Sunday, April 3, 2016

Getting a SIM card for free? Check these risks

http://www.cybervictims.org by Dr.Debarati Halder

On women’s day, 2016, I was invited by Suriyan FM Tirunelveli to share my opinion about safety of women  offline and online. It is indeed a sweet surprise for me each time I receive a call from the FM listeners who refer to the particular programmes they have listened and took keen interest to learn more about the risks involved in digital communication technology. This time I had this listener who made me to think about Free SIM cards.
 Truly speaking, even though Facebook or WhatsApp may boast of its popularity in India, it has failed to penetrate the rural sectors in India, especially with women. This was seen in our latest survey titled “Harassment via Whatsapp in urban and rural India: A baseline survey report, 2015”(see http://www.cybervictims.org/CCVCresearchreport2015.pdf) . The main reason for this is obviously lack of awareness about safety tools  and the well settled fear in the minds of women that using these platforms may necessarily land them in trouble. But does that mean that women and men including matured teens in these areas are reluctant to use  digital technology communication as a whole? Perhaps NO. Mobile telecommunication companies are rapidly penetrating in the rural areas with offers on the services and this also includes distributing Free SIMs to potential customers.  This however, attracts youngsters more than Facebook or WhatsApp because distribution of  free SIM cards may not always need proper verification of documents, if distributed by local dealers including shops.  Due to easy availability of mobile phones including camera phones at prices even below Rs. 2000 in Indian markets, people enjoy owning mobile phones, most of which may be armed with inbuilt cameras and double SIM facilities. Once one has a SIM card, it may become a matter of few more rupees to upgrade the status of handset to use it as a medium of  smart phones whereby the subscriber can use the SIM for double purposes; i.e., for mobile phone calls as well as for mobile data facility to enable him to get connected with internet, no matter whether he/she knows about netiquettes or basic internet laws.  Now, one must understand that  SIM card is not an ordinary micro-level chip that enables one to communicate with others. The full form of SIM stands for Subscriber Identity Module, which carries information about the holder of the SIM Card. In general, when a person buys a SIM card from a dealer, he/she is asked to provide identity verification proofs that are sent directly to the service provider to enable them to activate the SIM card in the name of the buyer/subscriber. The data that is thus revealed to the service provider, stays with them permanently as a private document which is not supposed to be exposed to any third party unless the law and justice machinery, especially the police and the courts demand such information under S.69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000(amended in 2008) (Powers to issue direction for interception or monitoring or decryption of any information through any computer resource) primarily.  Many a times when a distributor offers Free SIM cards, it is necessary that the distributor checks the existing ‘contracts’ with the interested subscriber. This is what happens when one wishes to get Free SIM cards from service providers like BSNL, which generally provides such Free SIM cards at Free SIM card distribution ‘Mela’ and to those who already own a landline from the same service provider.
In cases where free SIM cards are distributed by local dealers of mobile phones , talk time or data recharge services etc, there remains a risk of distributing used SIM cards for free. These may be SIMs which have been technically ‘discarded’ by their original owners, for various reasons including blocked numbers, stolen devices along with SIMs etc. Once an interested person opts for such free SIM, he may get to see several unknown contact options. There are cases where holders of FREE SIM may also receive calls from unknown numbers at odd hours; risks relating to data privacy for mails, social media accounts or even net banking may also be there. We need to understand that not every one may be aware of lodging complaint with the service providers regarding mobile phone (along with SIM) theft, leave the question of reporting the matter to the police. Similarly, there are numerous examples of how techno savvy criminals may re-fix  the technically ‘destroyed’ SIMs to distribute it in the market only to loot innocent people or make illegal profit by secret data mining targeting women and young people. Added with it, one must not forget the cyber terrorism scenario where innocent civil citizens are ‘used’ by numerous tricks including such lucrative offers of Free SIM distribution to gain vital information. Keeping these in mind, young students, especially those who have finished their 10th or 12th board exams, college freshers  and women must be cautious enough to opt for availing SIMs just to be ‘SMART’.
Let us all unite to save our society.
Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2016), " Getting a SIM card for free? Check these risks” 3rd April, 2016, published in http://cybervictims.blogspot.in/




