From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : NA
Mains level : Cyber crimes and online safety of Women
- India has one of the youngest youth demographics in the world and among the most active online. As online interactions increase, more content is created and shared among people, helping them form new and wonderful connections. Sometimes, however, these interactions also make them vulnerable to harm.
What constitute as online harassment of women?
- Sharing embarrassing and cruel content about a person to impersonation
- Stalking and electronic surveillance
- Non-consensual use of photography
- Violent threats and hate speech
- Flaming- use of vitriolic and hostile messages including threats, insults
- The online harassment of women, sometimes called Cyber-sexism or cyber-misogyny, is specifically gendered abuse targeted at women and girls online.
- It incorporates sexism, racism and religious prejudice.
How women disproportionately get affected?
- Often women are blamed: Often, crimes that disproportionately impact women devolve into mass panic and lead to an all too predictable top-down discourse around the need to protect our sisters and daughters.
- Curbing the freedom of Women: The reaction, however well intentioned, will end up denying women their freedom and agency by their so-called protectors, many of whom are simply telling women to go offline, to be ashamed of expressing themselves, to stay in their lane.
What is role of intermediaries in preventing such abuses?
- Making intermediary liable: As of now, the intermediaries are not liable for any third-party data or communication link hosted or stored by them.
- Mandatory Data retention by intermediaries: They are required to retain the requisite data for duration as prescribed by the Government and supply the same to the authorities concerned, as and when sought.
- Punishment for Non-compliance is: Highlighting any contravention attracts punishment as prescribed under the IT Act.
What are the Steps taken by the Government?
- IT rules 2021: The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology notified the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.
- Defined Categories of abuse: They include contents that are defamatory, obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, invasive of another’s privacy, insulting or harassing on the basis of gender, libellous, racially or ethnically objectionable, etc.
- Prohibition on derogatory publications: The intermediaries, on the direction of the court or appropriate government agency, are prohibited from hosting, storing or publishing any information declared unlawful.
- Removal of content within 24 hours: Within 24 hours from the receipt of a complaint from, or on behalf of, an individual about any offensive content, they are required to take all reasonable and practicable measures to remove or disable access to it.
- Meetings of parliamentary committees: Various parliament committees in India have held meetings to discuss the issue of online safety of women over the years, and part of the government’s motivation in notifying the new IT rules had been rooted in the growing concern regarding the safety and security of users, particularly women and children. These are very good tangible steps.
- Amendment in IT act should include the concerns of women: With the IT Act coming up for a rehaul, there is an opportunity to discuss in detail the nature of technology-facilitated abuse, capturing what this means, understanding how cases impact individuals as well as communities, the language needed to capture such offences and the punishment penalties, jail or even rehabilitation programmes for perpetrators. This could be the start of an era of evidence-based discussion.
- Despite these efforts, it is clear that women in India won’t feel safe online anytime soon unless society lets them. What could be helpful here is to elevate the public discourse around technology-facilitated abuse.
Q. How women are vulnerable against online abuse? What is the role of Intermediaries in online abuse case? What are governments efforts to make women friendly cyberspace?
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