it might differ from country to country. For example, the concept of free speech in India differs from that of the US and other countries. According to the survey by Centre for Cyber Victim Counseling (CCVC), 63.0% respondents felt that there is no need to be formal or control speech or expressions in the written form, while in the cyber social networking sites or chat rooms or even in the emails.
Reading Policy Guidelines:
The policy guidelines of various cyber communities and ISPs (Internet Service Providers) are an important source for developing cyberculture. Majority of these cyber communities have followed the US laws and take successful precautionary actions. In India, several of those US based and some Indian ISPs and cyber communities have become highly popular. Notably according to the CCVC survey, 71.1% respondents do not read any policy guidelines before joining cyber networking communities. On the contrary, 28.8% have read the policy guidelines and they feel these policy guidelines are enough to create awareness about cyber crimes, cultures, and norms.
Using Pseudo Names:
According to the survey by Centre for Cyber Victim Counseling (CCVC), 45.2% respondents prefer to use pseudo names especially when socializing through social networking communities or chatting for various reasons including protecting his/her own identity. 54.8% do not use pseudo names and they do not feel that protecting privacy or identity by using pseudo names is needed.
Knowledge of being victimized:
Many people have accustomed to the idea that cyberspace is a vulnerable place and the users are prone to be attacked. Many others do not realize that they have they been the victims of cyber crimes. There is huge lack of awareness in this area.
Hacking and Stalking:
Indian laws do not describe cyberstalking. It is unfortunate that the term cyberstalking has remained neglected in the laws of India. Neither the Indian Penal Code, 1860 nor the Information Technology Act, 2000 defines or explains this particular term. The misleading conception about cyberstalking and harassment arose because in few reported cases on cyberstalking in India, the accused were booked under section 509 of the Indian Penal Code. The section speaks mainly on harm on women’s modesty and privacy and related harassments. But stalking is not necessarily harassment alone and cyberstalking does not happen only to women. The case Pawan Duggal v. State, [(2001) CriLJ 3918] rightly pointed out that the said section does not cover cyberstalking fully.
The US laws on stalking, the nearest explanation of cyberstalking could be found in Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005 which amended
Communications Act of 1934 [47 U.S.C. 223(h) (1) (1934)] through Section 113. This U.S. provision attempts to explain cyberstalking as follows;
Cyberstalking = following the victim’s internet activities + using a digital device, software to create harassing, threatening, abusing emails/messages etc + transmitting the said mail to the victim’s inbox and or victim’s friends or relatives’ inboxes + successfully creating fear, annoyance, irritation harassed feeling in the victim.
Impersonated profiles are fake profiles made by an individual using the screen name, personal information or even picture of another. The impersonator may use this profile to cheat others. According to the survey by Centre for Cyber Victim Counseling (CCVC) 41.1% respondents have seen their own cloned profiles either in the form of social networking profiles or email OD profile or chat room id profile. 28.3% respondents have been impersonated by email account or social networking profiles or websites etc.
Defamatory statements, bullying and hate messagesCyberbullying
ng is as worse as real-life bullying. There are instances where the victim has ended their life or went into depression. According to the survey by Centre for Cyber Victim Counseling (CCVC) 68.5% respondents had seen defamatory statements either in some email messages or in community discussions or in pubic chats etc about themselves. 39.7% have received bullying messages and 43.8% have received flaming words from others either in their inboxes or in their public profiles; 42.5% have seen hate messages either in their inboxes or in their public profiles and 31.5% had seen their morphed pictures.
Awareness of Legal Rights:
India is governed by Information technology Act, 2000 (which is amended in 2008) for cyber space related issues including several cyber crimes such as hacking, computer related offences, offensive communication, violation of privacy, cheating by impersonation, identity theft, cyber terrorism, obscenity, child pornography, transmitting or publishing sexually explicit materials, breach of confidentiality etc. and also Indian Penal Code.
According to the survey by Centre for Cyber Victim Counseling (CCVC), 80.8% respondents are aware that hacking, the creation of pornographic material and distribution of the same is illegal and 78.1% respondents are aware that they have right to privacy in the cyberspace. Only 19.2% are aware that cyberbullying, stalking, sending annoying messages etc can be penalized.
Now cyber crime police stations have become functional in almost all the major cities of India. However, 90.4% respondents still feel that reporting to the police may bring more victimization and hence they prefer not report to the Police.
Recommendations for Justice Administration:
- Awareness campaign must be arranged from the root levels such as schools and colleges about cyber ethics and probable cyber crimes like economic cheatings, stalking activities, defamatory activities, misusing email and social networking websites etc.
- Police, social workers, lawyers, and NGOs must also participate in social awareness‐ campaigns, workshops, and seminars to talk about legalities and illegalities of cyber conduct among adults inclusive of both the genders. Reporting of cyber victimization must be encouraged at all levels directly to police and also to NGOs working for the cause.
- More rigid laws must be brought in to curb individual victimization in the cyberspace. The present Information Technology Act includes only a few sections for cyber crimes, hence a separate law on cyber crimes should be created or the present IT Act should be amended accordingly.
- Seminars and workshops must be arranged for police personnel for a better understanding of such sorts of victimization and prompt responses towards the complainants. Legal and academic experts, NGOs working for this cause etc must be brought in for such seminars and workshops.
The scenario of cyber victimization in India needs to be studied in detail. It is ironic that even though cyber victimization includes abuse of fundamental rights and also gender harassments, hardly any solid step has been taken to curb this. In the Indian social value system, some of such cyber cultures may give rise to severe abuse of fundamental rights guaranteed by our constitution.
Matured adult internet users must understand that what is offensive in the real space, must be maintained as offensive in the cyber space also. Cyber socializing has opened the gateway to a global village which may form its own culture, rules, and ethics. But that in no way should encourage abuse of personal rights and freedom.
– Medha P M
Content Writer at Legal Bites
- Debarati Halder and K. Jaishankar, Cyber Victimization in India: A Baseline Survey Report (2010)