Friday, November 13, 2015

Render your support for child victims of cyber crimes

http://www.cybervictims.org
Bal diwas or children’s day is observed all over India on 14th November, the birth date of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India.  In the earlier days children’s days were celebrated especially to celebrate the child rights, spread awareness against child labour and about necessity of education and good values among children. But with the passing of the time, the need for using children’s day for addressing different child related issues was realised by child right activists, NGOs, schools and also the government. Considering that this is the age of internet and children are smarter than adults ( in many aspects) when it comes to use of internet and digital communication technology, it becomes very important to include a session to let the children express their own opinion as how they would like to see the internet –connected world around them.  Any research on usage of smart phones may show that there is a difference in ratio of social media users and smart phone users (who may use sophisticated phones but not social media). CCVC conducted one research last year titled “”Harassment via WhatsApp in Urban and rural India (see http://www.cybervictims.org/CCVCresearchreport2015.pdf ) which showed such difference as well as the types of harassments one may receive through WhatsApp. Nonetheless, children from the age group of 5/6 are also using such technology and they have become experts in sending/receiving/sharing contents. What bothers me is when a minor user gets trapped in the tangled net, he/she feels extremely panicked because there is generally no adult with whom he /she may share the information who can guide him/her properly. This is mainly because the child may have used digital communication technology and shared contents without letting the parents or elders know about it. Often parents or elders tend to keep the children busy with tabs or smart phones and they may never know what sorts of dangerous habits they are introducing to children.  The later not only start experimenting with the camera devices, they may also access unwanted staff not only on internet, but also those stored in the phone or tab itself. I have seen many children using parent’s Facebook or WhatsApp accounts to send unwanted contents to other ‘friends’ . Have we ever thought how children are growing their own network of friends through their parent’s profiles? It is ‘experience’ that makes them perfect to communicate with their known friends and then venture for unknown. Often children ask their classmates to log in through their parents’ profiles at particular times.  Slowly they venture to a new world of surfing alone or even creating their own identities in social media alone. For this transition, it does not take much time. Consider the scene at local parks, busy market areas or shops.... you would get to see every second child trying to take a video or photo and invariably, he/she may circulate it via Whatsapp or any similar messaging platforms to his/her relatives or parents’ friends whom he /she tracks for updates.
This habit, if not properly guided, may turn dangerous for the photographer as well as the subjects. While stakeholders are concerned about effects of cyber bullying, one must understand that presently video graphing  hitting, pushing, physical bullying and circulating the same to others ( which is also called happy slapping) is becoming a chosen trend for youngsters. Because of children’s curiosity to learn the new technology, perpetrators may misuse them as ‘agents’ of criminal activities and even use them as victims. There are many resources to know what sorts of victimisations are happening targeting children and matured teens. But how about motivating the victim child to come out of the trauma and not to turn into an offender him/herself? In my recent publication where I have explained our theory called “irrational coping theory” in relation to cyber crimes,(Halder, D., & Jaishankar, K. (2015). Irrational Coping Theory and Positive Criminology: A Frame Work to Protect Victims of Cyber Crime. In N. Ronel and D. Segev (Eds.), Positive Criminology (pp. 276 -291). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-74856-8.) it was shown how victims may turn into offenders by taking up irrational coping mechanism and then turn into offenders themselves.  This children’s day should be taken as a day to spread such awareness among all, especially to  those children who had been victimised . In this connection, I must mention about a video I came across in Facebook. The video running for less than two minutes showed the changes in facial expression of a woman who had been targeted by curious people to answer several unwanted and hurting questions and comments. At the end of the video her face lit up when she started speaking about a few people who came up to her to support and share their own experiences. Her face no longer showed the pain, disgust, insult or anger. Any victim, including victims of cyber crimes, especially child victims, undergoes similar situations when they have to encounter the after effects of victimisation. When a child victim of cyber crime cannot share the details of victimisation to people near to him/her anticipating more harassment, scolding and even physical beating or hitting, he/she feels extremely pressurised to take measures which are extremely dangerous. There are umpteen numbers of examples of children trying to contact hackers, attempting to commit suicide or getting severe depression due to the cyber harassment: all such decisions may also be caused due to this particular issue of not being able to communicate with elders, especially parents and considerate teachers.  If children are more open with their parents and teachers on such issues and the later reciprocates to their needs, the situation can be much different.
Considering this need, on behalf of Centre for Cyber victim Counselling, I have developed a model policy guideline for students, which every school should consider following. The policy guideline titled “Model policy guidelines for directing students for Positive use of internet including social networking sites and WhatsApp”( please cite it as Halder.D(2015), "Model policy guidelines for directing students for Positive use of internet including social networking sites and WhatsApp". URL: http://www.cybervictims.org/moderlpgccvc.pdf) was earlier published in my article titled “Children of internet era: A critical analysis of vulnerability of children in the darker sides of social media and WhatsApp”, (Published in the Conference proceedings of two days international conference on Accompanying social networking in teacher education, held on 26th and 27th March, 2015 by Loyola college of education, Chennai. Pg nos. 17-24.) This policy guideline can help children of internet era to use internet and digital communication technology in a positive way. Not only this; it can also help parents and teachers to get connected with children and build a unique learning experience.
Let us pledge on this children’s day to be positive supports for our children so that they don’t have to opt for irrational coping mechanism.

Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2015), “Render your support for a child victim of cyber crime”
”, 14th November, 2015 , published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/




Thursday, August 20, 2015

Circulating child abuse videos: consider how the distributor re-victimises the victim/s

http://www.cybervictims.org by Debarati Halder
Very recently in Facebook a friend of mine posted a video of a little child being violently beaten by an adult. It may be the child’s father or uncle or any other caregiver who wanted the child to score more marks. Some days later, another friend of mine showed me the same clipping in her WhatsApp account. The later being a person well versed in law, did not circulate the clipping. Instead, as per my suggestion, reported the video to WhatsApp. But by this time millions of users of Facebook and WhatsApp would have seen the clipping. But this is not the only incidence of child abuse that may have been documented and circulated in the social media. There are umpteen numbers of video clippings and still images  of child abuse, sexual assault of children, rape videos etc that are being circulated every day in social media. The magic of internet network and social media make many such contents viral. Even if the receiver does not want to see such contents, he/she has to have a glance of such images when such images or clippings land up in his/her profile or account. Have you ever considered how these contents keep travelling time and places and what happens to those victims? One extremely important point every one must note that all contents are not for circulation always. Due to the smart use of smart phones, all of us have become ‘citizen journalists’ who document each and every noteworthy event in his/her daily life every day. These may include traffic violation cases, street children harassment cases, domestic violence cases and even terror strikes. In the last cases, the police and the army may continuously ask the civilians to switch off their mobile phones, especially not to use the mobile messaging services for circulating images as it may help the terrorists as well. For the cause of national security, the particular area may be blocked by intelligence department to receive any internet services. But in other cases, it depends much on individual perceptions as how we are taking the issues of harassment and why do we consider it worthy for circulating to our friends and then to millions of unknown strangers.  People who are capturing such images, may never know that the images/clippings may not only be stored in their own devices, but  may also be stored in other’s devices and that particular person/s may not take it as an issue of concern, but may take it as an issue of self gratification.
          Consider the latest clipping where the child was being beaten by the adult: in many families, parents do slap or hit a growing child as an ultimate measure to discipline him/her. Slowly Indian society is recognising such behaviour of the adults with the children as risky behaviour, especially when intentionally the adults beat the child to an extent to cause grave injury to his/her body. In some families young mothers of young children are over burdened, constantly harassed by the husbands or in laws for various issues including bad cooking, messy house keeping and even for satisfying the demanding husbands. May be because such young mothers need more time to cope with the  situation where they have to balance their time between their children and the family, they (the mothers) may direct their anger and frustration on the children. Nonetheless, such helpless situations of both the mother and child may be documented  by other adults or even children and subsequently these clippings may be used for court cases if in case the husband or the in laws want to prove that the mother is not capable of handling the child. Such images may even travel  in the internet and pile up comments which may prove extremely detrimental to the mother and children later. No one ever comes back  to look into reason why the adult woman had to beat the child or how she would have managed the child later. Who cares? The distributor/s may simply enjoy the  harsh comments targeting the poor woman and her child who may become a strong support to her later. But this is just an exceptional hypothesis which needs to be tested. In the same line, think of the child who is abused by elders including own family members: may be the recipients may shower sympathy to the child, but have you ever considered the mental state of the child when he/she gets to know that his/her clipping has been in that particular situation has been seen by hundreds of ‘watchers’ who can not help him in any way, but  may feel satisfied’ by thinking that sharing the clipping or commenting on the clipping may make them marked as ‘concerned people’.
