Should women be able to take up space on the internet? Can this be done safely? What are ways in which women can protect themselves and their communities from online abuse? On Feminist Rani this month we explored the theme of Cybersecurity –  threats, challenges, and opportunities.

In a panel discussion held at St. Pauls Media Complex, Aileen Marques, human rights lawyer, N.S. Nappinai, senior practitioner Supreme Court and High Court, Priyanka Borpujari, award-winning journalist were moderated by Elsa Marie D’Silva, Founder and CEO of Red Dot Foundation.

Breaking down India’s cybersecurity laws

Aileen Marques, explained India’s cybersecurity laws pertaining to harassment and personal identity. She said, “Laws in India keep with International Standards, we refer to it as the IT Act- The Information Technology Act, which is amended time and again in order to incorporate the new transactions that come in such as the threats at the level of social media, especially with a gender perspective.  We also include provisions of the Indian Penal code and other laws. Therefore, it is not simply limited to just the internet.”

She discusses these concepts in term of offenders and the justice victims are able to seek. “With the criminal amendment act, we include aspects of it as well when we report cases of It. As for identity theft, we do have a law in place – however, we need to understand that, we as a nation are developing to deal with the angle of electronic evidence or understanding internet space.”

She adds an important confounding variable to the matter by explaining that our police and law enforcement bodies are accustomed to crimes at the ground level and that when these cyber issues come up, it is new for them and elicits a reaction of “how will we collect and evaluate evidence?”

Lack of boundaries between Physical and Virtual spaces

Elsa Marie D’Silva, discussed how the internet traditionally was looked at as a separate space and evaluates the lack of boundaries between physical and virtual spaces and asks whether the internet should be considered as a public space.

Aileen Marques, explains our relationships to crimes and how the origin of crime is rooted in the physical world. She gives the example of stalking and domestic violence. Domestic violence or stalking is a behaviour learned in the physical world and is further recreated and manifested on the internet. She provides the example of a reverse bullying case wherein “students were bullying a teacher at a school and then proceeded to create 25 fake profiles of the person, therefore, we need to look at both worlds together. We cannot separate one from another.”

Harassment and Online Activism

Priyanka on being asked about her experience with harassment and online activism explains, “Women on the internet are already seen as a threat because women are writing their views, I think that is the other side of democracy, wherein you want everyone’s view to be out there so there is respectful disagreement also”. She further explains the darker side of the issue as “the other side of it is control. Which is found in the real world and then online”.. she explains that in her experience online with her journalism that the first line of attack is always on her sexuality.

She also recounts an experience wherein she was capturing footage of slum demolitions, more specifically officers attacking women and children, on being noticed she was detained and her phone was confiscated. They deprived her of her rights to even reach out for a phone call.

Nappinai NS, the cyber laws expert, explains that the primary concern of the online space is “the ease with which we are happy to share personal data online.” She further elucidated her point with the  “The Cambridge Analytica issue.”

“There is no such thing as anonymity online.” -Nappinai

She outlines how smartphones with cameras and free transfers of pictures makes it a conducive environment for revenge porn. She also clarifies the commonly misunderstood idea that users have anonymity online. “There is no such thing as anonymity online.” She explains with the example of people searching for child pornography are considered as breaking the law without even having completed an interaction with another party.

Aileen Marques, tells us ways in which we can provide police evidence of online offenses:

  1. Take snapshots of chat records.
  2. Do not immediately block out the offender and the platform as it diminishes the evidence accessible to the police.
  3. Do not wipe off entire conversations, chats, and apps from your phone as it is evidence that needs to exist to be evaluated.
  4. Take a snapshot of evidence, print it out, attach it to your complaint and present it to the local police bodies
  5. The police bodies are like to transfer these case to the cyber cell where it is investigated under internet laws.

Akansha is an intern with SheThePeople.TV

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