Cyberbullying: Facts and laws

Law
03-Oct-2022
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Have you ever heard someone making a fake profile, pretending to be someone, and sending degrading and offensive messages? Well, that's what they call cyber bullying?

The case of Vishaka vs the State of Rajasthan was the first case of cyberbullying negotiated by the Supreme Court in the area. In this case, the supreme court created policies to protect women from sexual harassment.

Bullying is no longer limited to college campuses, gardens, and parks. Due to the digital revolution, it can follow you socially wherever you go. Both children and adults can be targets of cyberbullying. It can occur anywhere through email, text messages, videos and images, and social media. Even our home offers no shelter from cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying means bullying, which is done through digital devices such as mobiles, computers/laptops, or tablets via instant messaging, SMS, online social media platforms, or any online groups where people can share and exchange messages. Sending, sharing, or posting mean, harmful or false information about someone defines bullying. Cyberbullying is a criminal offence. 

What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying occurs when somebody threatens the target user with a digital technique. It can appear online and offline. When it happens with the medium of technology, it is cyberbullying. In India, it includes sharing private or personal information about someone, which can cause embarrassment to the person.

Several cyber laws have been passed in India to retaliate against the offenders and safeguard the victims. Besides these laws, one must also take certain steps to deal with bullies.

Place of occurrence of cyberbullying are as follows: 

  • Social Media handles
  • SMS 
  •  E-mail

However, Cyberbullying can be done in different ways over various online platforms. 

Bullying VS Cyberbullying

Some aspects of cyberbullying differentiate it from bullying, making it a unique concern. Listed below are some essential differences that would make the term more clearer:

Obscurity: In the case of bullying, victims often know who their bully is, but in the case of online bullies that are cyberbullying, we may be able to find them as they can hide their identities. The obscurity of the internet can direct to crueller abuses from the bully, all while the sufferer has no means of locating who their teaser is.

Relentless: Bullying generally ends when the person is removed from the adverse social situation. On the other hand, cyberbullies may be able to distress their victim 24*7, making it challenging for the victim to escape it by going home or even changing schools. 

Public: In the case of bullying, the people who interact with those affected are usually known as a bully. Regardless, in the case of cyberbullying, it opens up the victim to more potential ridicule or pain from strangers when content is posted or shared online. Anyone may see it. The anonymity afforded by virtual spaces compounds this; while bullying in person is done out of view to evade punishment, cyberbullies need not fear being seen in the act if their essences are unknown.

Permanent: Cyberbullying can permanently harm the victim's reputation because online content is unattainable to delete completely. No matter if the original post of that bully is deleted, there are still some sparks. It can impact the future of the victim.
Easy to Overlook: Cyberbullying can be more complex than bullying because, as in cyberbullying, one can't access online activities. One can't overhear or see the abuse taking place in their back. 

Examples of Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is becoming more prominent as digital technology develops. The immense popularity of social media has opened up numerous ways for bullies to harm their targets.

Different forms of cyberbullying sometimes overlap, and the bully may employ or incorporate multiple tactics to hurt their target. For instance, one can access your personal information after adding it to your social media account.

Sometimes a person can’t realize they are bullying someone or even being forced. It can be done in numerous ways. Some of the examples are listed below to gain a better understanding:

Harrasement:

Online harassment involves transmitting abusive messages to a person or group. Harassment takes an incredible effort to harm the victim. Also, it is deliberate, repeated, and consistent. The victim may usually have no rescue from the bully. These messages may mainly harm the victim's confidence due to the consistency.

Cyberstalking:

Cyberstalking is when messages are no longer just harsh but also threatening. It can lead to person stalking or harassment. Sometimes people do not understand the difference between Cyberbullying and cyberstalking. We have created a note of difference for your clarity.

Cyberbullying vs Cyberstalking

As we discussed above, there is not much difference between the offense of cyberbullying and cyberstalking. Both end in cyber harassment. 
The only difference between these two offenses is the criminal's age or the perpetrator of the crime. Cyberbullying is done mainly through adolescents; if the same is done by a major, it is known as cyberstalking. Lawfully, there is no other difference between these two rather than the criminal's age. Therefore, to sum up, we can say cyberstalking is a form of cyberbullying only.

