Drishti Suji, a 4th-year student from Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies (VIPS) has written this Article: Cyberbullying and Laws Related to It in India
Understanding Bullying and Cyberbullying
Bullying is the wilful, persistent use of one’s position of power to harm or intimidate another person. One of the many forms it can take is physical assault, verbal abuse, social rejection, and cyberbullying, to name just a few.
Bullying frequently takes place in situations where there is an imbalance of power, such as the workplace, schools, or online groups. Bullies attempt to exert control over their victims by employing strategies including name-calling, rumours, physical violence, or coercion. The victim of bullying could experience fear, embarrassment, or social isolation because of the bullying.
Bullying can have devastating, long-lasting effects on both the attacker and the victim. Bullies may behave violently or in other unruly ways, and their victims may experience depression, anxiety, melancholy, or even suicidal thoughts.
According to studies, bullying rises between the ages of 11 and 13 before declining as kids get older. As kids get older, relational aggression, harming or manipulating other people’s relationships, including spreading rumours and social exclusion becomes increasingly common. Younger kids are more prone to engage in overt physical violence such as kicking, striking, and shoving.
People must be made aware of the detrimental effects of bullying, a culture of respect and empathy must be encouraged, and people who have been the targets of bullying must receive support. In this case, interventions such as counselling, mediation, and assistance for the victim and their family may be used.
In addition to harming the victims, bullying also causes harm to the bullies. Because of their violent behaviour, bullies frequently have a negative trajectory in life, making it challenging for them to learn, maintain employment, and establish and maintain intimate relationships.
WHAT IS CYBERBULLYING?
Bullying or harassment that takes place online, typically through social media sites, messaging services, or other electronic means is referred to as cyberbullying. It entails using technology with the goal of harming, degrading, or frightening another person.
Sending threatening messages, uploading embarrassing images or videos, spreading rumours, making up phoney profiles, or banning someone from online groups and conversations are just a few examples of the many ways that cyber bullying can manifest. Anxiety, depression, and even suicide is just a few of the negative psychological and emotional consequences it may have on the victim.
Bullying has followed young people’s social lives online, with electronic bullying emerging as a serious new issue during the past ten years. Bullies now have constant access to their victim’s thanks to the prevalence of mobile gadgets, whereas bullying used to be mostly restricted to schools. Because it can frequently be done in an anonymous manner and victims may not be aware of the identity of the perpetrators, cyber harassment can be particularly upsetting.
The Internet is an integral part of modern society, providing access to information, services, and opportunities for billions of people worldwide. However, with the widespread use of the internet, there is also an increase in cyberbullying, particularly against women. Cyberbullying refers to any form of harassment, intimidation, or humiliation that takes place online or via electronic devices. The Indian Penal Code (IPC) does not define bullying, nor does it explicitly punish it as an offence. Still, various provisions and laws of the IPC and the Information Technology Act (IT Act) can be used to fight cyberbullies. Read the article completely to understand laws related to cyberbullying and fight against it.
EFFECTS OF CYBERBULLYING
Cyberbullying exposure can have a variety of negative effects on a youngster. Among them are:
- Reduced confidence in oneself.
- A propensity to isolate oneself and withdraw from others around them.
- Refusal to let parents or other family members use their computers or smartphones.
- Sudden weight reduction or physical changes.
- Alterations to food and sleeping habits.
- Feeling threatened, exposed, and degraded.
- Creating justifications for missing school.
- Skin damage indicating self-harm; body-covering clothing worn in an effort to conceal the injuries.
- Changes in personality, including more frequent fits of rage, depressive episodes, and tears.
- A drop in grades, performance in sports, and involvement in extracurricular activities.
FORMS OF CYBERBULLYING
Cyberbullying has changed throughout time to take many different forms. Following are some prevalent forms of cyberbullying:
- Flaming is the practice of using derogatory language towards someone in chat rooms, emails, or texts.
- Sending insulting, vile, or threatening texts constitutes harassment.
- Cyberstalking is the practice of following a person online and sending emails or messages to intimidate, frighten, or cause him damage.
- Exclusion: Wilfully excluding a member from a group and publishing defamatory remarks or messages about her impersonation or masquerading: assuming a fictitious identity to harm a person’s reputation and divulging true or false information about them in public
- By making insulting or upsetting remarks, one purposefully hurts another person. This is known as trolling.
