Internet has touched every aspect of human life, bringing ease in connecting people around the globe and has also made information available to huge strata of the society on a click of a button. With advancement, came unforeseen banes of cyber offences. Cyber stalking, cyber bullying, spoofing, credit card frauds are a few to name from the possible cyber offences and many are still not predictable.
Cyber bullying is a form of electronic communication which harms the reputation or privacy of an individual, or threatens, or harasses, leaving a long lasting impact. It is using beyond the permissible limit or unauthorized use of electronic technology affecting the life and reputation of another.
This article aims at introducing the concept of cyber bullying and how it is different from cyberstalking, effects and consequences, remedies available under Criminal Laws and Information Technology Act, and its prevention. The objective of this article is to discuss international laws prevailing and provision of cyber bullying in other countries while highlighting the need for defining cyber bullying from Indian perspective, making specific regulations against it, and the experts needed in making for such law.
By definition, cyberbullying “is when one person or a group of people try to threaten, tease or embarrass someone else by using a mobile phone or the Internet. Cyber bullying can be and is oftentimes, just as harmful as bullying in the real world.”
Social media profiles give people the ability to post pictures of anything they want. It can be pictures of themselves, pictures of things that interest them or updates of their whereabouts, cyberbullies are given the opportunity to pinpoint certain aspects of a person’s life to make fun of. Cyberbullies humiliate their target on social media publicly, oftentimes embarrassing them or sending hurtful messages.
What makes cyber bullying so dangerous is that it gives bullies the ability to embarrass anyone they want in public, using multiple types of technology. These can include devices such as, cell phones, instant messaging platforms, tablets, interactive gaming websites, and even email.
Concept of Cyber Bullying
The term Cyber bullying was coined by Bill Belsey, Canadian educator. Cyber bullying 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. It is a deliberate attempt which can be continuous or one time. The bully can be a known person or maybe an unknown person or a group. It is done using technologies such as internet, some chat groups, instant messaging, short message service, web pages, e-mails, etc. The intention is to harm a person. It is an act of a person who is either physically powerful or socially powerful over the victim. It can also be in the form of developing a website and posting obscene photos or defamatory text on it. Some instances of cyber bullying can be a mere e-mail to someone who has expressed his contention of not keeping any contact, posting pictures and sexual remarks. It is alarming to note that 63% of harassers are reportedly under the age of 18 years.
Cyber Bullying: An International Perspective
On websites in numerous countries, young and old alike have recounted their own bullying problems and there’s a sense that this is an universal phenomena. In Brazil, it has become increasingly common for kids to suffer from bullying not only in schools, but also on social networking sites. Many aggressive incidents are recorded by cell phones and posted on sites such as YouTube. Online communities are formed to ridicule these bullied students, and often, they are essentially stalked by other computer mediated tools. Worse, since there is not a lot of awareness about bullying in many schools, many teachers and parents have no idea their kids are being beaten or stalked and their videos are posted online.
A study done last year, for example, indicated that only 16 percent of students in Brazil worry about cyber bullying, even though 38 percent reported being a victim or knowing someone who was.
A quick search on Orkut, one of the most popular social networking sites in Brazil, reveals numerous online communities offering support for kids and teens who have suffered cyber bullying.
Because social networking sites disseminate and preserve accounts of the humiliation, they lend a new dimension to bullying. Teens frequently say that bullying starts offline, but almost always migrates to the online environment. The online components are enduring and hard to escape. “You cannot go home from the Internet,” says Paulo, 17, who left school due to bullying problems. “I change cities and still suffer from (online) communities people made against me. It is like being haunted.”
Concept Under Different Countries
- United Kingdom Law
Bullying is not a criminal offence in UK law. There are criminal laws that can be applied to cyber bullying. Protection from Harassment Act, 1997 for repeated actions. It prohibits harassment, and provides civil remedy for breach of such prohibition under section 3. Threat is punished under section 4.