          The same thing goes when one comes across any sexual abuse of children. Whether it is sexual harassment related to bad touch, or sexual molestation or even to graver offences like rape, one should prohibit oneself from circulating the images even for ‘accused finding’. This is especially true those who capture ragging scenes, sexual harassment scenes where  matured teenagers are victimised who may be joining higher classes after finishing the secondary board exams.  Remember that these young victims may get to see their own victimisation scenes in near future when they log into their Facebook pages or even open accounts with WhatsApp.  It is not enough to hide the faces of the victims alone when the whole scene of victimisation is circulated. The victims themselves may feel extremely traumatised to get back these scenes. It is for this very understanding that the Protection of Children from sexual offences Act, 2012 was strengthened with S.23 which reads as follows:
“23. (1) No person shall make any report or present comments on any child from any form of media or studio or photographic facilities without having complete and authentic information, which may have the effect of lowering his reputation or infringing upon his privacy.
(2) No reports in any media shall disclose, the identity of a child including his name, address, photograph, family details, school, neighbourhood or any other particulars which may lead to disclosure of identity of the child: Provided that for reasons to be recorded in writing, the Special Court, competent to try the case under the Act, may permit such disclosure, if in its opinion such disclosure is in the interest of the child.
(3) The publisher or owner of the media or studio or photographic facilities shall be jointly and severally liable for the acts and omissions of his employee.
(4) Any person who contravenes the provisions of sub-section (1) or sub-section (2) shall be liable to be punished with imprisonment of either description for a period which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to one year or with fine or with both”
However, all laws come with an exception clause where by certain actions that are  recognised as offence, would not be considered as an offence if done by the criminal justice machinery in particular ways laid down by the laws and for particular reasons which must pass the acid test of laws as well as the constitutional  provisions and guarantees.  POCSO Act stands as an exception especially in this regard when it comes to circulating the images for fact finding.  After WhatsApp has been recognised as an extremely popular medium to communicate with the police, the government is constantly encouraging to create welfare Apps whereby individuals can upload or download information or share information with the police. We need to note that even while availing this technology, police must use the images of the accused which should be independent from the crime scene as a whole. Police has been given this special right because they are the recognised organisation to carry on the investigation for the benefit of the victim as well as the society. Civilians should not take the role of the police in circulating of the images.
However, I have noted that even while in such circumstances; such circulation by the police may also meet accidental violation of the laws and victim’s rights. But we need to note that for this again, there are proper reporting and investigating mechanisms.  In my opinion, instead of taking up the responsibility of spreading the news about the accused by way spreading the victimisation clipping /image as a while( which actually spreads the victimisation of the child in question as well), people must consider immediately reporting the matter to the local police station or police head quarters with all evidence to show from where the images have travelled. This would definitely reduce the chances of re-victimising the victim and make the ‘reporter’ of the offensive clipping a saviour in a unique way.
Do consider.
Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2015), " Circulating child abuse videos: consider how the distributor re-victimises the victim/s”, 21st August, 2015 , published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Hate messages: do we really need to be concerned?

