Dr Debarti Halder at the “Social Media for Good ” Conference
Guest blogger Dr. Debarati Halder, Advocate and Managing Director, Centre for Cyber Victim Counselling (CCVC) writes…
Social media is the present day platform for sharing information and getting connected and reconnected with friends and acquaintances. We look to Twitter to know the daily ‘trends’ to know what is happening around us, we get connected to people and organisations through Facebook to grow our information circle, uploading and sharing private videos with strong messages in the YouTube enables the world wide audience to learn about anomalies about earthquake relief distribution or plight of labourers in world level event organisations like the FIFA.
The reach of social media is so wide spread that many people misuse the same for their own selfish gratifications; these may include creating revenge porn materials, cyber bullying, stalking, trolling, creation of ‘fake avatars’ for harassing others especially women.
Unfortunately, social media is also used for phishing and sextortion, where men may pose as prospective suitors for lonely women and after their confidence, may exchange photographs including sexted images from the woman only start blackmailing for a huge amount.
Children are considered as most vulnerable persons in the social media because of their level of maturity and understanding in regard to privacy and safety settings in the social media.
Online victimisation is increasing and there is need to prevent victimization and protect potential victims. The Centre for Cyber Victim Counselling (CCVC) is an organisation working towards helping victims of online crimes including social media crimes.
Dr. K. Jaishankar and I founded Centre for Cyber Victim Counselling (CCVC) an online NGO in 2009 with a specific aim to help victims of cyber crimes and work as a think tank to contribute towards policy making, academic researches and spreading awareness regarding online victimisation.
When our abstract titled “Role of Social Media in the Awareness Creation by NGOs’ working on the Prevention of Online Victimization” from a total of 206 abstracts in the international conference on “Social media for Good” organized by Kimse Yok Mu, an international NGO (held on May 15-16, 2015 at Turkey, Istanbul), I decided to emphasize on our working strategy from Therapeutic Jurisprudential perspectives and presented my views on TJ and cyber crime victimization prevention at the conference.
We know that Therapeutic Jurisprudence emphasizes the healing effects of law and legal procedures. Being an organization run by a lawyer (me) and a criminologist (Dr. K. Jaishankar), we approach each case of victimization analyzing its legal, criminological and psychological aspects.
In my experience in counseling victims of online crimes, I have seen that due to the rapid spreading nature of the internet contents and the fear of reputation damage in front of a large audience due to World Wide Web, victims become panicked.
It is an unfortunate fact that in cases of online victimization, laws are still being developed. This often leads to huge confusion among criminal justice machinery, especially the police in many jurisdictions when it comes to helping the victims of cyber crimes like cyber stalking, cyber bullying, revenge porn, online harassment, trolling etc. Added with it, internet service providers (ISPs) may offer little help due to their policy and terms which shifts the burden of proof on the victims, while giving maximum scope to practice freedom of speech and expression as per the First Amendment guarantees. All these lead victims to frustration over the legal mechanism. They take up several measures to cope with the situations which may lead to escalation of victimization which are irrational in nature.
In our recent research titled “Irrational Coping Theory and Positive Criminology: A Frame Work to Protect Victims of Cyber Crime,” (published In N. Ronel and D. Segev (Eds.), Positive Criminology (pp. 276 -291). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-74856-8) we thus created a theory titled “Irrational coping theory” to show why and how victims take up such irrational coping mechanisms and how to motivate the victims towards opting for rational coping methods. In the process of counseling, I stick to my main aim, i.e., to prevent victims from taking up “irrational coping mechanisms”. It is not easy to convince victims that existing legal procedure as a rational coping mechanism can be of great help to them. I take to social media to spread the awareness about online victimization and the positiveness of laws and I do this through my blogs, through Facebook pages and profiles, Twitter and through CCVC’s own website.
It is unfortunate that the therapeutic jurisprudential approach of the internet laws have not been properly tested by courts. If TJ principles are considered, laws and their effectiveness can be improved and this may motivate the police to help the victims in more focused way. I have shown this in my recent research:
- Examining the scope of Indecent representation of Women (Prevention) Act, 1986, in the light of Cyber Victimization of Women in India (2013) (published in National Law School Journal, 11, 188-218.
- Revenge Porn by Teens in the United States and India: A Socio-legal Analysis (2013) (with K. Jaishankar, published in International Annals of Criminology, 51(1-2), 85-111)
- Teen Sexting: A Critical Analysis on the Criminalization Vis-À-Vis Victimization Conundrums (2014), (with K. Jaishankar, published in The Virtual Forum Against Cybercrime (VFAC) Review, Korean Institute of Criminology, July/August 2014 1(6), 26-43.
Nonetheless, the victims may also be motivated to take up rational coping methods like reporting the victimization to proper authorities rather than engaging in reverse bullying or attempts to hacking or tracking which may push the victims to more dangerous situations.
Let us hope CCVC’s endeavors reach one and all and more researches are done in this area and the courts start considering the therapeutic jurisprudential aspects in internet laws for saving the internet from predators.