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Cyber Bullying: A crime gifted by the Internet

How many of us have used the internet for pranks? Many of us have anonymous accounts that we might have made on various social media platforms to prank our friends or colleagues. We wouldn’t consider it as bullying until or unless we know what we are dealing with and everyone is taking it as fun without getting offended or hurt even a bit.


In today’s technology-driven world, the internet has become the lifeline to us and social media as a part of it has started becoming a part of our own lives. To consider it as a boon or bane is a never-ending debate. Whatever is posted on these platforms, spreads with the speed of light and it’s just a matter of time we start liking the post without actually thinking rationally whether it's right or wrong? Is someone getting affected with it or is it morphing or will even a single like may be a reason for someone’s suicide? This is a lot to think about.


WHAT DOES CYBERBULLYING MEAN?

The term bullying implies an assertive, deliberate act by a group or a specific individual which can be continuous or at one time to show their predominance. Cyberbullying is a similar concept to bullying the only difference is that it happens via digital platforms.

The term Cyberbullying was coined by Bill Belsey, the Canadian educator. Cyberbullying is defined as, using both information technology and communication technology beyond the limit in order to harm a person’s reputation, state of mind, or to humiliate a person. It is an act by which the person being bullied suffers an adverse effect.[i] Social media provides us the platform to post probably anything in the form of photos, videos, audiotapes, and so on. This provides cyberbullies a chance to make mockery of an individual's life. These bullies humiliate and torture their target publicly on social media platforms.

Cyberbullying is as dangerous as any other crime or sometimes more hideous than the other crime. What makes it so dangerous is that these bullies operate behind a veil and it makes it difficult to trace them, they can bully anyone they want in public through online platforms. They humiliate their target by using digital platforms and devices like phones, emails, instant messaging apps, laptops, etc. It is easy to harm someone when you are anonymous. These bullies don’t have the cojones to say anything in person therefore they hide behind the veil of fake accounts to accomplish their objectives.


CYBERBULLYING OR ANTI- BULLYING LAWS IN INDIA

There is no legislation that specifically provides for or governs cyberbullying laws in India. But this doesn’t imply that it is not a crime. It is a crime governed under two acts i.e The Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008 [IT act, 2008] and The Indian Penal Code, 1860.


1. The Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008

Chapter 11 of this act covers cyberbullying and every kind of offence related to it. Section 66 (e) of IT act, prescribes punishment for violation of privacy. It says, “Whoever intentionally or knowingly captures, publishes or transmits the image of a private area of any person without his or her consent, under circumstances violating the privacy of that person shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years or with fine not exceeding two lakh rupees, or with both”. Section 67 of this act prescribes punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form for a term which lead to 5 years and also with a fine extending to 10 lakh rupees.


2. The India Penal Code, 1860

As mentioned above, cyberbullying may not have a legislation but it is still considered as a crime and therefore penalised under IPC with reference to following sections-

S.292 A - Printing, etc of obscene or indecent advertisement or display

S.499- Defamation

S.354 A- Sexual harassment

S.354 B- Assault or use of criminal force to a woman with intent to disrobe

S.354 C- Voyeurism

S.354D- Stalking

S.503-Criminal intimidation

S.507-Criminal intimidation by an anonymous communication

S.509- Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman

Beside these we also have the POCSO or The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) 2012 which protects the children below the age of 18 years against offences like sexual abuse, sexual harassment and pornography which would include any form of sexual abuse via internet punishable under the provisions of this act.[ii]


BULLYING LEAVES A SCAR ON THE VICTIM

Cyberbullying causes very severe effects on the mental health of victims, especially teenagers. With having unlimited access to the internet, people feel like they have acquired some kind of power and they can write or post anything for the sake of fun. But they do not think about the consequences their actions can bring, little do they know about the saying “with great power comes great responsibility”. People need to understand that their little joke can put someone through severe mental trauma. Cyberbullying leaves such a deep scar on the victim’s mental health that often they took serious steps like suicide to end it all. Cyberbullying causes victims to fall into depression, anxiety, having low or zero self-esteem, and in many cases suicide.


