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    Online Abuse

    Online abuse is any type of abuse that happens on the internet, whether it’s over chat, posting on message boards and forums, through social networks, playing online games or using mobile phones.There is no specific law in India to deal with online abuse.When faced with online abuse, your first step should be to approach the administrators of the website/platform/application. If you’re not able to resolve the issue through them, you can collect proof of the abuse and file a criminal complaint at the local police station or cyber investigation cell.

    Stopping the Abuse

    Online abuse happens on various platforms on the internet - social media, chat, forums etc. When faced with online abuse, your first step should be to see what the policy of the platform where the abuse is happening is, and what steps the platform recommends for you to stop it. We have compiled a list of steps you can take for responding to abuse on facebook, facebook messenger, twitter, instagram, snapchat, reddit, youtube, whatsapp and text messages on your phone.

    If the administrators of the platform are not being responsive or you are unhappy with the results, then you can also file a criminal complaint at the local police station or cyber investigation cell. When you go to the police station to file an FIR, the police has to note down the information provided by you. There are different provisions in the general law on crimes (the Indian Penal Code, 1860) and the law on Information Technology (the Information Technology Act, 2000) which make posting private pictures without your permission a crime.

    Account Takeover or Unauthorized Access

    If someone takes over your account, accesses or secures access to the hardware or software or data in a computer without your permission, that person is guilty of the offence of unauthorized access under Section 43(a) of the Information Technology Act. Remember that, the act of accessing your account should be done either dishonestly or fraudulently as per the Indian Penal Code. The offender is liable to pay damages by way of compensation not exceeding one crore rupees to the person affected.

    Personal photos/videos of you

    Section 66E of the Information Technology Act deals with violation of privacy. It is a crime to take pictures of a person’s private area, share them or publish them without their consent. The punishment can be jail for up to three years or up to two lakh rupees in fine or both.

    It is a crime to circulate pictures view and/or capture the image of a woman engaging in private acts, where she thinks that no one is watching her and this act is known as Voyeurism under Section 354C of the Indian Penal Code.

    Obscene Material and Sexual Harassment

    Showing pornographic material to a woman when she does not want to watch or view it is considered as sexual harassment and is a crime under the Indian Penal Code. The punishment is jail time up to three years and/or a fine.

    Publishing and sharing obscene material or anything which contains sexually explicit acts or conduct are crimes under the information technology law.

    For publishing and sharing obscene material, the punishment is jail time of up to three years and a fine of Rupees five lakh. If the person has been convicted more than once, the jail time can increase to five years and the fine to Rupees ten lakh.

    For publishing and sharing sexually explicit acts or conduct, the punishment is jail time of up to five years and a fine of Rupees ten lakh. If the person has been convicted more than once, the jail time can increase to seven years and the fine of up to Rupees ten lakh can be imposed.The victims of such crimes under the information technology law can be male or female.

    Insulting

    There are some other provisions in the law which apply irrespective of whether you are male or female. For example, saying obscene things or doing obscene acts in a public place, saying or writing something which insults a person’s religion or religious beliefs or insulting someone by calling them by their caste name. The punishment for saying obscene things or doing obscene acts in a public place can be imprisonment for up to three months or a fine or both. The punishment for insulting a person’s religion or religious beliefs can be imprisonment for up to three years or a fine or both. The punishment for insulting someone by calling them by their caste name can be imprisonment for a term of six months to five years and a fine.

    Identity Theft

    You can file a criminal complaint because identity theft and impersonation using a computer are crimes under the Information Technology law. If the person has dishonestly stolen your password, electronic signature or other unique identifying feature, the person has committed a crime. The punishment for this can be jail for three years and a fine of a lakh rupees.

    Impersonation

    If anyone assumes a fake identity with an intention to deceive another or cheats by personation by using a computer or a communication device, they have committed a crime. The punishment for this can be jail for three years and a fine of one lakh rupees.

