Whether celebrities, politicians or regular citizens, online trolls target everyone equally. Under the Indian Constitution, here's how you can take action.
Remember the episode of the chat show Koffee with Karan, where Alia Bhatt said that Prithviraj Chauhan was the President of India?
Her answer flooded social media with countless memes and jokes. No matter how funny it was for the nation, Alia surely had a hard time.
This is just an example of the kind of abuse people face on the internet. Online trolling has become increasingly common these days.
Most people consider the internet as a platform which provides them anonymity and use it to victimise others. It’s extremely easy to hide your identity on the internet and express your feelings without the fear of being caught. Whether celebrities, politicians or regular citizens, online trolls target everyone equally.
Who are Internet Trolls?
Picture for representation only. Source: Unsplash
The Internet is not short of people who instead of winning arguments based on reason, resort to abuse, threats, insults and bullying, to prove their point. You must have come across such people everywhere, especially while browsing through social media.
Trolls are individuals who post abusive and controversial remarks or comments on social media platforms to bother other people, with the sole malicious intention to hurt the sentiments and feelings of others and provoke an angry reaction. Their messages are such that they can shift everyone’s attention from the subject matter.
Some famous victims of Internet Trolling
Who doesn’t know about journalist Barkha Dutt? She is one of the most trolled Indian women on the internet and is constantly abused and harassed for her comments on social media platforms. In December 2015, she was trolled online after she had mentioned in her book that she was a victim of child sexual abuse.
Sona Mohapatra, a well-known singer was also trolled online for criticising Bollywood actor Salman Khan’s comments on “feeling like a raped woman” during the shooting of his film, Sultan.
Trolls did not even spare Anushka Sharma, Bollywood actress for being accountable for Virat Kohli’s bad performance on the cricket field.
The Bollywood celebrity Lisa Haydon has also been trolled with abusive and disgusting comments for her platinum blonde tresses, underwater photo with her 1-year-old son and her breastfeeding pictures.
In many cases, trolling occurs when people voice their opinion against anything on social media, but there can always be situations where you are trolled for no rhyme or reason.
Is trolling punishable?
We do not have a specific law that directly addresses this growing concern, but we do have a few sections in different laws such as Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Information Technology (Amendment) Act (IT Act) which make trolling a criminal act.
Here are the laws that can help you fight against online bullies:
Violation of Privacy – If any person takes your photograph, makes your videos, records and publishes your private pictures or sends them electronically to anyone without your consent, then you can take legal action against them. Any violation of privacy is punishable by a prison term of three years.
Publishing Sexually Offensive Material on the Internet – Nowadays, we can see large amounts of improper and offensive content on the Internet which, no doubt, attracts a lot of attention. If any person publishes any offensive sexual content on the internet, he or she can be jailed for up to seven years.
Sexual Harassment – If any person tries to make physical contact or sexual advances with you, or demand for sexual favours from you, or shows pornography, or makes sexual comments about you, then you can take legal action against them by filing a complaint. Posting sexually offensive comments against other people on social media and other platforms also makes a person liable for sexual harassment.
Defamation – If any person who intentionally uses any words, signs or visible representations, or publishes anything only to harm your reputation, they can be punished for defamation. Acts such as defaming a woman online, commenting on social media platforms, posting obscene remarks or images or videos are all covered under the offence of defamation.
Criminal intimidation by anonymous communication – If a person conceals his/her identity to threaten another, they can be jailed for up to two years. This is very helpful and effective in dealing with online trolls.
Insulting the Modesty of a Woman – If you are a woman and any person insults or outrages your modesty, uses any word, makes any sound or gesture, or displays any object which can violate your privacy, then you can sue him. Posting sexually offensive comments or pictures or videos on social media or other platforms are also covered under the offence of trolling.
Voyeurism – If you are a woman and any person watches or captures an image of you when you are engaged in a private act, under circumstances where you would not expect anyone to watch you and if such person publishes those images, then you can take legal action against them. Private acts may include a picture of the naked woman or a woman indulging in sexual acts.
Stalking – If you are a woman, and bothered by a man who follows you and contacts or attempts to contact you to make personal relations despite your lack of interest; or keeps an eye on your activities on the internet or any other form of electronic communication, then you can take action against them by filing a case under the IPC with the help of a lawyer.
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Trolling is the new generation cybercrime and trolls are the new generation of criminals on the internet who derive sadistic pleasure in spreading abuse and hate.
Don’t ignore the trolls, fight against them. Consult a good lawyer. Don’t fear the trolls; put them behind bars!
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)