Cyberbullying: Understanding the online demon and combating it

In the current climate where being online is getting increasingly unsafe and toxic, how can we as a community come together to change that?

With the rampant rise of Cyberbullying and trolling in India, there’s a different case one hears in the news every other day. The menace has claimed victims from ordinary citizens to celebrities and journalists, and even some politicians. While cyberbullying is being recognised as an issue, there is sparse effort to organise and take collaborative action on it.

On 30th June, we at Haiyya hosted ‘Action Adda: End to Trolling’ to address the menace of cyberbullying. The idea was to create a platform for discussion about the issue and come up with plans to tackle it. The event saw law and policy experts, including Inspector Anish Sharma, Incharge Cybercell, Saket Police Station, Delhi Police, Kislay Chaudhary, Founder, Indian Cyber Army, and Surkhraj Vimal Kaur, Senior Manager, ICT & Communications, New Concept Information Systems, and participants engage in fervent discussions to understand cyberbullying, share their personal experiences, and interact with the experts about the recourses in place to deal with the issue.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

1) Nothing online is private
Nothing we do online is private, nothing we say online is private and nothing we see online is really private. From Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica fiasco to other multiple cases of private information and data leaks, nationally and internationally, there is every reason why we need to be aware when posting anything online.

Urgent need for stronger laws
While Section 66A of the Information Technology Act 2000 “provided remedies against offences which involve sending of offensive messages through a communication service”, it was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2015 to uphold freedom of speech. This has created a gap, and there is an urgent need for a provision that resolves the friction between cyber-bullying and freedom of speech. There is also a lack of law or provision that specifically covers mass trolling, which has been a critical issue off-late, with a number of mass trolling cases, including ones wherein journalists Rana Ayyub, Ravish Kumar, and Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj were extensively trolled and cyberbullied.

 

 

 

 

 

Source: The Quint

Rights-based approach to reporting offense

There are special cybercells in police stations for redressal of cyber-related offences, but authorities state that they are unable to act because the victims don’t report the crime. However, the police seem to be passing the buck onto the victims, as people, specifically women (one of the most viciously targeted group online) who face cyberbullying state that they fear lack of privacy protection when filing a complaint, specifically in sensitive cases wherein, for example, a jilted lover or revenge porn might be involved. As police is the only agency for redressal of cyber offences, we must push for sensitization, and a rights-based approach to reporting. An increase in the number of reports would also pressure the authorities to take the issue more seriously and act upon the issue.

Stronger collaboration of campaigners and groups
Campaigners and groups are working on the issue of cyberbullying, but are doing so in isolation. These groups must collaborate, pitch together ideas and resources to come up with strategies for lobbying for stronger laws, sensitising the police and creating awareness about cyberbullying and trolling.

What actions can we take as a community?
While there are gaps and challenges in the current laws and processes, here are some of the actions that we can take as citizens to combat cyberbullying.

  • Understand the World Wide Web and follow basic safety: If you find reading privacy policies and guidelines of platforms to be too tedious, refer to articles that breakdown these guidelines and policy changes in simple terms and explain the key things a user needs to know. When posting anything online be aware of the size of your audience, and the content and opinions you put out there.
  • Be aware of your R&R and take action: Be familiar with your rights and responsibilities. Before you approach the police, see what immediate actions you can take on the platform. Platforms offer some redressal, and often you can report an offensive post or a profile misusing your picture and have the platform take it down. But in more extreme or serious cases, approach the police to file an official complaint, as police are the only agency that exists.

How to make a complaint?

Note: There are Cybercells in different districts of Delhi NCR. The information of each cybercell can be accessed here. There are similar cybercells that exist in each city that can help one by filing a complaint as well.
  • Build ‘Safe Groups’: Imagine if there was a cyber version of ‘neighbourhood watch’, a group of citizens dedicated to keeping online spaces safe. The group is inclusive, and has everyone, across age, gender, sexual orientation and other diverse groups. The group engages with the diverse members and create guidelines on those bases. The group creates awareness about the dangers and effects of cyberbullying, intimidation, threatening and discrimination, and educates people about the laws and provisions, and advocates for stronger laws. It will also strategise ways to engage with the trolls to educate them.