- United States Law
Nearly all states have amended and passed laws to address it. The federal law is under the Megan Meier Cyber Bullying Prevention Act.
- European Law
European data protection legislation is being applied to the issue ofcyber bullying, online harassment and identity theft.
Cyber Bullying Versus Cyber Stalking
The difference between cyber stalking and cyber bullying is that of age. When an adolescent is involved, the term used is cyber bullying but in case when a major is involved, it is cyber stalking. There is no legal distinction between the two other than that of age. The act in cyber stalking is same as that of the cyber bullying, only difference being is that of age. Cyber stalking is a form of cyber bullying.
Reasons for Cyberbullying
Since cyber bullies are people of tender age, they lack the sense of understanding their action and what consequences it can have on others. One of the reasons is ignorance of consequences and nature of the action. Some of the reasons can be anger, frustration, boredom and a need of laughter. Bullies generally ignore the fact that it might cause long lasting impact on the person being bullied. The main reason of cyber bullying revolves around the fact of revenge and power. Bullies go for cyber bullying in order to meet their revenge. In most of the cases, a person being bullied in earlier situation turns into a bully to satisfy his hunger of revenge. Also, there are instances where a person who cannot speak up directly in front of the victim, takes advantage of anonymity of cyber bullying. There are possibilities that the reason being socially powerful. Just to become socially powerful, people may try to demean others. Jealousy can also be one of the reasons giving rise to cyber bullying. Since adolescent age attracts jealousy soon, jealous minors are potential bullies.
Types of Cyberbullying
Cyber bullying can take various forms. To name some are those involving abuse to personal information of a person such as photos, blogs, etc. sending viruses to destroy the information of the other person, or to abuse a person in a chat room, sending images or texts through mobile phones are also some types. Also, emails when conveyed not to, or sending vulgar/junk mails are also its kind. Another type can be that of impersonating someone, revealing the secret information shared, excluding someone from a chat group, exchanging rude comments on the group, harassing someone continuously, online polling, stealing passwords and misusing it in revealing information, telling someone else to bully a person.
Modes of Cyberbullying
Bullying someone on the internet can take place through various methods. Some methods of cyberbullying can be simplest of all that is, sending text messages, or e-mails or instant message to someone who has already expressed his intention of not keeping any contact with the sender. Other methods can be of threat, gaming up on victim, defaming, sexual remarks, posting rumors, hate speech, etc. Some other methods can include impersonation, making fake accounts, posting on social media and in video games, portraying or abusing someone.
Law in India
Cyber bullying is an injury which leaves it scars for the rest of the life. To cope up with it is difficult. To keep quiet about it and letting go the bullies is not the solution to it neither does it help the victim to overcome it. Letting go bullies without reporting or bringing out an action against them can lead to potential attacks and also aggression in the bully, seeing them free of any harm.
Legal Remedy under Information Technology Act
There are legal remedies available against cyber bullying. The remedy can be civil or criminal. After the amendment in the Indian Penal Code of 1860 in 2013, cyber stalking has been added as a criminal offense. The remedies available are herein below. Chapter 11 of the Information Technology Amendment Act consists of offenses, where there is no clear definition of the offence of cyber bullying. Still the act provides remedies against the same under section 66 and section 67.
Remedies under Indian Penal Code
Indian penal code provided remedies against defamatory act or an act outraging the modesty of the women. The amendment of the Act in 2013 introduced other offences and also made cyberstalking as an offence. Under section 354C, a person who takes pictures of a woman, or watches her where she expects privacy or when she is indulged in some private activity and expects no one to be observing, shall be punished with imprisonment in between one year to three years and also liable to fine under first conviction. For the second or subsequent conviction there is imprisonment between the terms of three to seven years and also fine.
Under this section, a cyber bully can be punished for taking pictures and can held liable under this section along with other sections if he transmits or publishes the same. Section 354A provides punishment for sexual harassment. Section 354D provides punishment against stalking.
