Revenge porn drives DU student to suicide: Here's what you need to do online and at the police station to ensure obscene pics of you don't go viral

With an increasing number of women falling prey  to cyber crimes like morphing and stalking, we take a look at how and why you can yank that content online, and bring the culprits to book offline
The long arm of cyber stalking | Illustrations by Suvajit Dey and Amit Bandre
The long arm of cyber stalking | Illustrations by Suvajit Dey and Amit Bandre

A DU college student committed suicide today. The reason? Her boyfriend threatened to leak her nude pictures online. Just about a year ago, a woman from Salem committed suicide because her pictures had been morphed and misused by a jilted lover. 

The news was splashed across all newspapers, questions were raised , condolences poured in. But then what? Experts have said India has one of the best cyber laws but we not taught or made aware of what to do in the face of a cyber crime.

There's an obscene pic or video of you online. What do you do?

- After a person realises that their picture is being misused, the first thing to do is to remove the picture or the video immediately to stop it from going viral. Approaching the local police is one option but the process could take time

- So the other quicker option is to contact the owner of the site where the picture is uploaded. Most websites follow a strict copyright infringement policy and will immediately take down the post. Write them a mail and threaten legal action

- If you are unable to get in touch with the owner of the website one can find the contact on by just pasting the URL into the search box

- In a case or revenge porn, the victim can report it to google or even Microsoft. In order to remove any search results of the pictures or videos on Google, one can simply contact google to do the needful. Google has recently started taking these claims very seriously specifically to curb cyber crimes against women

- If the images are being shared on a blog, then the victim could access the following link

- Report it as abuse. Besides these options, all social networking sites have the option of "reporting abuse or misuse of pictures"

- A porn website policy is also in place that allows the video to be removed 24-48 hours after the owners of the site are alerted about the issue

Parallely, the victim can also immediately register a complaint with the local police but experts suggest that the victim should also get in touch with higher authorities such as the DGP, whose command will ensure swift action. The victim would be required to provide ID proof to show evidence that the person in the picture or video is indeed him/her and the material would be removed immediately.

'Log kya kahenge?'

When women suddenly find themselves in a situation such as this, like most cases of sexual assaults or abuse, the instant feeling is shame and the victim wants to bring down all the photos as discreetly as possible. These days though, many women call out their harassers on social media and have begun to "name and shame" them instead of pushing the matter under the carpet. However, if the picture or the video is in fact theirs, then women are of course hesitant to accept that they had trusted someone with their photos and it had been misused. But in some rare cases, like that of Taruna Aswani, no amount of "log kya kahenge" could stop her from standing up for her rights.

Taruna, who hails from Mumbai and resides in the USA received a mail one day from a stranger claiming that he had her naked pictures and threatened to leak the pictures if she did not do as he demanded

Taruna, who hails from Mumbai and resides in the USA received a mail one day from a stranger claiming that he had her naked pictures and threatened to leak the pictures if she did not do as he demanded. The young woman had sent these pictures to her boyfriend from whose phone the pictures had been stolen. The blackmailer also attached the said photos with the mail and threatened her to not go to the police and said "it would anyway be of no use" since he was miles away. But Taruna chose to post the email on Facebook and requested her family and friends to support her and help her trace the culprit. Luckily for her, her family supported her.

Victim-shaming: Cops and their kneejerk reaction

Parental support is never a guarantee especially since it is such a sensitive issue, but even in the rare instances that children do get the support of their parents, getting the same kind of support from the police is almost impossible. A few days ago, a woman named Saleha Paatwala, posted a status on Facebook about her 17-year old sister who was blackmailed with morphed pictures and confided in her parents about the same.

But apparently the to and fro trips to the police station have been almost as harrowing as the incident itself. The police first referred them to the wrong cyber cell and when the family returned to the previous police station, instead of taking action, the police decided to morally lecture the victim. When another cyber cell was approached, the officials said that since there are no Facebook servers in India, it could take a very long time for the matter to be solved. How long? Over 25 days, they said!

I wonder how the cases related to Facebook get solved in India? Is there no case being filed as yet? I am sure there will be many cases reported related to it but hasn't any been solved yet?

Saleha Paatwala, Sister of victim

According to NCRB data, the cases registered under the IT Act increased by more than 350 percent from 2011 to 2015 and a 70 percent increase in the number of cyber crimes under the IT act between 2013 and 2014. The cases registered under the IPC increased by more than 7 times during the period between 2011 and 2015, the report said.

This is just the tip of the iceberg

However, these numbers are supposed to be minuscule in comparison to the actual number, "NCRB only keeps records of FIRs that are filed but there are thousands of cases that go unreported simply because people don't want to report them, they don't know how to and there aren't too many success stories out there so they don't think it would of any use to even go to the police Of course the fact that the victims don't want to or cannot consider in their family also stops them from taking it to the police," said C Balu, retired Additional Superintendent of Police, Cyber Crime Cell and vice president of Cyber Society of India.

Balu said that women have got to start becoming brave and realise that it isn't their mistake and should confidently lodge a complaint, "Only if more people start opening up about online abuse, only then the public including the police would realise how grave the situation is and take the cases seriously," he added.

But in the case of Saleha Paatwala's sister, the family was brave but justice is nowhere in sight.

They don't gel well: Gap between local police and the cyber cells?

In a cyber crime case, the victim has to approach the local police and file a complaint along with evidence of the crime. The police then gets in touch with the Crime Cell who help them track down the offender. But in most cases, the immediate response to a case is indifference on the part of the police and usually tell the complainants, "That it will take time because it is complicated."

Since most of the police have minimal knowledge about technology as well as how massive the problem is, they don't investigate these cases either to they transfer the cases or get the help of the crime cell either. "There is huge gap and disconnect between the local police and cyber crime cell. Only the higher authorities have a knowledge about cyber laws but the lower rank police are ignorant," Rajendran said.

Tracking down the offender is not a walk in the park. It is difficult but it is not impossible! The most common excuse by the police is that the server is not in India so they'll take time to reach out to them abroad. But the cyber police is equipped to communicate to the internet provider, find out what time the message was sent if it was via a computer or phone. The cyber police knows the rules of the game but the local police will say they don't have the know-how

V Rajendran, Advocate and former president of Cyber Society of India

Will the cops ever take 'cyber' complaints well?

Time. Not the passage of it, but actually setting aside a specific quantum of time for complaints of this nature. "A few years ago, the commissioner's office would allocate a few hours in a day just to listen to complaints from people directly. The police could do the same thing now, devote a few hours every two or three days just to listen to cyber cases, so people confidently approach the police," the advocate suggested.

He also suggested that the police could engage 'techno-legal' agencies and NGO's to help them with these cases,"But the police are hesitant because they fear that they would lose control of their cases so they don't choose to seek help," Rajendran said.

The long-term solution would be to develop the IT sector enough to be able to have our own servers, the advocate said," We are a superpower when it comes to IT yet our hard disk is from Germany, our operating system is from the USA, cables are from Germany- only the data is ours. We have to work towards ensuring we have our own servers so tackling cyber crimes will become easier."

One thing is clear, we have a humongous and serious problem at hand, the lesser we speak about it the lighter our police is going to take the case. We cannot have more suicides in the name of morphed photos and we cannot let society morally police us about what we upload on the net.

The internet is our basic right and being protected from those who misuse it, that is our right too.

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