On New Year's Day (2022), hundreds of Muslim women in India, including journalists, social workers, and other famous personalities, discovered their images and derogatory remarks about them on the smartphone app "Bulli Bai."
The app, which was developed using the Github hosting platform, offered an online "auction" of Muslim women. Its name is derived from the phrase Bulli Bai, which is a derogatory epithet for Muslim women. When users initially opened the app, they were met with images of girls, the majority of which had been doctored, with the phrase "Your Bulli Bai of the Day."
The app is definitely an example of online trolling — no real transactions were accessible on it — and it is the second time an app like this has launched in India in less than six months. In July of last year, a similar piece of software named "Sulli Deals" was released. Sulli Deals was also a Github project.
This horrendous act is classified as a cyber-bullying which is a crime committed by an individual or a group of individuals with the purpose to regularly bully or harass someone. Victims of cyber-bullying are frequently individuals who lack the ability to defend themselves. Cyber-bullying can include, among other things, releasing someone's personal information or photographs publicly on the internet, sending indecent/sexual messages to someone, following someone, and hacking someone's account. Cyber-bullying may take place through a multitude of channels, including social media (Instagram, Facebook, and others), text messages, e-mail, and instant messaging apps (WhatsApp, messenger, etc.).
Rising of Cyber-Bullying in India; Ranks 3rd in World
India is rated third in the world for cyber-bullying offences, which is not surprising given the increasing number of users and the fact that the majority of these identities are fictitious. According to CRY (Children Rights and You), 9.2 percent of youngsters in Delhi NCR are bullied online, and half of those children do not report the incident to their parents, teachers, or guardians. According to a Symantec research conducted throughout the country, eight out of every ten people are victims of some type of cyber-bullying. Approximately 63% of those questioned had experienced online harassment or abuse, and 59% had been the target of false gossip and rumours that harmed their reputation.
People in India are frequently subjected to cyber-bullying in the following ways:
i. making bodily threat;
ii. putting derogatory comments on someone's pictures or posts;
iii. pestering or contacting them incessantly;
iv. calling them derogatory names on the internet;
v. sending pornographic images to them;
vi. spreading false rumours;
These are only a handful of the most prevalent types of cyber-bullying in India, and half of the victims do not report or file a complaint because they feel the perpetrators would torment them even more if they speak out. Cyber-bullying, on the other hand, has the potential to escalate into someone's worst nightmare.
Anti-Cyber-Bullying Laws in India
1. Information Technology Act of 2000 (Amendment 2008): To tackle cybercrime, the Government of India enacted the Information Technology Act of 2000. (Amendment 2008). Although this offence has yet to be listed in the Act, cyberbullying is an example of a crime that happens via the internet and has a long-term impact on the victim. This Act, on the other hand, provides several remedies for victims of cyberbullying, including:
i. Section 66(D) of the Act: This clause stipulates that anyone who defrauds someone by impersonating them on the internet or through social media will be penalised. A maximum term of three years in prison and/or a fine of Rs. one lakh may be imposed.
ii. Section 66(E): It is forbidden to capture someone's private images and broadcast them on the internet or social media without their permission. The sentence could be up to three years in prison and/or a fine of three lakh rupees.
iii. Section 67: Anyone who transfers, circulates, or uploads obscene or indecent information to the internet or social media may face criminal charges under this section. The penalty could include up to five years in prison and/or a fine of Rs. ten lakhs.
2. Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860: The Indian Penal Code (IPC) is the official criminal code of India. There is no specific provision in the legislation regarding cyberbullying. However, there are a number of statutes that may apply to cyberbullying offences:
i. Section 507: This section punishes anybody who anonymously threatens or forces another person to do something against their will over the internet or social media. It is possible to be imprisoned for up to two years.
ii. Section 509: If a male insults a woman's chastity over the internet or social media, he can face up to a year in prison, with or without a fine.
iii. Section 354(C): It is unlawful to photograph a lady in her personal space without her agreement or authorization. The penalty might vary from 1-3 years in jail, but if the accused repeats the conduct again, he will face 3-7 years in prison.
iv. Section 354(D): This section punishes anybody who observes or watches another person's daily activities on the internet without their knowledge with the goal to hurt or harm them. Up to three years in jail may be imposed as a punishment.
v. Section 499: This section punishes anyone who defames another individual. Defamation can also take place on the internet or through social media.
Cyber Crime Potential in Era of Metaverse
A metaverse is a social virtual world that is usually associated with Neal Stephenson's novel "Snow Crash." The growth and quantity of publicly accessible metaverses may provide a new challenge to criminology. In this light, metaverses must be investigated and classified as a sort of cybercrime. As a result, they are classified as either existent cybercrime or currently being created criminality.
Second, metaverses might be viewed as separate miniature communities in which deviant behaviour can have consequences akin to the disruptions and irritations generated by criminals in actual society. The dilemma is whether deviant behaviour – which must be defined as illegal – may have the same impact in Metaverses as it does in actual society. The focus of social fantasy environments may even allow conclusions to be formed regarding the origins and effects of crime in actual society. As a result, Metaverses might be viewed as labs for genuine criminology: an appealing notion for any criminologist.
New Safety Measures by Meta for Indian Women
Meta has announced new safety initiatives aimed at protecting Indian women, as well as the appointment of two Indians to a worldwide council of independent experts who assist the company in developing rules and programmes to better support women on its applications.
StopNCII.org, created by Meta and maintained by the UK Revenge Porn Helpline, was created to fight and prohibit the transmission of Non-Consensual Intimate Images (NCII) throughout the world. StopNCII.org extends on Meta's NCII Pilot, an emergency programme that allows potential victims to proactively hash their private photographs so they can't be spread on its platforms, in collaboration with the UK Revenge Porn Helpline.
Meta also stated that the Women's Safety Hub initiative, which has been established in Hindi and 11 other Indian languages, would provide more female users in India with information on tools and services that will enable them to have a secure social media experience.