If a man contacts a woman or attempts to even after her expressed disinterest, or monitors her activities on the internet, shall be liable for punishment of imprisonment up to three years and fine under first conviction. Under second or subsequent conviction, he shall be punished with imprisonment up to five years and fine.
Major Problems that needs to be dealt with:
- There is no law mentioning the proper age to use mobile phones. Students under eighteen years of age use mobile phones more for the fashion than as an essential commodity.
- There are no uniform regulations in schools and colleges preventing bullying (in-person or through networking sites) like Anti Ragging Acts prevalent in various states of India.
- The IT Act 2000 needs to be stricter with the public cyber cafes.
- Regulations should be made for each school to have a counsellor who can address the cybercrime related issues well.
- The need for the day is cyber savvy judges and cyber help lines cells for children.
- The IT Act 2000 does not mention any specific provisions for safeguarding the children.
Instagram has also become a mode of cyber bullying. There have been cases of cyberbullying on Instagram too. It can take place through posting embarrassing photos of a person, putting hash tags which can be insulting, posting something defaming or cruel comments, creating fake profiles.
Today, social media has become a large platform for cyber bullying. Confession pages are new and have held attention of most. A confession page of a community or institute allows people to post anything about anybody without their identity being revealed. The administrators of such pages receive inbox messages which they post on the page for everybody to ready. People who like these pages are connected and remain in that circle and keep getting notifications of posts on the page. Facebook pages and twitter pages are new in the trend. People can inbox anything to the admin to post it. These posts can be any specific confession also. Sometimes it includes posting of photos too which can be humiliating, also posting some secret information of the victim. People post anything since there is no threat of their identity being released.
Rhitika Sharma’s Case
Ritika Sharma, who studies at a prominent Delhi school, went to police after being stalked by a facebook user who was befriended by her from quiet a while.
She had given her cell phone to a man who was found to be using a fake name, photo and phone number.
Experts say cyber bullying and cyber stalking are increasingly becoming a daily problem for the city’s schoolkids with people using electronic communication like emailing, social networking and texting to harass or pursue them.
Delhi Police has been launching cyber safety awareness programmes in schools where students are informed to avoid giving personal information online to anyone they don’t know.
Ritu Koli Case
The fact that cyber stalking does not involve physical contact may create the misperception that it is better than physical stalking, which is not necessarily true. As the Internet has becomes more integral part of our personal and professional lives, stalkers can take advantage of the ease of communications as well as increased access to personal information. As with physical stalking, online harassment and threats may be a prelude to a more serious behaviour, including physical violence.
First Case of Cyberstalking was registered by the Delhi Police in 2001 where a lady named Ritu Kohli complained that a person who was using her identity to chat over the Internet at the website www.mirc.com was also giving her telephone number to other chatters encouraging them to call Ritu Kohli at odd hours. As a result of which, Mrs. Kohli received around 40 calls, national also international, during odd hours within 3 days. This case was registered under section 509 of the Indian Penal Code (Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman).
Indian laws are competent and well drafted to punish traditional offences on the physical space. Some laws to punish offences on cyberspace are well drafted to meet the ends of justice. The interesting aspect of cyber space is that it is growing and evolving unlike physical space. Due to the same reason, what shape the crimes might take place is still not fully foreseen; cyber bullying is one such crime. It can take place in many forms and can be tried under different provisions of existing laws but doing so will affect evolution of cyber laws in India. There is a need for defining separate laws for the purpose of cyber-crime offences since the mode, consequences, gravity and probable targets are different. Cyber bullying is one of the offences which can take an ugly shape in the future and needs to be addressed soon.
In making of the cyber bullying law, lawmakers should take opinion of a psychiatrist since such offence affects the psyche of a child very much. The law should be made considering the psychology of people involved and the legal expertise of law enforcement. If law is not made, many cyber bullies will be left open and victims will have to suffer the consequences and this will defeat the concept of justice.
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