Safety of Women with rising Cyber Crimes

By | May 24, 2020
Safety of Women

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Safety of Women with rising Cyber Crimes | Overview

Evolution in technology has acted as a catalyst, leading to an increase in the number of Cyber Crimes and aggravating the issue of the safety of women, as they are considered as most vulnerable in such forums. Cyber Crime is widely used to describe various sorts of activities where computers or networks are used as an instrument, tool and mechanism to instigate criminal venture.

Introduction

Cyberspace is a modern horizon, that is regulated by machines to receive information and any computer or system used to cater to criminal activity will fall within the ambit of cyber-crime. Access to the internet is now considered as a fundamental right by the Supreme Court in analogy to the United Nations recommendation; hence crucial steps need to be taken in order to assure that virtual public space is a protective environment and empowering domain of every individual, inclusive of women and girls.[1]

Initially in India, for a cyber-crime to be considered as a crime, it would have to be in violation of either IPC (Indian Penal Code) or the SLL (Special and Local Laws). However, with changing times two major laws came to the rescue, the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 and the Information Technology Act, 2000.[2]

The Information Technology Act, 2000 was initially formulated to cater to the preservation of electronic commerce (e-commerce) and communications under the Act, whereas the sphere of cyber socializing communications under the IT Act 2000 was left untouched.[3]

With the evolution of law and dire need to address issues in relation to crimes against women and children, Cyber victimization of Women and Cyber laws in India expanded. However, various evidence throughout the globe shows that cybercrimes against women are still a major and a fast-growing concern, which severely impacts the victim’s lives, particularly the safety of women and is traumatising in nature.

According to the Chairperson of the National Commission for Women (NCW), Mrs Rekha Sharma,

“Women are considered an easy target and are considered to be a secondary individual in society by the criminal. Women often have very limited knowledge and awareness regarding safe usage and access to these social media sites, thereby being easy prey to cyber-crime.”[4]

Types of Cyber Crime affecting the Safety of Women

  • Cyber Harassment 

Harassment has been newly defined by the Criminal Law Amendment (Bill) 2013, which mentions that

physical contact, or any form of advances which includes any form of request or orders for sexual favours, any form of sexual remarks, coercing to view pornographic content and other forms of unpleasant physical, verbal or non-verbal sexual conduct.

Section 67A, 67B of the IT Act caters to sexual harassment in relation to offence dealing with publicizing and transmitting materials which contain explicit sexual act and child pornography in electronic form. Few reports also contended that forums like WhatsApp and Twitter are being used by the prostitution business, these forums are considered safer than normal as it is difficult for the police to track. [5]

  • Cyber pornography

The depiction of sexually explicit materials online is referred to as Cyber Pornography. This has also been one of the major concerns of the females of this country, as there is no way to decipher or trace the origin of such activities.

The Delhi Metro CCTV footage leaks[6], where the security cameras of the police leaked the recordings of intimate moments of Delhi couples in metro stations would be an example of Cyber Pornography.

  • Email Spoofing

This method is used via emails in order to scrape personal information and confidential images from various unsuspecting women. Gujarat Ambuja Executive Case can be one of the examples, here the offender pretended to be a female in order to cheat and blackmail the Abu Dhabi based NRI.

  • Morphing

Criminal activity in which an original picture is edited to be misused. Perpetrators usually download their pictures from various social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram or any other resources, later these pictures are morphed and are released on various social media sites, porn sites or used to blackmail these women. It leads to the degradation of the morality and safety of women.

  • Cyber defamation

This is an offence which is a Cyber tort inclusive of both libel and slander and is also one of the most frequently committed crimes against women over the internet. Here, computers and the Internet are used to defame the person.

When an individual frequently and intentionally engages in harassing conduct directed towards another person, which alarms, distresses and terrorizes the individual. These stalkers often target women to harass them through various chatrooms, websites etc.