    Anonymous Threats

    For filing an FIR, it is not necessary to know the name of the person responsible for the crime to lodge an FIR. You should try and tell the police whatever you know, but you don't have to know all the details. There is also a specific provision in the law dealing with threats from anonymous people. You can file a complaint even if you do not know who the person is. The punishment for criminal intimidation by an anonymous communication can be imprisonment for up to two years, in addition to the punishment for criminal intimidation, which is imprisonment for up to two years or a fine or both.

    Physical Threats

    The threat of physical injury or harassment can be more intimidating. Threatening someone with physical injury or harm to their reputation in order to scare them is a crime. The Indian Penal Code also deals with threatening to injure any person, their reputation, or their property by classifying it as a crime of 'criminal intimidation'. The punishment for criminal intimidation is jail time of up to two years and/or a fine. If someone threatens to cause death or severe harm then the time of imprisonment is up to seven years and if the threats are directed at the decency of a woman then the time of imprisonment is up to seven years and/or a fine.

    Blackmailing

    For filing an FIR, it is not necessary to know the name of the person responsible for the crime to lodge an FIR. You should try and tell the police whatever you know, but you don't have to know all the details. There is also a specific provision in the law dealing with threats from anonymous people. You can file a complaint even if you do not know who the person is. The punishment for criminal intimidation by an anonymous communication can be imprisonment for up to two years, in addition to the punishment for criminal intimidation, which is imprisonment for up to two years or a fine or both.

    Reporting Abuse to Administrators

    Please click on the links below to follow the steps recommended by the platform

    Reporting abuse on Whatsapp

    When using Whatsapp on your mobile phone, follow the steps given below:

    1. Open the chat of the contact that you want to report
    2. Click on the drop-down menu option in the top right corner of your mobile screen
    3. Tap on More
    4. Tap on Block
    5. Tap on Report and Block
    6. It will state that the 'contact has been reported as spam.

    Similarly, when using Whatsapp Web on your desktop, follow the steps given below:

    1. Open the chat of the contact that you want to report
    2. Click on the drop-down menu option in the top right corner of your mobile screen
    3. Tap on Contact Info
    4. Scroll down to the end and tap on Block Contact
    5. Tap on Report spam and block.

    Blocking abusers on Social Media

    Most of the applications we use on our mobile phones and laptops, commonly referred to as Social media applications, provides the option to block abusers. To understand how to access the block option on Facebook, click here. Similarly, the block option is also available for Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, Youtube and Whatsapp.

    Blocking users on phones

    Android Phones

    To block calls on Android, go to call history and click on the contact for a few seconds. Tap on the option Add to Blacklist and all the calls from this number will be rejected. To block SMS’s on Android, go to the SMS list and click on the SMS you want to block for 2-3 seconds and you will see the block option on the top right corner of the screen. You will continue to receive messages from this number but won’t be notified anymore and the conversation will be archived.

    Apple iPhones

    With iOS, you can block contacts and phone numbers on your device. You can also filter iMessages from unknown senders and report iMessages that look like spam or junk. See here for further details on the same.

    Questions and Answers
    Click on a question to view the answer

    There is no minimum threshold, for the amount of abuse or harassment you should have suffered before filing a complaint. In the first instance, it may be useful to report such instances to the platform on which the abuse is taking place. In case that is ineffective, you can check whether the harassment is similar to any of the situations discussed above.

    Gather as much information as you can. Taking screenshots of relevant messages, conversations and comments can help your case. For online crimes, you can approach the cyber-crime branch of the police. Unlike other crimes, cyber-crimes are usually not limited by jurisdiction within a state. You can report to the cyber-cell of any city, even if the offence was committed when you were in a different city. A list of details of cyber-crime cells can be accessed here.

    In case you are unable to file a complaint in the cyber cell, you can file an FIR with the local police station.The women and child development ministry has also set-up a dedicated cyber cell to help women receiving online abuse.

    Glossary
    Voyeurism
    Gaining sexual pleasure from watching others when they are naked or engaged in sexual activity
    First Information Report (FIR)
    The FIR is the information relating to a cognizable offence recorded in writing by the officer in charge of a police station and signed by the informant (person giving the information), to be entered in a book kept by the officer.