Exclusion:

It is the act of intentionally excluding the victim. It may mean deliberately having discussions on social media platforms to which the victim does not have access. And within that group, the bully says terrible things about the victim.

Outing:

The outing happens when the bully publicly conveys private pictures or other details about the victim on the internet without the victim's consent. It is meant to embarrass and humiliate the victim. The facts can be insignificant or private, but it is a state of an outing either way.

Masquerading:

Masquerading happens when a bully assumes another identity to harm the victim without their knowledge. They may imitate someone else, use a natural person's account or phone number, or create an entirely fake identity. Usually, the bully will know the victim well if they need to be anonymous. The bully can humiliate or cyberstalk the victim. It is typically done to amuse themselves or offend the victim.

Framing:

Framing can be termed as accessing someone's social media profile and posting unsuitable content under their name without their consent. Most people consider this a joke. However, framing can hurt victims' reputations or embarrass or harm them.

Cyberbullying laws in India:

There is no apparent legislature that gives detailed cyberbullying laws in India. However, conditions such as The Information Technology Act (Section 67) deal with punishment for publishing or sharing inappropriate things, be it messages or pictures in electronic form, for a term that can exceed five years and with a fine of ten lakh rupees.

Some other provisions of the cyberbullying laws in India are:

Information Technology Act, 2000 

Also known as IT Act, this act was enacted on 17 October 2000, to deal with cybercrime and e-commerce. The idea was to process lawful and trustworthy online transactions and curb cybercrimes. It lays down offenses and punishments such as tampering with electronic documents, publishing obscene information, breach of privacy, hacking, etc. It's a constitution for the Cyber Regulation Advisory Committee to regulate technology-enabled services like e-governance, e-commerce, and e-transactions. A drastic increase in internet usage has given rise to the need to have legislation in place for technology-related crimes.

Section 67 of the IT Act

In the event, that any person publishes or transmits or causes to publish or transmit any material information wrongfully, which attracts the attention of the general public or is of such effect as to damage or corrupt the person reading, looking, or hearing the content embodied in it, will be liable to be punished under this section. The imprisonment can extend up to 5 years and a fine of INR 10,00,000 can be imposed on the accused if found guilty. 

Section 67A of the IT Act also talks about the publishing or transmission of such images which comprise any private sexual act or conduct of a person. In such cases, imprisonment can go up to 7 years. Further, Section 67B of the act states the prohibition on publishing child pornography or images of a child (under the age of 18) in a sexually explicit act. 

Section 354D of the IPC

In general terminology, stalking refers to an act of a person following the other person either physically or online without their consent.  As per the Indian Penal Code, it is a punishable offense when committed against a woman. In terms of the digital sense, it also includes sending threatening texts, following on social media, consistently calling on phones, or engaging in any other harassing behavior. Section 354D of the IPC considers stalking as an offense when it is committed by a man against the wishes of a woman without her consent multiple times. 

The Section lays down the punishment for stalking as an imprisonment of 3 years along with a fine. In certain circumstances, depending upon the nature of the crime it can extend up to 5 years as well. However, whenever a man is pursuing women to prevent any crime then it will not be considered as an act of stalking under this section. 

Section 499 and 500 of the IPC

Under Section 499 of the IPC, defamation is an offense when a person makes or publishes a false statement accusation, or imputation about another person, in the form of words, oral communication, or visual cues. The intention is to strike a balance between safeguarding a person's reputation and respecting one's right to speak their mind without misuse of words. The main elements for defamation are that a false statement should be made to a third party to harm the victim's reputation and should be made verbally in writing or through visual representations. However, a mere expression of opinion or thoughts based on truth shall not amount to defamation. The penalty for defamation is simple imprisonment with a maximum sentence of two years and a fine.

Cyberbullying laws in India for Colleges and Schools:

Bullying in schools and precisely in boarding schools is mostly prevailing in India. There is no particular act that regulates bullying at college or school. But to control this situation and punish the bullies, the Ministry of Education has also established some school committees. These penalties would maintain the discipline between the children and protect the victim.
 
