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Cyberbullying: An Incessant Threat In Today's Digitalized World

Traditional bullying has evolved because of the pervasiveness and easy accessibility of electronic media. The nationís school playgrounds, bathrooms, and locker rooms are no longer the only battlegrounds for bullies. Bullies have gone high tech; now, their battleground extends into cyberspace. Web-based bullying involves the use of digital communications as well as Internet-specific venues such as virtual chat rooms, gaming platforms, and social networking websites (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram). This form of digital aggression is known as cyber bullying.

Cyber Bullying can be defined as:
an aggressive intentional act carried out by a group or individual, using electronic forms of contact, repeatedly and over time against a victim who cannot easily defend him or herself.[1]

Given its inescapable nature, cyber bullying has invaded the school setting and even the private sanctuary of studentsí homes. In the modern world, most of the things can be available at the click of a button as this century is the fastest growing technology. With the rise of technology, various opportunities have also emerged, widening the scope for getting information. But along with it, many problems have also aroused with it.

One of the major concerns is online harassment. Mostly women and children are the victims of the crime. Millions of women have raised their voices and called for action against online abuse, harassment, and cyber stalking. This crime includes a repetitive try by one person to contact another thereby causing a sense of threat in the mind of such a person.

The permanence of online posts and the wide audience reach of the Internet cause cyber bullying to be recurrent and seem unending. Negative online posts leave the victim open to attack, which may cause physiological and psychological harm[2] given the aggressive and negative nature of the post.

Cyber Bullying In India

Cyber bullying has shown up as a growing concern in years, due to the increasing availability of data services and presence in social media. The main victim of these bullying cases is the student community and women. Some of the examples of cyber bullying are derogated text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on any social networking platform, and disturbing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles.

One of the sensational cases in which had occurred in recent years was the suicide of an MBBS Student in Kerala as she was provoked by the inappropriate comments in one of her posts on social sites by one of her college mates. Also, another such incident that is to be mentioned here is the cyber bullying which happened to the political campaign in the online platform started by a student of Lady Shri Ram College.

These incidents have shown up only in past years when the internet had become a tool accessible for every person in the country. The Raghavan Committee report suggested that even teachers and the principal shall also be held liable if any act of bullying occurs in the school premises. The apex court in the case of the University of Kerala v. Council, Principalís colleges, Kerala & others[3] held that the Indian penal code should also be applied to schools since many teenage students commit a heinous crime such as murders.

To discipline the actions of students and to cast out the cases of bullying and abuse within the college[4] and brought uniform anti-ragging rules to be followed by the universities as well as colleges across the country and they could even forfeit their recognition if they fail to abide by the anti-ragging rules which have been legislated by the UGC.

The Blue whale challenge has gone viral worldwide, where people were victimized, this was certainly due to a lack of awareness among our community and delay of action caused by the officials in this matter without having prior knowledge of the seriousness of this issue. Thus, the online platform has also oppressively caused a breach of privacy of an Individual.

Current Statistics
The virtual world is substantially dangerous for women and children, they form the largest chunk of victims of online crime, ranging from harassment, cyber-bullying to stalking. Cybercrime has been on the top of the list of crimes against women and children, according to NCRB[5] data. As per the NCRBís report, the number of cases for the occurrence of cybercrime against women is 59,445 which were registered in the year 2018. By October 31, 2.37 lakh cases of cyber bullying, threats, and stalking were registered with WPL.

According to Unicef's observation, it was the most predominant form of cyber harassment of minors, especially girls. According to some experts, the cases that have been reported were only a fraction of the total incidents. The offenders also use net calling, porn sites, and an array of social media platforms to harass women as well as minors. 96% of the complaints in 1090 were lodged by women from the age group between 15 to 50 years. Out of 96%, the victims comprised of students (34%), working women (11%), and non-working women (53%).

The Internet can be accessed to make reports, journals, communicate with teachers and other mates, play interactive games, and to enhance their knowledge. But online access also comes along with the danger like inappropriate content, cyber bullying, and online predators, the CERT[6] said in an advisory to the parents of the students.

Anti-Cyber Bullying Laws In India

Unfortunately, in our country, there is no such definite law that acknowledges cyber-bullying. Therefore, we have to rely on other provisions of IPC[7] like ßSection 499, 292A, 354A, 354D, 507, 509. The aforesaid provisions of the IPC are not completely complied with under cyber bullying, but it can be brought under these provisions of law. Even under the Information Technology Act, 2000, there is no such specific provision related to cyber-bullying.

Though it includes some key provisions of the Information Technology Act such as:
  1. Sec.66A that deals with sending offensive messages through communication service, etc:
    • The Honíble Supreme Court in Shreya Singhal and Ors. v. Union of India[8] held that. The Cyberlaw provision to be open-ended, vague, and unconstitutional owing to the restriction it caused to the Indian citizensí right to free speech, which is being lauded by the common man and legal luminaries alike. Therefore, Section 66A of the IT Act[9] was struck down.
  2. Sec.66C that deals with Identity Theft;
  3. Sec.66D that deals with Cheating by personation by using the computer resource;
  4. Sec.66E that deals with Violation of privacy;
  5. Sec.67B that deals with Punishment for publishing or transmitting of material depicting children in any sexually explicit act, etc. in electronic form;
  6. Sec.72 that deals with Breach of confidentiality and privacy;
  7. Sec.503 of IPC that deals with Sending threatening messages through email;
  8. Sec .500 of IPC deals with Abuse by Emails.

Recommendations
The study suggests that a campaign should be created for awareness about cyber bullying among children and adolescents. Conducting focused training programs for teachers, and sessions with students on internet safety and guidelines that are included in the school curriculum could be effective. Existing cyber laws should be revised for the safety issues women and children, besides this, portals should be created where cyber-crime can be reported.

There are three factors that scholars and activists in the field have always advocated. Firstly, belief the survivors; secondly, create safe spaces; and thirdly, create public literacy. Both, the victim and the accused need to be counseled, said Yatan Balhara, a psychiatrist with the Delhi-based All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS). The abuser may well have a history of being bullied, he added. Along with the upcoming age, strict laws should be legislated to have a safe social platform and to prevent it from cybercrimes.

End-Notes:
  1. Smith et al. (2008) (p. 376
  2. (Cohen et al., 2014; Kowalski & Limber, 2013).
  3. (2011) 14 SCC 363.
  4. The University Grants Commission of India is a statutory body set up by the Government of India in accordance to the UGC Act 1956 under Ministry of Education, and is charged with coordination, determination and maintenance of standards of higher education.
  5. National Crime Records Bureau(NCRB) is an Indian government agency responsible for collecting and analysing crime data as defined by the Indian Penal Code and Special and Local Laws.Itís headquarter is in New Delhi and is part of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.
  6. The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team is an office within the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology of the Government of India. It is the nodal agency to deal with cyber security threats like hacking and phishing.
  7. The Indian Penal Code(IPC) (Amendment) Act, 1921 (16 of 1921).
  8. [1982] 2 S.C.R. 272.
  9. The Information Technology Act, 2000 (No 21 of 2000).

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