- Fraping is the practise of posting inappropriate stuff on someone else’s social media profiles to harm her reputation.
Major Victims of Cyberbullying in recent days
- Pradhuman Singh: A bunch of trolls on social media abused and harassed Pradhuman Singh, a young journalist, before he killed himself in 2018. Pradhuman was the target of the trolls because he had criticised the dominant political party on his YouTube channel.
- Bollywood actress Zaira Wasim experienced cyberbullying after declaring her intention to stop acting in 2020. On social media, she was the subject of trolls who claimed that she had abandoned her Muslim faith. Due to the hostility, Zaira eventually deleted her social media accounts.
- Tanvi Jain is a journalist who faced online harassment and threats after publishing an article that criticised the Hindu nationalist movement in India. She was the subject of online trolls, some of whom threatened to rape and kill her. After Tanvi eventually complained to the authorities, the trolls were taken into custody.
- Kushal Tandon is a television actress who experienced cyberbullying and harassment after making a contentious comment about a well-liked reality programme in India. He was the target of online trolls, some of whom made violent threats against him. The trolls were subsequently taken into custody after Kushal made a police report.
- In Kerala, a student who sold fish to pay for her family’s food and tuition was subjected to severe trolling.
- A Delhi schoolgirl who had just recently become her online friend was stalked and asked her out on a date.
- After sharing a poem about the taboos around menstruation, a law student from Kerala experienced harassment.
Facts about Cyberbullying in India
- According to a survey conducted by Microsoft in 2012 in 25 countries, India ranks at number 3 in the list of online bullying cases.
- The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has reported a 350% rise in cybercrime cases between 2011 and 2014, including cyberbullying.
- A study by Child Rights and You (CRY) in 2017 found that 75% of children in India have faced some form of bullying.
- A survey by Norton in 2019 found that 2 in 3 Indian children had been victims of cyberbullying, with social media being the most common platform for such incidents.
- A survey conducted by UNESCO in 2019 found that cyberbullying was most prevalent in Delhi, followed by Mumbai and Kolkata.
- Girls are more likely to be victims of cyberbullying in India, with a higher percentage reporting incidents of harassment, according to various studies.
- In 2021, the Indian government proposed a new set of laws in form of guidelines for social media platforms that would require them to remove any content that is deemed to be cyberbullying or harmful to children within 24 hours.
Facts about Cyberbullying in the USA
- According to a study by the Cyberbullying Research Center, about 37% of students in the US have experienced cyberbullying, and about 30% of those students have experienced it more than once.
- Cyberbullying can have severe consequences. Victims of cyberbullying are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, and they may also struggle academically.
- Girls are more likely than boys to be victims of cyberbullying. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, about 21% of girls in the US have experienced cyberbullying, compared to about 10% of boys.
- Cyberbullying is most common among teenagers. According to the same Pew Research Center study, about 59% of US teenagers have experienced some form of cyberbullying.
- Social media is a common platform for cyberbullying. According to a survey by the Cyberbullying Research Center, Instagram is the most commonly used social media platform for cyberbullying, followed by Facebook and Snapchat.
- Cyberbullying can be difficult for parents and educators to detect. Unlike traditional bullying, cyberbullying can take place in private and at any time of day or night, making it difficult for adults to monitor.
- Some US states have laws against cyberbullying. As of 2021, at least 48 states have some form of law or policy addressing bullying and/or cyberbullying in schools. However, these laws vary in their scope and effectiveness.
Laws in India Related to Cyberbullying
The Information Technology Act, 2000
The Information Technology Act, 2000 (amended in 2008) is one of the laws that address internet crimes and their penalties in India. Cyberbullying is a severe offence with long-lasting consequences, and although there is no specific law against it, several clauses in the legislation may provide relief. Section 66(A) deals with the consequences of transmitting derogatory, abusive, or damaging content via social media platforms or other mediums. However, this section was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2015 due to its unconstitutional restriction on free expression.
Sections 66(D), 66(E), and 67 also provide penalties for cyberbullying actions, such as misusing someone’s personal details, publishing inappropriate content, or posting vulgar or insulting information on social media.