http://www.cybervictims.org by Dr.Debarati Halder
Recently I was delivering a plenary speech in the recently held international conference on accompanying social networking sites in teacher’s education arranged by the Loyola college of education, Chennai. Most of the participants were either university students  or aspiring teachers and 90% of whom felt social networking sites were extremely harmful for children as well as women. My presentation was on the darker side of internet. But I made it lot brighter by presenting a model policy guideline as how schools can mould children in this regard. My article on children of internet era, which I have uploaded in a few  web platforms including Academica.edu   thus provides an understanding as how hate speech including cyber bullying and other cyber atrocities are picked up by children, or rather instilled in them, which may later make them hardcore bullies, trolls or agents of terror. Fortunate are we that our children who may be picking up these traits or are falling victims of such dangerous activities of other children, or their parents or the schools can look for help from us who are researching on the subjects and those of us who getting aware of the issue by such discussions. In our generation when we were growing up, not many of our parents or teachers or schools did not have such vast opportunities to learn about the trends and issues of deviant behaviours of children which would make them hardcore bullies or terror agents. Resultant, we have people who hurl hate speech, harassing speech, insulting remarks, offending comments thinking that this is the way to win over people even if their ultimate demands are devastating for the world.  I say this because just a few days before my plenary session at Chennai blogger Avijit Roy was brutally assassinated in Bangladesh and some days after the same pattern followed for Washiqur Rahman, another secular blogger. Both were attacked for their revolutionary thoughts published through their blogs and other online publishing portals.
My concern is not particularly for what they wrote or how they wrote or what invited the terror organisations to kill them; my concern is how the threat was created to make them stronger on their views. As I get to know from numerous media reports, both of them had received warnings from the terror organisations that killed them. Avijit’s case especially attracts my attention as it can be seen that he would have received threat mails, hate mails, posts, messages etc against his views. How the world now should take such hate messages that are posted/sent/written targeting the potential victims? Since I received a copy of Professor Daniele Citron’s book Hate crimes in Cyber space  for a book review, I read the chapters, the case studies and the legal interpretations of the writer as well as other judges, police officers, lawyers  who may have dealt with such cases repeatedly. It is an unfortunate truth that the receivers of such hate messages may consider these as typical challenges which motivate them to proceed further in their aim. In cases like the bloggers’ murders, these threats messages could have been and should have been reported to the police and if reported, then the police should have taken enough precautions to save the lives. But in both the cases, terror groups won.
World mourned their death.
Consider what happens when some one receives threat messages, hate messages, insulting messages, and defamatory notes due to interpersonal problems. Most of the cases when such messages are received from known acquaintances or the potential interpersonal stalkers or ex partners, the victim is advised to shun off the harasser, avoid answering calls and ignore the messages. But it does not mean that the victim is encouraged to speak about such messages in public or speak derogatorily about the harasser in public.  By saying ‘avoid’, the victim is advised to close doors to the perpetrator: it is like do not talk to him, do not entertain his messages and do not talk about him. In my recently published book chapter titled “Irrational coping theory and positive criminology: a framework toprotect victims of cyber crime” (co-authored with Dr.K.Jaishankar, published in the book “Positive Criminology”, edited by Natty Ronnel Dana Segav by Routledge), where I spoke about my theory on irrational coping mechanism in relation to online harassments, I discussed in detail about this sort of positive coping mechanism. The second step is obviously to report the matter to the police. The law and the legal interpretations in the US and also in India speak about reasonable threat test. Unfortunately, in 90% of the cases, police do not entertain such reports. Reasons are numerous in number. It is not only from my own personal experience in the Indian context; those who are researching or practically dealing with online harassment cases from across the globe would agree with me.  But why does this situation stay? especially in India? In almost all of my scholarly articles and research reports I have emphasized the fact of reluctance of the victims in reporting crimes and reluctance in reporting such messages at the first instance is no exception. The bloggers’ death revealed to me the need of understanding offensive messages again and from a new light.
Do not keep quite when you receive such messages. Do not ignore the message. Take it as a challenge, but not the way to give the harasser more chances to stop you forever. Share the ‘fear’, not in the fashion that you would create a cycle of hate for hate, but through proper mechanism. Teach your children to be rational by being rational.
Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2015), Hate messages: do we really need to be concerned?
April 7,2015   published in  http://cybervictims.blogspot.com/