According to Scientific American, the bullying suffered by a teenager, might double the risk of him suffering depression in later years of life,[iii] and also that there is consistency between cases of cyberbullying and depression. 83% of the victims of cyberbullying realizes that bullying is one of the reasons for their low self-esteem.[iv] In a study by Duke University, it was found that many cases of anxiety and panic disorder are linked with their past experiences of bullying. 30% of victims who have experienced bullying tend to have suicidal thoughts and 10% of them attempt to end their own life.[v]


Cyberbullying puts a long-lasting impression on the mental health of the victims, which affects many decisions they make later in life and there is a need to end such behaviour. Feeling defenceless and feeble is the most widely recognized inclination in the wake of being bullied by any individual, it turns out to be extremely hard to have a sense of security anywhere because the bully can evade their home through PC and cell phone whenever they want. The victim feels disappointed with himself, as a result, the victim often questions his self-ability. The victim feels isolated from the world and always has a doubt on his self-ability.[vi]


WHAT OTHER COUNTRIES' LAWS SAY ABOUT BULLYING?

In August 2008, the California state governing body passed the very first laws in the nation that deals with cyberbullying directly. Assembly Bill 86 2008 gives school heads the power to teach understudies for tormenting, offline, or on the web. This law came into action on January 1, 2009. In 2011, legislation equipped at punishing cyberbullying, has been presented in various U.S. states including New York, Missouri, Rhode Island, and Maryland. In any event, 45 states have passed laws against digital harassment. § 875(c)[vii] criminalizes the making of threats via the Internet. Officials are looking to address cyberbullying with new legislation on the grounds that there is at present no particular law on the books that manages it. A fairly new federal cyberstalking law may address such acts, as per Parry Aftab, however, nobody has been indicted under it yet.


The United States and some different nations have more broad legislation on cyberbullying than the European Union. As of mid-2015, nations in the European Union like the United Kingdom are making laws uniquely identified with cyberbullying. Since the procedure requires some investment of time, the legislature is supporting school projects to advance web security with the assistance of teachers and parents. This will permit the administration to take the time it needs to make the cyberbullying laws while helping safeguard students from cyberbullying as much as could reasonably be expected.


In India, victims can look for criminal or civil remedies yet there are no particular anti-bullying laws, however, there exist some bunch of laws that manage the act of bullying, for example, Information Technology Act, Indian Penal Code, and so on.[viii]


CONCLUSION

Indian laws are competent to penalize traditional offenses like defamation, harassment, and stalking, but one facet of the law that it ought to evolve with the time, during this digital era where cyberbullying is growing and evolving, in contrast to traditional offenses, we need to address an area where the traditional legal remedy might not be an adequate remedy. In India cyberbullying is regulated by the cluster of laws, and it's perpetually demanded by the social activist that we need a special law that deals with the cyberbullying, one factor that should be taken into consideration is the mental condition of the victim, study establish that victim continuously goes through a tough phase and maybe rightly compensated.


ENDNOTES

[i] A Critical Analysis of Cyber Bullying in India-with Special Reference to Bullying in College, available at https://acadpubl.eu/hub/2018-119-17/2/146.pdf (July 27 2020 12:05 A.M)

[ii] Shweta Krishnappa, Cyber- Bullying and the related laws in India, available at, https://www.legaleraonline.com/articles/cyber-bullying-and-the-related-laws-in-india (July 27, 2020, 2:6 A.M

[iii] How Cyberbullying Affects Mental Health, available at https://www.lindsaytsang.com/how-cyberbullying-affects-mental-health (July 26, 2020, 7:30 P.M.)

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Sherri Gordon, “ What are the effects of Cyberbullying?”, available at https://www.verywellfamily.com/what-are-the-effects-of-cyberbullying-460558( July 26, 2020, 11:30 P.M)

[vii] 18 U.S. Code, § 875

[viii] Ashna Mehta & Rishabh Jaiswal, “Cyber Bullying : An Indian Perspective” 1 IJLI (2007) p.86


ABOUT THE AUTHOR This blog has been authored by Anish Jandial who is a 1st Year B.A., LL.B. (Hons.) student at National University of Study and Research in Law, Ranchi & Palak Katta who is a 2nd Year B.B.A., LL.B. (Hons.) student at Unitedworld School of Law, Karnavati University, Gandhinagar.


[PUBLICATION NO. TLG_BLOG_20_6904]

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