This guest blog defines Cyberstalking & laws that you should know about. Often, these incidents don’t get reported. This motivates the perpetrators. Don’t do that. Speak up & save your life & others’. Read on.
Cyberstalking or Online Harassment refers to the use of the Internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass an individual, group, or organization. It generally includes false accusations, defamation, slander and libel and may also include monitoring, identity theft, threats, vandalism, solicitation for sex, or gathering information that may be used to threaten, embarrass or harass.
According to the Pew Research Center’s study– Women are more likely to be stalked online (about 75% online cases of harassment are reported by women, though even men have to face them), suffer sustained harassment and be sexually harassed : for example, 53 percent of the women surveyed said they had received explicit images they didn’t ask for.
Now, if we think that these are the statistics of well developed nations of the West where technology has seeped into every speck of life and India, if not completely, would be relatively better off, then take a look at the survey done here:
A research conducted by Feminism in India (FII) and part of Freedom House Hyper linkers on ‘Violence online in India: Cybercrimes against women and minorities on social media,’ has found that nearly 50 per cent of women in major Indian cities have experienced online abuse.
The condition only gets worse from here, as the same study shows that, 36 per cent of women who experienced online harassment took no action at all and 28 per cent said they intentionally reduced their online presence after suffering online abuse. 30 per cent said they were not aware of laws to protect them from online harassment.
Therefore, the first way out of being a victim of these online harassment is to understand what online harassment really is. Cyber stalking is when a person is followed and pursued online. Their privacy is invaded, their every move is watched. It is a form of harassment that takes place online, and can disrupt the life of the victim and leave them feeling very afraid and threatened.
Cyber stalkers or people who use internet to harass others, can be categorized into 3 types:-
- The common obsessional cyber stalker
The common obsessional stalker who refuses to believe that his/her relationship with their partner is over. But the often committed mistake should not be done that is- do not be misled by believing this stalker is harmlessly in love.
- The delusional cyber stalker
They may be suffering from some mental illness like schizophrenia etc & have a false belief that keeps them tied to their victims. They assume that the victim loves them even though they have never met. A delusional stalker is usually a loner & most often chooses victims who are married women, a celebrity or doctors, teachers, etc.. Those in the noble & helping professions like doctors, teachers etc are at often at risk of attracting a delusional stalker. Delusional stalkers are very difficult to get rid off.
- The vengeful cyber stalker.
These cyber stalkers are angry at their victim due to some minor reason- either real or imagined. Typical examples are disgruntled employees. These stalkers may be stalking to get even & take revenge and believe that “they” have been victimized. Ex-spouses can turn into this type of stalker.
Once we have understood that we are being victims of online harassment what should one do? Keep quiet like those 30% of women or take legal recourse? Most women who would like to take up the matter seriously take the & opt for legal recourse, are unaware of the various laws that they have at their disposal.
In the civil court, victims of cyber-attacks, from stalking to revenge porn to online bullying, can sue their harassers through something called tort law, otherwise known as civil wrongs. The victims can claim the torts of defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, harassment, and public disclosure of private fact etc.
Criminally under Indian laws some of the provisions that the victims can opt for have been listed down:-
- Section 509 of IPC: Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman.
If a woman has received verbal derogatory abuse because of her gender, she can bring up criminal charges against the offender.
- Section 499 of IPC: Defamation
Often, sexist language is used online that can affect people mentally and cause unnecessary harm and stress to them. Moreover, people who are celebrities highly value their reputation and thus, can take the help of this section in the law to set the offenders right.
- Section 503 of IPC: Criminal Intimidation
Women have often been made victims of violent intimidation and are stopped from approaching the police and cyber cells for help by threatening them with violence or rape threats. Girls who have faced/are facing this can seek legal recourse using this section of IPC and should not be bogged down by such threats.
- Section 507 of IPC: Criminal intimidation by an anonymous communication
Rape threats and other forms of violent coercion where the perpetrator is a stranger falls under this section.
- Section 228a of IPC: Disclosure of the identity of victims of certain offences
In India, the identity of a rape victim cannot be disclosed. So, it is illegal to post pictures and videos of women who have been subjected to rape online for the purpose of revenge and silencing them.
In addition to this, in India one can even report the cases of cyber-crimes (including online harassment) in a cyber cell (that’s nearest to them) or even CBI.
Efforts are being made to make laws for cyber-crimes more stringent but the least every internet user can do is be vigilant and cautious and take all precautionary steps they can to safeguard their data.
This blog has been written by Shriya Sharma, part of Safecity’s Writer’s Movement, is a third year law student, brilliant at academics and exceptional at extra curricular. She is a strong supporter of women empowerment.