CYBERSTALKING: A PERIL OF THE SOCIAL MEDIA
Social media, an inseparable part of most of our lives, is not that good after all. While it provides us a medium to connect and interact with the world around us, it inevitably also carries certain perils. One of these perils is ‘cyberstalking’. We upload our pictures, statuses, locations, our likes and dislikes and what not on various social media sites, but this innocent updation of our personal lives on the internet, accessible to who knows whom, may prove to be catastrophic.
WHAT IS CYBERSTALKING?
Section 354D of the Indian Penal Code defines the offence of stalking as:
“(1) Any man who— (i) follows a woman and contacts, or attempts to contact such woman to foster personal interaction repeatedly despite a clear indication of disinterest by such woman; or (ii) monitors the use by a woman of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication, commits the offence of stalking.”
The second clause of the section covers the offence of cyberstalking, wherein, the cyberspace is used for stalking a person. The section penalises the offence of physical as well as cyber stalking.
Cyberstalking may take various forms, including harassment through unpleasant messages. The various causes behind this depraved act may be hate and revenge, jealousy, obsession, sexual harassment and so on. Further, the internet is a space where perpetrators of crime deem themselves to be anonymous, and hence commit crimes like cyberstalking. In various psychological studies, it has been proved that a mere feeling of anonymity can lead to de-individuation, which makes it easier to undertake unethical conduct.
It is also to be noted that the section may be considered gender-biased, since it only considers women as possible victims of the offence. But in the opinion of the author, the principle of ‘equitable treatment’ should be applied here, and since women are indeed more susceptible to such crimes, the section is justified in excluding men from its purview.
PROVISIONS AGAINST CYBERSTALKING
In India the offence of cyberstalking is dealt with under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and the Information Technology Act, 2000. Some of the relevant provisions in this regard are:
1. As stated above, s. 354D of the IPC makes stalking, including cyber stalking an offence, punishable with an imprisonment of a term extending upto three years, and fine, on the first conviction; and on the second and subsequent convictions, with a term extending upto five years and a fine.
2. Section 292 of the IPC, defines what is ‘obscene’, and the section covers the act of sending or distribution any obscene material that tends to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely to see, read or hear the matter embodied therein. Thus, sending such material online, which usually accompanies the offence of cyberstalking, is punishable under this section.
3. Section 507 of the IPC deals with criminal intimidation by anonymous communication. Thus, sending threats online, under the garb of anonymity, is a criminal offence, punishable under this section.
4. Section 509 of the IPC punishes a person who sends any words, gestures or acts, online, through e-mails, messages or posted on social media, that are intended to insult the modesty of a woman.
5. Section 67 of the IT Act corresponds to section 292 of the IPC and punishes the publication or transmission of obscene material in electronic form.
Section 67A of the IT Act punishes the publication or transmission of sexually explicit content in any electronic form, while Section 67B of the act punishes the publication or transmission of material depicting children in sexually explicit act.
6. Section 66E of the IT Act punishes the violation of privacy by intentionally or knowingly capturing, publishing or transmitting the image of a private area of any person without his or her consent.
7. Section 354C of the IPC corresponds to s. 66E of the IT Act and deals with the offence of voyeurism and disseminating such image, where “a woman (is) engaging in a private act in circumstances where she would usually have the expectation of not being observed either by the perpetrator or by any other person at the behest of the perpetrator”.
Thus, apart from s. 354 of IPC, there is no section in the IT Act that deals with the offence of cyberstalking directly. Thus, there is a need to add such a provision in the act.
In fact, Section 66A, added by the Information Technology Amendment Act, 2008, dealt with this offence. However, it was struck down by the Supreme Court of India in the case of Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, due to the vagueness of its wording, hence being violative of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.
While no offence should be adopting the strategy of victim-blaming, however, cyberstalking is one such offence, where it is better to be safe than sorry. Thus, it is advised that the users of social media adopt the following measures to prevent themselves from falling prey to the crime of cyberstalking.
1. Check the privacy settings of your social media accounts and ensure that you share the most personal information only with the people you know and trust.
2. Do not update each and every detail of your personal life on the social media, which may be accessed by unknown people.
3. Do not accept friend/follow requests from people you don’t know.
4. When communicating with strangers online, withhold as much personal information as possible.
5. Educate and spread awareness among children regarding the safe use of social media and the cyber space.
6. Hide your IP Address by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), since smart stalkers can track your physical address and other details through your IP address.
7. Use strong password and security settings and log out of your accounts if using them on someone else’s device
8. Reach out to your parents/elders/friends/a cyber security expert/police, if an incident of harassment occurs with you.
So, let’s use the cyberspace in a safe and secure manner!