The Indian Penal Code (IPC)
The Indian Penal Code (IPC) is India’s criminal code and provides penalties for unlawful offenses, although there are no explicit laws against cyberbullying. However, several sections of the IPC may be used for bullying offenses, such as Section 507 for threats or coercion, Section 354(C) for taking photos of women without their consent, and Section 354(D) for spying or monitoring someone’s activities without their consent. Section 499 also penalizes those who send derogatory communications, which can be deemed as cyberbullying if done on social media platforms.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development, in its press release on ‘Digital Exploitation of Children,’ states that sections 354A and 354D of the IPC provide punishment for cyberbullying and cyberstalking against women.
Section 354D of the IPC defines stalking as any man who follows a woman and contacts or attempts to contact such a woman to foster personal interaction repeatedly despite a clear indication of disinterest by such a woman. It also states that monitoring the use by a woman of the internet, email, or any other form of electronic communication is an offense of stalking.
The language of Section 354D of IPC makes it clear that the section penalizes both the offense of offline and online stalking, without discriminating on the basis of the presence or absence of the ‘cyber’ component.
Cyberbullying in the form of stalking against Men
It is important to note that if a man is a victim of cyberstalking, Section 354D will not apply. However, it is possible that other provisions of the IPC or the IT Act may apply. For example, if a man is being stalked online, posting derogatory remarks regarding him on various online forums would amount to defamation, as defined under Section 499 of the IPC. Criminal intimidation under Section 503 of the IPC can also be applied to an individual who has made threats through emails
Other IPC Provisions/laws that can be utilised to combat cyberbullying are listed below:
- Publishing or sending pornographic content—Section 67 of the Indian Penal Code(IPC)
- Electronic publication or transmission of sexually explicit material: Section 67A, IPC
- Word, gesture, or action intended to offend a woman’s modesty – Section 509
- Sending slanderous e-mails in violation of Section 499 IPC
- Section 292A- Printing, selling, or advertising obscene, defamatory, or slanderous material or anything meant to be used as leverage.
- Making sexually suggestive comments constitutes sexual harassment under Section 354 of the Criminal Code. Privacy Invasion – Section 66E
- Sec. 507: Criminal intimidation through anonymous communication
Only a few victims and their families report cases of cyberbullying, even though there are laws in place to punish bullying. The majority would rather remain silent and wait for things to become better on their own.
CYBERBULLYING CASES IN INDIA
Shreya Singhal and Others v. Union of India
In India, the Supreme Court has expressed its concern about the issue of cyberbullying on several occasions. One of the significant cases related to cyberbullying that came before the Supreme Court was the Shreya Singhal and Others v. Union of India case in 2015.
In this case, the Supreme Court declared Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 unconstitutional, which allowed for the arrest of individuals who made offensive comments on social media platforms. The court stated that the provision was vague and violated the right to free speech. The court’s decision was praised by many as a significant victory for free speech in the digital age.
Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan (1997
In the historical case of Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan (1997), the Supreme Court acknowledged cyberbullying for the first time as a problem. In this case, the Supreme Court interpreted the laws and constitution and provided guidelines for dealing with the cyberbullying problem that would protect women from sexual harassment.
Rittika Sharma’s case
Rittika Sharma, a student at a reputable Delhi school, was stalked by a Facebook friend to whom she had given all her details, including her home address, her school’s address, and even her mobile phone number months earlier. She informed her brother about it, and he then complained about it. All of the pupils were instructed not to transmit their personal information to strangers at an awareness programme that Delhi police organised following this occurrence.
Ritu Kohli’s Case
Ritu Kohli’s case should be brought up while talking about cyberstalking and cyberbullying. The first cyberstalking case to be reported in India was Ritu Kohli’s case. Ritu Kohli, a young woman, complained in 2001 that someone was impersonating her identity on social media and that she was purposefully receiving calls from several numbers, including calls from abroad. Additionally, a case was brought under Section 509 of the Indian Penal Code.
When it comes to penalising customary offences that occur in the physical domain, Indian laws are competent and well-written. A few rules that aim to uphold justice have been deliberately crafted to penalise crimes committed online. The crucial aspect of cyberspace is that, unlike actual space, it is always growing and developing.
The same factor makes it challenging to foresee how crimes would express themselves; cyberbullying is one such crime and can take a variety of different forms and may be punished in accordance with numerous present legal provisions and laws, but doing so will ultimately affect how India’s cyber laws are developed. Because cybercrime offences differ from typical criminal offences in their mode, ramifications, gravity, and potential targets, different laws must be defined for them. One of the transgressions that have the potential to become something more serious in the future is cyberbullying, which needs to be recognised right now.