Sunday, May 25, 2014

Towards a wonderful informative network.............. but how safely?

http://www.cybervictims.org
For the last full month while India was swept over by Modi vs Rahul vs Kejriwals for the general election, I was over swept by the joy of getting published in British Journal of Criminology. The article “Online Victimization of Andaman Jarawa Tribal Women: An Analysis of the ‘Human Safari’ YouTube Videos (2012) and Its Effects”  (the online version can be found @ http://bjc.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2014/05/05/bjc.azu026.abstract?keytype=ref&ijkey=3XNPIViieFGse4G ) has been published in one of the most coveted journals that any researcher can ask for. While researching for this I came to realise the new born habit of people: sharing controversial images and adding their thoughts to it. It can become extremely dangerous at times and the above article speaks on this.
There had been numbers of online propagandas on who is good, who has done the right things, who is bad and how he/she is bad in the course of election campaigns this year. Numerous cartoon images were made, animated short films were made and people were asked to share and comment.  Some were noted by the respective political parties and the election commissionarate, majority of them went unnoticed. I found a new era in ‘free speech’ concept in India and I felt happy to note the liberal mindset of the people, especially the political campaigners to broaden the concept of free speech notion. But of course, there is other side of the coin as well. The recent arrest of  the Goan resident for expressing some thoughts on Prime Minister elect Narendra Modi is an example (See http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/goan-youth-likely-to-face-arrest-for-anti-modi-facebook-comments/) . As the press release says, among the provisions brought in against the accused, S.153(A) of the IPC holds the key to make it a snow ball of problems. The Section prohibits causing enmity between groups on grounds of race, religion, place of birth, language etc. What was written by the youth that attracted such provisions is not known to us to still now. But it may be understood that while it was noticed by some as ‘offensive’, some have also pointed this arrest as wrong. It now depends upon the courts to decide whether the ‘post’ should be given the ‘protected speech’ status by overruling the lower courts who had denied anticipatory bail to the youth. In our article above one of my main focus was on showcasing how racial trolling took place in the YouTube videos and how the Jarawa women were made the centre points of these trolling. As far as my knowledge goes, no one was arrested for making comments some of which had every condition to attract the above provision. It was because the question of cross border jurisdiction was involved and the perceptions hugely differed. But nonetheless, I must say creating such comments in the cyber /digital space and spreading it through numerous people (who spread it because they liked the message/their friend, friend’s friend, or distant acquaintance has posted it ) had created riots in India; remember the recent exodus of north-eastern people from southern states? Or, the one image of a man kicking the Kargil memorial which became viral and caused violence?  I am anxiously waiting for more news on the Goan case with my fingers crossed. Let us hope India’s notion about offensive speech is made more clear by the courts.

Keep peace
Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2011), “Towards a wonderful network.............. but how safely
”, 25th May,2014, published in http://cybervictims.blogspot.com/