27 thoughts on “CYBERSTALKING: A PERIL OF THE SOCIAL MEDIA”
Well written article….yes these days cyber stalking is incredibly increasing and this article gives us details for all this and also the measures one can take to prevent this
A very informative and well written article.
You have given detailed information in very simple words. Great Article
well defined article about cyber stalking
This article is really very well writtern .We put so much of our lives online that it has become extremely easy for someone to stalk you online. Your interests, events you’re attending, places you visit, your workplace, email, and even your phone number can be found with just a little bit of digging.
Cyberstalking is common — at least 40% of adults report experiencing some sort of harassment online, including stalking, with the majority of targets being women. We must follow the safety measures to protect us from cyber stalking.
Now a days Cyberstalking is more serious as it involves nefarious intentions, ranging from false accusations and defamation to sexual harassment and even encouraging others to harass the victim.If you’re being attacked by a cyberstalker through email, messaging apps, or any other electronic means, keep the records. Save copies and take screenshots as evidence.
Report them to the platform on which the harassment is taking place. It might take some time, but most websites and apps have strict policies against such abuse. Then, block the attacker and do not engage with them any further, no matter how tempting it might be. This can really protect you.
This subject matter of this article is of serious relevance in today’s day and age. Being safe than sorry, as the author has rightly pointed out, may sound like victim blaming but it is the only way by which individuals can truly protect themselves from online crime.
Its important to NOT share private information online and harassers should be blocked and reported immediately.
Harassers gain their confidence from not being reported and hence continue to become more and more creative with their crimes.
An article worth reading, as people trapped in such circumstances don’t know the provisions related to such a crime of cyber stalking so here is the information provided.
The article is is immensely informative of the legal structure surrounding the issue. A question that remains is how a person is supposed to be aware of being stalked when there is no sign of it left via some activity like comments, reactions etc.
It’s a very precise and well-written article. Most of the Indians are not aware of the legal provisions they have for cyber crimes, thus such informative and concise articles are helpful. Cyber criminals will attack systems for a wide variety of reasons, ranging from altruistic intentions, personal glory, revenge, espionage, and financial gain. And since it is done in such a covert manner, it is our responsibility to be cautious and take effective safeguards.
Cyberstalking is new in our country and most of the people did’nt know about cyberstalking. Through this medium I think people can aware and secure him from stalkers. Well written article for people.
The article is certainly on point and would help an unaware individual to get some facts straight and what danger their activities might pose because all of these crimes happens because people are so ignorant and unaware about other person’s privacy and i think this article if shared among those unawares then it can definitely change some of their ignorance into tolerance.
A very well written article. It was precise and informative.
Well written and very informative article.
Great article and covered all the scope of cyber stalking.
As these days cyber crime is increasing day by day so these type of article are needed to create awareness among public at large.
Sharing each and every detail of your life has become a necessity for the young generation. These people invite criminal at their doorstep. In the quest of show-off, they share their personal information which is used as a weapon against themselves. The author has precisely shown the legal aspects and the preventive measures for such crimes which is of immense use in spreading awareness amongst the readers.
This article is well elaborated with quality content .As of now people are so much in to social media they don’t even know if they commit an offence of stalking as it is a very common thing nowadays , this article may help in understanding people whether they do an offence of stalking or not.
Enhanced knowledge of various laws on cyber stalking and the ways to prevent it. Helpful article…
Well-written and a comprehensive article. Again, a couple of real life instances and personal views on the topic is recommended.
Nowadays cyber stalking is growing rapidly and the irony is that most of the people are not even aware about the same. Many girls suffer from such harassment everyday and they just don’t know how to respond to such acts of the stalker and because no actions are taken against such stalkers, they become more and more confident and continue to do the same act. But this article is an eye opener to every girl out there and will help them to report such stalkers and live their life peacefully.
A very informative and well written article. Many girls suffer everyday from harassment, cyberbullying, cyberstalking. The article is useful to prevent them from such offences.
Well defined article about cyber stalking and very well written.
Cyber stalking is a very major issue and issue that is a topic which is very less talked about and is not considered a major issue but it is and specially for girls as they have private photos which they want unknown not to see amd then they comment bad things which is really very humiliating. I am very happy that the author of this article has indepth dealt with this article and has read alot and collected quite good information about this topic.
Cyber stalking is very common these days on social media apps such as Facebook and Instagram. Some people do not even know if cyber stalking is a crime. The article is very informative as it provides necessary details about cyber stalking.
One of the major problem with sharing information on social media is cyber stalking. Youth nowadays share almost everything on internet. Cyber stalking increases anxiety and stress among the people. More strict laws should be made against it.