Recent Cyber Crime Cases in India

According to the National Commission for Women (NCW), the pandemic has largely affected the cyber-crimes cases in India. According to the Chairperson of NCW, Rekha Sharma, there have approximately been 103 cybercrime cases registered as of 19th May 2020 under the NCW data which is significantly high in comparison to 38 cases which were registered before the lockdown.

Bois Locker Room Incident– In this incident, a group of 10 to 15 boys, formulated a group chat on Instagram called the ‘Bois Locker Room’ with fake accounts.  This group chat was used to share offensive and pornographic photos of underaged girls along with making vulgar and foul remarks and comparing and commenting on their bodies.

These boys were school-going children, belonging to very influential families. Later these boys started making rape threats to the people who confronted them. The screenshots of these chat messages went viral on Twitter and Instagram and gradually became a very serious matter. The Delhi Police Cyber Crime Cell, however, took cognizance of the matter and arrested the admin of the group chat who happened to be studying in 12th standard. [7]

Update– The Delhi High Court, issues notice to Central Government, Facebook, Google and Twitter on a plea which laid forth directions to social media companies to eliminate any illegal groups present in their platforms for the ‘safety and security of children’ in cyberspace, this plea further went on to say that these social media platforms should be held liable under the IT Act, 2000 along with POCSO Act, 2012. [8]

Promotion of acid attack by an influencer on TikTok– TikTok has been a very trending app being used by celebrities to students and children, during this lockdown phase. Faizal Siddiqui, having 13.4 million followers had been accused of encouraging and glorifying acid attacks. He recently posted a video which idealized acid attacks on women.

The NCW immediately filed a complaint and asked TikTok India to take down the video stating that the video was “promoting the grievous crime of acid attack on social media”.[9] This is certainly not the first time that TikTok was suspected of being a platform for the commission of cyber-crimes against women. A year ago, Madras High Court banned TikTok stating that the app can be used to circulate pornographic contents widely, exposure for children to disturbing content etc, this ban was however lifted, yet there are still various videos being circulated which glorify rape culture and various other crimes against woman.

TikTok, in the US recently has an increased number of lawsuits nationwide as they failed to deploy necessary safeguards.  There have been allegations that the app fails to comply with the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, which does not permit private entities to obtain biometric information of an individual, for example, fingerprints, retina and iris patterns, voice waves etc.  The Los Angeles headquarter is accused of scanning the user’s face in order for the user to access and use the different app ‘filters and effects’.[10]

Initiatives that are being taken to curb the issue of Cyber Crimes against Women in India

  1. Digital Shakti Programme – Cyber Peace Foundation has collaborated with the National Commission for Women (NCW) and Facebook for a venture called ‘Digital Shakti Programme’ launched in the year 2018. This programme was in consonance with the steady pursuit of empowering and making women aware of how to use cyberspace safely by providing them with digital knowledge or digital literacy.[11]
  2. First Digital Literacy and Online Safety Programme for young girls and women launched in Imphal. This programme successfully helped to raise awareness among 60,000 women studying in universities across various cities of the country on the secured and responsible use of social media sites, internet and e-mails.[12]
  3. Maharashtra Government Initiative on “Cyber Safe Women” – The initiative encapsulates various awareness camps which would be held across all districts of the state, and that would have the goal of spreading cyber safety. Educating women about how to use cyberspace and how the platforms can be used by predators to commit various crimes online such as child pornography and cyberbullying along with other internet crimes. [13]
  4. @CyberDost Twitter Handle – The Ministry of Home Affairs formulated a handbook on cyber safety for students and adolescents. Through its initiative of twitter handle at (@CyberDost), the government hopes to cater and address various awareness issues in relation to cybercrimes and the way of using technology judiciously to protect the users.[14]
  5. CCPWC (Cybercrime Prevention against Women and Children) Scheme – Initiative by Ministry of Home Affairs, the portal would enable citizens to report any cybercrime-related issue without disclosing their identity; this would help victims of cybercrimes, complainants to report the crimes anonymously referring to any content which are objectionable especially relating to women and children. [15]