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Beware examinees

http://www.cybervictims.org by Dr. Debarati Halder


Come the exam time, the children become more concerned about their studies... really? I have a different opinion this time. in one of my mid -seminar chats with the participants I got an opportunity to hear the experiences of  Latika Saran, Ex Director general of Police, Tamil Nadu. She told me about incidences of disturbing fellow classmates through the social media profiles by young teenagers. Her observation said, this is a new trend picked up by students to distract the fellow classmates just before the examination starts. I completely agree with her observation especially when I myself got to see several of such cases. Many schools including sophisticated elite schools now have included direct teaching methods through internet. Science, social science, maths and even linguistic subjects are also made easy through several educational software. Gone are those days when children had to be taken to  field trips  to make them understand just a fragment of a portion of an entire science syllabus. Now field trips are additional ways to make a child understand the whole problem. Computer and internet are working as extremely beneficial windows letting the students  visualise and realise everything . Students are encouraged to have their own emails and social media profiles to get connected to famous scientists, explorers, mathematicians etc through their own web pages or social media pages. This is extremely useful since these children are born in the internet era and they must learn to use the internet for good since early adolescent period. Home computers and internets may give wonderful opportunities to learn new things, solve problems together with the family. I have personally experienced this when my daughter wanted to know the meaning of a particular Hindi word; the whole family sat with her and learnt not only one word ( the meaning), but various ways to use the word constructively. But this is not ‘all is good’ scenario.
        Young girls often become completely shocked to see their “fake avatars”(I have explained the meaning of FakeAvatars in the context of online harassment in my article http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2270061) ; the shock turns into nervous breakdown when they come to know that these were created by none other than their classmates to distract them from their studies. Parents often tell me that their children are increasingly becoming adamant to open new Facebook profile or get connected to their friends through Twitter or Google Plus particularly when they get study leave before the exams. Some students prefer to share class-photographs with their friends through emails/chats after they are reportedly ‘begged’ by their friends repeatedly. Further, I have also come across cases where students get into online bullying during their study leaves. Some students told me that to come out of boredom during study leaves they take to internet games and they did come across several games which were ‘adult types’ and they did not tell their parents about it. However, the appreciable part is, they immediately restricted themselves from further going deeper into those games as they said ‘we are aware of the dangers of these’. But not everyone is smart like these kids. There are children who had severe fights with their parents on the issue of using the internet ‘all by themselves’ without any parental guidance during holidays sending the parents to panic camps ; the real world parent vs child arguments  did take off several days of the peaceful home atmosphere which hampered exam preparations for the child.
Ever thought why such incidences increase especially during study holidays? Mrs. Saran’s observation stands true with the testimony of a few parents who agreed that some children intentionally call up others to be online to distract them from their studies. How many of you readers remember the scene in 3 Idiots when “Chatur” circulates racy magazines to other hostel-mates during their exams to distract them? This silly prank-trend has an upliftment through Information/digital technology way. Apart from this, I must also say about one more incidence where medical students were caught red-handed with blue chips in the examination hall some years back and it was found that there was a big racket alluring the students to buy it; the intentional was not to empower the younger generation by availing them latest technology, but to sell answers to the right questions.
So students and parents, be aware of such trends. Internet is a way of learning now. But do not use it to destroy the positive powers.
Wish you all best of luck for your exams.
Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2014), “Beware examinees
”, 27th February,2014, published in http://cybervictims.blogspot.com/