It is time we stop condoning cyberbullying and trolling, and come together to organize, strategise and take action to combat this social evil.

Resources:

  1. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/online-trolls-beware-these-are-the-laws-that-could-be-used-against-you-5008637/
  2. http://feminisminindia.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/FII_cyberbullying_report_website.pdf
  3. http://www.cybercelldelhi.in/
  4. http://www.cybercelldelhi.in/districtcybercell.html

By Abhishek Desai

Abhishek Desai is the Communications Coordinator at Haiyya Foundation. With over half a decade of experience in journalism and writing, his interests lie in gender equity, equal rights and sexuality. He takes a deep interest in fringe cultures.

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Rape Culture: An Unseen Reality

Igniting and sustaining action for change can be rigorous, and we at Haiyya are working towards building larger movements and victories that facilitate space for different actors to come together to change existing societal structures and norms that often limit us. Hence this year we re-launched “Haiyya Camps” a platform for diverse individuals to come together to share their experiences, ideas get trained on organizing and campaigning skills and tools to create tangible action plans on various pressing issues as a precursor to the upcoming 2019 elections that needs to be addressed urgently by citizens to stir a necessary change. It is a package of 5 camps in a year based on issues like environment, rape culture, privacy, etc. These Camps are also designed to provide opportunities to different organisations and individuals to collaborate and work together towards a common cause.

While the planning was going on for the Camp, there was something which was making everyone in our team angry and frustrated – it was the issue of “Rape Culture” and how people have started to normalise it in their lives. It was then that we decided that this is a very important issue that is often neglected, sidelined and no one is ready to talk about it “kyunki boss yeh sab toh chalta rehta hai na!” This thought was something that we wanted to change and make people realise that No, It’s one major issue that is not only affecting us as citizen but as a nation too.

How the day looked for us!

15 people joined us for our first Haiyya Camp on Sunday, 27th May. The camp started with an exercise to set the context. It focused on the issue and how deep rooted “Rape Culture” is in our society and some of the causes contributing to it were media objectifying our women in bollywood songs, advertisements, victim blaming in newspapers, lack of gender sensitization, etc. At the end of the exercise all participants learnt that how knowling and unknowingly despite being active advocates of change they too have been contributing to this growing “Rape Culture’.

The realization lead to a passionate discussion among the participants. Which was then followed by a session of Narrative building, an organizing tool to understand the shared values, emotions for individuals to come together and build relationships to take actions. It reflects why an individual cares about the issue and how he then motivates others to join him. This tool helps in creating urgency. Through this module the participants build their own narratives around the issue and shared their stories, experiences where they have seen or themselves been a part of this problem. It felt as if everyone in someway or other has gone through this terrible situation.

Some interesting ideas that came up

  • Both the sessions created the foundation for all the participants to build action plans. Plans that they as individuals/ groups can immediately take.
  • The group came up with interesting action plans like creating more awareness from the foundation targeting kids, parents, teachers, making sex education a part of the curriculum, creating safe spaces for people to address their grievances etc.
  • Through these ideas, together we build an action plan which focussed on what are the key things that we want to now start doing in our individual capacity, how as an individual we can try and bring a change in this society which doesn’t value it’s women.

The training ended on a beautiful note. All the participants were really moved by the issue. They all felt very motivated and energetic to work on the issue in their respective ways.

On a personal front it was sad to know that the mentality of our country is so narrow that they are too blind to understand the issue but at the same time it felt amazing to see the youth of our country coming up and trying to work on changing the traditional mindset which believes that Galti toh ladki ki hai!  I think people have forgotten that they all are in this world because a woman was powerful enough to take all the pain and give life to them and this thought really hurts me.

This is just a beginning and an important one to bring the necessary change. In the coming months more camps will be conducted on various pressing issues to create young leaders within our community who will challenge the status quo not as individuals but as a collective people power house. Those of you who are interested to participate please reach out to us at anjali@haiyya.in

By Anjali Prabhakar

Anjali Prabhakar is the senior campaigner at Haiyya leading the Haiyya Camps. She has been actively working on issues like Rape Culture, Violence against women, Voting rights, etc in the past with Haiyya.