The University Grants Commission has also formed an anti-ragging committee to regulate the activities. Furthermore, every university has to follow anti-ragging rules. If any university fails to follow the law, they may have to fill up the penalty. "UGC Regulations on Restraining the Threat of Ragging in Higher Education Institutions, 2009" has been passed to prevent bullying. 

A student who is the culprit of cyberbullying can also be made liable per the provisions of the CrPC, 1973. However, no condition of the Indian Penal Code or Code of CrPC involves the school students for bullying.
 
It raises a question- why are school students not getting any provisions for cyberbullying? And coming to the point, the reason behind this is that students studying in schools are minors, and in our country, children are treated differently. To gain explicit knowledge about the meaning of bullying and how to stop bullying, connect to good cyber-crime lawyers.

Signs and Symptoms of Cyberbullying.

There are numerous effects that one can feel while facing cyberbullying. Listed below are some of those experiences:

  • A reduction in social behaviour — avoiding friends or social events
  • Loves to stay alone.
  • Do not like to involve in any communication.
  • Not able to focus on studies.
  • The constant dropping of marks.
  • They no longer love to do things that they love to do.
  • Does not want to go to school.
  • Getting anxious while looking at their phone.
  • Does not like to use social media.
  • Making a distance from their phone
  • Addictive toward drugs
  • Depicting dark thoughts or emotions
  • Discussing suicide

If you have noticed any of these changes in one's behaviour, communicate with them and help them express their views. It would help them with their fear. Make them feel that they are valuable.

Facts of Cyberbullying:

Now when we have discussed most cyberbullying. Now we'll discuss some facts about cyberbullying.
According to the statistics on cyberbullying, it is observed that cyberbullying is between school kids and teens. To comprehend how to stop bullying, first, let's discuss facts about it:

  • A study showed every one among four people has been bullied more than once. And 43% of people have been victims of cyberbullying.
  • According to a survey performed by Microsoft in 2012 in 25 countries, India ranks number 3 for cyberbullying cases.
  • 70% of cyberbullying actions happen over social media sides mainly on Facebook.
  • Almost 80% of teens use mobile phones without knowing anything, making it even more common.
  • As per the studies, girls are more favoured victims of cyberbullying in contrast to boys.
  • It is said that 81% of adolescents find it fun to bully someone online and do not see it as a crime. 
  • 90% of teens ignored the cyberbullying, while only some have taken a step to stop bullying.
  • Most Victims of cyberbullying are prone to committing suicide. As per the studies, every 2nd person among the 9 has a feeling to end their life.

Several questions can arise in your mind as a guardian or parent. How can I find my child is a victim of cyberbullying? Or How can I help them? We have created some separate points you should note and follow if you are a parent or guardian to protect your child from cyberbullying.

Why Teenagers Cyberbully Others?

As per the statics, most teens do cyberbully, and the reasons they choose to bully another are complex and various. We have created some reasons for the same:
Boredom: Most of the time, people crave attention, and they are not feel enjoyed, so they try doing this for fun. As they think it can add some drama to their life.

Peer Pressure: Some bullies may try to engrave their coequals, become more famous, or keep their social status. The existing part of a group can give people a false sense of security that their actions are acceptable or normal.

Revenge: They can decide to cyber bully individuals as they feel wronged by that person or their victim deserves it. The bully may feel that their behaviour is justified due to the pain the victim inflicted upon them.

Anonymity: Cyberbullies can welcome the chance to be unknown by doing all online harassment under another essence. They have a feeling that they will not get caught.
Ignorance: Some cyberbullies may not realize that what they are doing is, in fact, bullying. They may think it is a joke and not take the situation seriously.

Believe in having your teen sign a youth pledge and signing a parent pledge yourself.
Ensure that there may be significant if they disobey the pledge, and ask them to help hold you obliged. Encourage them to ask you questions if anything is indefinite when they are online.

As we promised above, this portion of the article highlights what parents/guardians can do about cyberbullying or how a parent can save and protect their child from cyberbullying.

What can parents do about cyberbullying?

Unfortunately, there is no one-fit solution for everyone. But, one this you can do is to be there and make them feel loved. Often, a child is not ready to share about cyberbullying with anyone. However, you know the key points and the behavioural changes you should note.