Sunday, December 15, 2013

The 377 and beyond

http://www.cybervictims.org Blog by Dr.Debarati Halder
With almost every free-thinking Indian getting shocked and surprised by the recent Supreme court decision to set aside the High court decision on the constitutionality of S.377 of the Indian penal Code, I can’t stop but share my thoughts on the issue. S. 377 is one of those penal laws created by the British rulers which has become obsolete in the eyes of the modern society, but sitting like an obstinate law due to the recent ruling of the Supreme Court of India. What does S.377 say? It actually criminalises unnatural sexual relationship and thereby touches the Lesbian ,Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community as well. I am one of those, who as a child were quite afraid of those ‘women’ who were not completely women. I grew up watching them in the trains, bus stops, roads, eateries and sometimes at weddings and family functions where (I was told) their presence was needed as a good omen. I continued to be ‘afraid’ of them till the day I met one who is one of them. That was way back in 1990’s when they used to socialise with people rarely. I knew how wonderful human being this person was and they as a group are more reliable friends than those who cheat and harass others in the name of friendship. I was particularly interested in their on-line presence. I did get to see lots of communities and groups in Orkut way back in 2008 and afterwards. When Orkut started losing its popularity, I searched them in other popular social media like the Facebook and found that they existed in several public, private as well closed groups. A fascinating fact that I would like to share is, while transgender, in many academic writings who are described as ‘cross dressers’, openly advertise about their sexual as well as physical appearance choices, many gay, lesbians and bisexuals take to internet often to secretly share their choices. Nonetheless, I did deal with online victimisation of such people who were violently bullied in  public forums as well as private chat messages. The pain is no less than that of any normal men or women suffering from adult bullying or hate messages. Why stopping with this? it has become a trend to tease a man by calling him a ‘gay’ or a woman a ‘lesbian’ and go on-line bragging about it  if a perpetrator wishes to bring huge embarrassment to his/her victim with immediate effect. I consider this as an insult to the LGBT community. It is a personal choice of sexual affiliation and no one should tag a person who has straight likings to be like one from the LGBT community may have. Similarly, LGBT community should have their own privacy and they deserve respect even if it is in an on-line presence. Constitutionality of S.377 has actually encouraged those who feel bullying LGBT community people is their right as such sorts of sexual preferences are seen as ‘wrong’ not only by a major sect of the society, but by the court itself.
Now, look at the practical scenario:
i. In Tamil Nadu, one transgender was provided government health worker’s job, another was given a home guard’s job as a ‘woman’ (See http://www.bbc.co.uk/hindi/india/2013/12/131215_transgender_home_gaurd_sr.shtml?ocid=socialflow_facebook_hindi). If S.377 is constitutional, then these ‘government appointments’ are bound to be affected.
ii. On-line groups and communities speaking about LGBT rights, often share information about each other. Many put up their profile status as bi-sexual, gay or lesbian in their Facebook profiles. Would this not be considered a ‘crime’ if the individual is an Indian national? If anyone feels this can be considered so, think of right to equality, freedom of speech and expression and of course right to personal preferences and right to life which has extended its scope to cover right to privacy.
iii.While I am an ardent supporter of S.66A of the Information Technology Act, which restricts some categories of speech in the internet, I also fear that this provision would lose its power if any one belonging to LGBT community wishes to avail it to prevent and punish those who would have hurled hate speech, death threats, sexual assaults to him/her just because his/her sexual preferences.
The practical scenario becomes graver as majority of Indian families deject adolescent children to attend sex education classes. But see the irony: many mothers love to dress up  their young male children as baby girls with ‘girlie’ gowns, fairy wings complete with lipsticks. Many mothers also prefer to dress up their baby girls in boy’s dresses with half pants, shorts , shirts and encourage them to pick up toys exclusively tagged for ‘boys’ just for a ‘photo-sake’. Well, young parents love to show off their children ‘cross dressed’ but they forget that once floated, these pictures, images or videos can stay back for a long time in the web; it can actually make the child extremely embarrassed when he/she starts using the social media and his/her friends and peers take a look at their ‘babyhood’ pictures and how their parents wanted show them off to the world. Many adult ‘cross-dressers’ did confess in many forums that they took up liking for what they are now, due to their childhood experiences. But do note that these adults are ‘net immigrants’ who have taken the internet as a part of their lives not very long ago. If the young parents are showing off their babies (who would be true netizens) in such fashion, ask yourself on whom the liability lies to show the path? If this is the legal scenario, would the parents be able to counsel their children who may go through major psychological changes due to this? Probably not.  Couple of weeks ago I heard this painful story of a co-passenger who was telling her friend how no one in her family supports her since she has become a ‘she’ from being a ‘he’ and how the possible employers ask them to leave right from the door step by seeing a ‘manly woman’. Yes, she has a boyfriend, but he meets her secretly because he does not have courage to accept a ‘former man’ as his legal partner. Online bullying of LGBT people is almost always based on these very facts which are painful realities.
There is one silver line in this dark cloud: the Supreme Court did observe that S.377 is constitutional. But at the same time, it also stated that it is open for the parliament to decide the final fate of it ( See  http://barandbench.com/comment/44159#.Uq6CStIW3g0), even though this is neither an ‘unchallenged fact’, (See http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/the-wrongness-of-deference/article5463126.ece), Law makers, please consider.  Law makers, please consider.
Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2013), “The 377 and beyond”, 16th December,2013, published in http://cybervictims.blogspot.com/