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/

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