• The Law Gazette

The Seriousness behind “Just a Joke”: Issues of Cyber Violence

While there was a “meme” circulating about her boobs, amidst everyone laughing there she was crying in a corner, ashamed and embarrassed to step out. All these mere jokes each one of us circulates on our social media handles seem like they are no real threat, give out no apparent threats, but the one subjected to the joke might feel a gust of emotions that may make this mere joke of yours a type of cyber violence.


Cyberviolence is defined as online behaviours that criminally or non-criminally assault or can lead to assault, of a person’s physical, psychological or emotional well-being.[1] It can be done or experienced by an individual or group and happen online, through smartphones, during Internet games, etc.[2] Such cyber violence includes online harassment, stalking, unwanted sexting, blackmailing etc. Not just individuals, groups of people can also experience cyberbullying.


TYPES OF CYBER VIOLENCE

Four categories of cyber violence are:

a) Cyber and online harassment:

The political point of views and opinions we so absentmindedly share online may fall into this category if it turns to hate speech. Individual threats or coordinated abuses, for example, trolling, doxing etc. are in this category. The abusers might be anonymous or known.


b) Non-Consensual Sharing of Intimate Images:

This is also sometimes termed as “revenge porn”. When some person shares intimate photos that might humiliate or exploit another is a type of sexual harassment.


c) Recording & Distribution of Sexual Assault:

When videos or graphic images of rape or other sexual assaults are distributed via social media, it not only becomes a privacy issue but also a form of gendered violence. This might affect young minds and also damages the victim’s self-respect and public image.


d) Cyberstalking & Digital Dating Abuse:

Harassment, tracking, threatening & controlling a partner online. For example, GPS phone tracking apps could be used to track women's every move.

CYBER VIOLENCE ACROSS THE GLOBE

As the digital age is growing and technology skyrocketing, every nation in the world is trying to tackle the problem of cyber violence.


In China, as the internet users are the highest, the problem is also the maximum. The most prominent form of cyber violence prevalent in china is the “human flesh search engine”. This enables the internet users to cumulatively identify online targets who might be accused of infidelity, animal cruelty or any other thing and lets these users publicly humiliate them and launch a sort of online campaign against them. This is so ferocious and harsh that these targets and their families have to suffer in totality. The major issue arising is that many times these are just fake accusations or rumours.


In Russia, the major issue is that cyber violence is not taken seriously by the government. They tend not to do anything about any cases reported. Hence, not surprisingly --Russia has no specific laws on online abuse but the phenomenon is theoretically covered by standard laws against threatening violence or murder.[3] For cases of revenge porn, Russians are often reluctant to go to the police, with just a handful of cases each year.[4]


In the United Kingdom, online violence can be broken down into two categories.

1. Faced by women, victims of domestic abuse, LGBT people etc. majorly by their partners, ex-partners, colleagues or classmates etc.

2. Faced by someone in a public online space. This can be faced by someone accused of rape, murder etc. However, the UK has taken steps to curb the menace, for example, the introduction of a national stalking helpline and a national revenge pornography helpline. It has also come out with new legislation against the same.


In the United States, research shows that 40% of people had at some point been a target of online violence. Most common in the targeted groups are women or minors. Where there are laws functional for the same, victims are still troubled as the officials are uninterested and such cases are time-consuming and costly.


CYBER LAWS IN INDIA

The laws against acts of cyber violence and online harassment/bullying are contained in the Information & Technology Act 2000 (IT Act). These cyber laws are backed by the cyber cell and also the Ministry of Electronic and Information Technology, Government of India. The IT Act is enacted to serve numerous purposes. It is not only active for cyber violence but also many other crimes committed by the use of the e-platform such as frauds, defamations, trade secrets etc.


According to the Ministry of Electronic and Information Technology, Government of India, the IT Act or cyber laws give lawful acknowledgment to electronic reports and a system to help e-recording and internet business exchanges and gives a legitimate structure to alleviate, check digital violations.


However, cyber-crime is not defined in the act. It does not clearly define what may constitute cybercrime and what may not, thus, a cybercrime is often looked at as a combination of crime and computer. None of the existing laws gives any legal validity or sanction to the activities in Cyberspace. For example, the internet is used by a large majority of users for email.[5] Yet till today, email id did not “legal” in our country.[6]


CONCLUSION

As technology keeps updating and getting advanced at every blink it gets extremely tough to keep up with it. The IT Act 2000 was enacted to give recognition to e-commerce and online transactions but yet the Indian judiciary seems reluctant to inculcate such technological advancement. However, in conclusion it falls upon the shoulders of lawmakers to overlook that technology grows and prospers in the right direction and no citizen misuses it to humiliate or harass the other.


ENDNOTES [1] Cyberviolence, Tech without violence, (February, 9, 2020, 11:50 P.M.), https://techwithoutviolence.ca/cyberviolence [2] Ibid. [3] Kate Lyons, Online Abuse: How different countries deal with it?, THE GUARDIAN, April 12, 2016. [4] Ibid. [5] Vinit Verma, Importance of Cyber Law in India, Legal Services India, (February, 9, 2020, 11:50 P.M.), http://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-1019-importance-of-cyber-law-in-india.html [6] Ibid


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

This blog has been authored by Shubhangi Gandhi, who is a 1st Year B.A., LL.B. (Hons.) student at Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala.

[PUBLICATION NO. TLG_BLOG_21_01]