International Initiatives

  • United Kingdom launched The National Centre for Cyberstalking Research (NCCR) in the year 2009, which catered in providing research and analysing issues such as the prevalence, impact, and examining the risks of cybercrime against women and girls. In the year 2011, the results of the study were brought to light and the impact, nature of cyberstalking was addressed. A further survey is being conducted with regards to revenge porn being a cybercrime.[16]
  • France adopted ‘Digital Republic Law’ which required harsher punishments in cases where a person is found guilty of revenge porn. Under the legislation, the punishment would be the sentencing of two years or a fine of 60 000 euros. [17]

Conclusion and Suggestions

In cases of cybercrime involving another country, the procedure becomes very tedious, and various regulations need to be followed. Foreign Service providers are not quite corporative regarding cross border legal issues and investigation. Various suggestions have been made in relation to regulations which should be made in order to decode the IP Address to service providers and that servers of these providers should be allowed in India to decode the IP address swiftly and for effective investigation.[18]

Girls should be made aware of the various cybercrimes over the internet and how to deal in an effective manner. This has been a worldwide concern, workshops and mass awareness for safe internet usage and complying with procedures to mitigate these issues have been of major concern throughout nations. Police and Government both should play active participation in relation to the reduction of these crimes; legal steps need to be followed through awareness programmes, to bring about a change in the psychology of society widely.[19]


Contributed By: Aqueen Ekka

Edited By: Saumya Shah


[1]European Institute for Gender Equality (2017), “Cyber Violence Against Women”

[2] Femicide (Volume XI), Yashodhana Raj, “Cyber Crimes against Women in India” (February 2019)

[3] Manupatra, Dr Monika Jain, “Victimization of Women Beneath Cyberspace in Indian Upbringing” (2017)

[4] Webinar hosted by Legal Bites on Safety of Women on Rising Cyber Crimes.

[5] Mail Online India, Shashank Shekhar, “Escort agencies use WhatsApp and Twitter to reach out to more customers” (2015)

[6] The Indian Express, “Delhi Metro orders probe as footage featuring couple is leaked”

[7] https://www.republicworld.com/india-news/law-and-order/delhi-police-cyber-cell-arrests-admin-of-bois-locker-room-group.html

[8] Bar and Bench Litigation News, “Delhi HC issues notice in plea seeking removal of illegal groups from social media platforms for safety and security of children”

[9] India Today, TikTok removes Faizal Siddiqui’s video promoting acid attack after NCW complaint.

[10]TikTok is Facing a Growing Number of Lawsuits for Allegedly Collecting, Storing and Sharing Users’ Biometric Data” (2020) https://www.thefashionlaw.com/tiktok-is-facing-a-growing-number-of-lawsuits-for-allegedly-collecting-storing-and-sharing-users-biometric-data/

[11] https://www.cyberpeace.org/child-and-women/

[12] Northeast Now, Sabhapati Samoa, “Women of the North East are talented, says Manipur governor” (2018)

[13] All India Radio News, “Maharashtra Govt launches “Cyber Safe Women” Initiative” (2020)

[14] ABP News Bureau, “Coronavirus in India: All You Need To Know About Cyber Dost” (2020)

[15] Ministry of Home Affairs, Details about CCPWC (Cybercrime Prevention Against Women and Children) Scheme. https://www.mha.gov.in/division_of_mha/cyber-and-information-security-cis-division/Details-about-CCPWC-CybercrimePrevention-against-Women-and-Children-Scheme

[16] European Institute for Gender Equality (2017), “Cyber Violence Against Women”

[17] Ibid.

[18] International Journal of Pure and Applied Mathematics, Shweta Sankhwar, Arvind Chaturvedi, “Woman Harassment in Digital Space in India” (2018)

[19] Ibid.


This article has been crafted from A Webinar Organised by Legal Bites

Author: Mayank Shekhar

Mayank is a student at Faculty of Law, Delhi University. Under his leadership, Legal Bites has been researching and developing resources through blogging, educational resources, competitions, and seminars.

  • Khyati says:

    Best information provided on this topic. Really helpful.

  • Komal says:

    Great article! Thanks.