Checking Online Abuse

  • India has one of the largest and fastest growing presence on various social media platforms.
  • With such a large population accessing the internet and social media platfo rms, there is a likelihood of online abuse and harassment.


What is Online Abuse?

  • Online violence or online abuse is not specifically defined under Indian law.
  • Online violence and abuse can take many forms like threats of violence, violations of privacy, discrimination and online harassment.
  • This issue has a profound impact on the fundamental human rights of people, especially the right to equality, right to life and right to freedom of expression.
  • Online violence and abuse are experienced by Internet users of all gender.
  • However, women’s experiences online often mirror the discrimination, sexism and violence that women experience offline.


Recent Incidents

  • Kerala government withdrew an Ordinance that gives unbridled powers to the police to arrest anyone expressing or disseminating any matter that it deems defamatory.
  • The move to introduce such a law shows that State governments believe that existing laws are not adequate to deal with social media abuse.
  • Apart from Kerala, Chhattisgarh also brought in an amendment to criminalise sexual harassment online.
  • Courts and governments have largely resorted to blocking content or forcing intermediaries to take steps to limit the spread of illegal content.
  • The Madras High Court had threatened to ban TikTok because it was supposedly enabling the circulation of obscene content.


Present Laws

  • Indian Penal Code (IPC) criminalises speech that is obscene, defamatory, that insults the modesty of women and intrudes upon her privacy.
  • Information Technology Act of 2000 punishes speech that is obscene.
  • The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act prohibits the publication of any printed material containing indecent representation of women.
  • Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act prevent sexual harassment of a child as well as the use of children for pornographic purposes.


Way Forward

  • State governments must be focused on improving the criminal justice system in order to make it easier for women to make complaints, and for the police to prosecute the complaints properly.
  • The government must outline the specific problem related to online abuse and conduct more transparent consultations with the stakeholders involved to try and figure out solutions.
  • It is important for us to be responsible netizens and try to ensure that online violence is curbed as much as possible by holding those who perpetuate such violence accountable.