Yet, if you identify any warning signs, try building communication with them and talking about their life. Who are their friends? How is their school life going on? By doing this, your child will feel that they are not alone and will try to express their feelings.

Try to make them feel their worth and appreciate their efforts, let them know that they are essential and you are always there for them and share some incidence with them.
You can first adjust the privacy policy of your child's social media and try blocking the things affecting them.

After that, collect all proof of cyberbullying, take screenshots and record if video/audio. Report those incidences of cyberbullying to the app or platform administrators since cyberbullying often violates the terms of services.

You can also contact school administrators and show this proof to them. Because the happenings may not occur at school is no excuse, the school officials should not be aware of the actions.

If cyberbullying has any threats consisting of physical violence, it can also be reported to your local police department.
 
These cyberbullies have a direct impact on one's mental and emotional health. Please do not feel that my child does not need any health therapies, and I'm there. The effects of this cyberbullying last longer, and if the cyberbullying has been hurtful, it will need something more than your kind words and appreciation. Take them out, and engage with them in the activities.

Educating your teen about cyberbullying and how to identify it is essential. Make sure they know cyberbullying is not a joke just because their friends said it is okay and we are just doing it for enjoyment. Still, it is not acceptable.

Highlight the Golden Rule — ensure that your child remembers that they should treat everyone how they want to be treated, and it does not apply to their offline life but also to their online life.

Remember, communication is the key. And you are talking to your teen and taking their advice. It would help them feel that they are essential.

How to Stop Bullying?

As the cases of cyberbullying are rising daily at a growing rate, there is a need to stop cyberbullying. Here are some things one should do to stop cyberbullying.
Listed below are some steps that one can take to stop bullying: 
 
Ø  Do not respond or retaliate - The bullies' main motive is looking for a reaction. As per them, you are giving them control over you; if you don't respond, you restrain their power. One thing you can do in this situation is to be silent and not reply to them. If the problem continues, you can confer with a cybercrime lawyer.
 
Ø  Keep the evidence safe - The victim must capture and save all the proof of cyberbullying and can show the same for proving that they have fallen prey to cyberbullying. It becomes necessary to keep all the pieces of evidence, such as messages, posts, and comments, saved. You can also showcase this to the concerned authority of cyberbullying. Such as, if somebody is bullying you on any social media account, you can block the person or even get the social media authorities regarding the same. If you complain against them, they will take it down. Many websites have a no-tolerance policy.

Ø  Reach out for help - After following the steps mentioned above, if you feel you are getting bullied, contact a cyber lawyer as a lawyer can assist you with this and get out of the cyberbullying situation. 
 
Ø  Use technology - Now, as per the updated technology, there are various features that one could use to protect them. You can follow the privacy policy of the concerned social media platform. Furthermore, you can report the account that you feel is promoting cyberbullying.
 
Ø  Protect your account safe - Make sure that your password is safe. Never communicate your password with anyone, no matter if they are your closest friends, to stop bullying. Keep your phones and accounts password protected; do not let anybody snoop through your sensitive information.

Ø  Keep your social profile and interaction safe - Social media existence has become integral to everybody's life while posting and interacting with people on social platforms. Social media has its pros and cons.

While using social media, ensure to follow these things:

  • Think before you post. Do not share anything that can hurt someone's feelings and create a chaotic situation.
  • Before posting online, learn about the privacy policy. Strangers? Friends? Friends of friends? Your privacy is in your hand. Choose your privacy settings wisely.
  • Do not open emails, and do not download extensions unless you are hoping for an attachment from someone. 
  • Do not download free media from software that is not legally approved.

In conclusion:

To sum up everything, you must remember that you are worth all the happiness and cyberbullying has nothing to do with your personality.
If you reckon your child is a victim of cyberbullying, don’t wait until it’s too late. Don’t be scared to broach the subject with your child for fear that they will repel your attempt to help.

Cyberbullying involves all age groups of people in society. Crusades, ruling, school administrative programs, and other activities to identify and stop cyberbullying are the first steps toward handling this problem. But only you, as a parent or guardian, can offer advice and assistance immediately.