Cyber bulling and harassment in hi-tech era
Over the past 200 years, the use of the term “technology” has changed considerably. The phrase was rarely used in Common English before the 20th century. It referred to the description or study of the useful arts. But after the invention of the Computer and the Internet, the whole world was interconnected and everyone saw the world and developed innovations.
New concepts arrived to alternate the day-to-day activities by machinery level. Robots were built to perform various actions and activities those of humans. Most developed counties now have robotic systems and equipment at the industrial level. When considering the impact of technology, it has advantages and disadvantages.
With the advancement of technology, those who could not afford to see the world by traveling, can now see the world through the Internet. The invention of online social media platforms such, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat and other applications such as WhatsApp, Viber, Imo and Messenger is a turning point. Through them, everyone gets a chance to see the world, meet new people, connect with other cultural ethics, find job opportunities, connect with online market, showcase their talents and develop their careers.
However, it can now be seen that certain people are misusing these platforms be it with or without a clear intention, which has resulted a considerable worry about the absence of borders in the digital realm. Usually, the bulk of active online users are young people and given the prevailing situation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, many people began using the Internet and other social media platforms irrespective of age limit.
As a result, people are more vulnerable to fall victim to one of the most frequent virtual hazards of the digital era, cyberbullying and harassment. They even cause mental disorders such as intense psychological distress, depression and post-traumatic stress and those who are subject to these incidents may even tend to commit suicide eventually.
What is cyber bullying?
This is similar to the way of normal bullying, but the medium used is different. Bullying someone using social media, emails, telephone and similar ways or by any other technological means is known as cyber bullying or cyber harassment. Those who engaged in such activities may often send you inappropriate messages, pictures or similar things using the Internet.
Especially, there is no age limit to suffer as a victim of cyber bullying, if someone has the access to the Internet through a certain device, such as a laptop, a mobile phone, or a tablet, that person might be a victim.
Most of those who engaged in cyber bullying are using Facebook and other social media platforms since many people use Facebook, to which they provide most of the personal information. Given the availability of personal information on such platforms, it is easier for those who engaged in cyber bullying to insult, degrade or blackmail someone. They may also spread rumors about someone through such platforms.
How to recognise a bully?
There is no specific method to identify a person or a group engaged in cyber bullying. Most of the times, they may try to get closer to you through any social media platform or other technical methods.
They often act as nice persons you should pay attention on strangers who pretend to be much affectionate towards you, in particular via the Internet.
They may impersonate themselves thereby making it hard to recognise who they really are. In that context, an ordinary person may not be able to trace them without the support of technical and other means of assistance needed.
Who is at high risk?
According to a research carried out by the Sri Lanka Computer Emergency Readiness Team (SLCERT) and the University of Sri Jayawerdenepura, mostly school girls and teenagers are subject to cyber bullying. The culprits were found to have got closer to the girls and built a relationship. Some of them had even asked to send nude photos and to make video calls.
Those who engaged in cyber bullying, was found to have blackmailed the young girls claiming that they would release the recorded footages of the video calls or other photographs that may have been shared. Also, in some instances, they had posted these girls’ photographs along with their contact number on Facebook pages or in groups.
There are some websites and mobile applications providing facilities for such illegal acts and on them, the sex workers can post an advertisement. Then, the customers who use these platforms can contact them. The Lanka Police Computer Crimes Investigation Division recently arrested a person who had maintained such a site.
Law on cyber bullying
Cyber bullying is not classified as a separate offence in Sri Lanka’s legal system. However, several sections of the Penal Code provide alternatives for prosecuting the culprits. In addition, the Civil Law has also provided a remedy for any damage caused to your reputation or dignity by a Cyberbully. Under this provision, those who have been subject to such incidents can file a defamation case and claim compensations for the damage and loss they suffered mentally and physically.
Computer evidence is now recognised as admissible evidence before a court. Therefore, if someone is a victim of cyber bullying, they should keep screenshots and recordings of the voice calls and video calls as evidence.
Any place to complain?
If someone has experienced cyber bullying, they have been provided with an opportunity to lodge a complaint with the Sri Lanka Police or Police Computer Crime Division. A complaint can also be lodged with the SLCERT through its website (www.cert.gov.lk) or email – email@example.com.
The National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) or the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) have also provided the victims of such crimes with the opportunity to lodge a complaint. If someone’s reputation has been tarnished due to such an incident, they can sue civil litigation of defamation in a District Court where the incident took place, following which compensations can be claimed.
There is a concept called “Block the Bully”, which means where you can block if you recognise someone as a cyber bully, using the tools that have been provided by social media platforms and mobile phones. Facebook users have been given an option to report about anything which seems to be inappropriate for you on Facebook.
The users of these platforms should add only the persons they are known to. It makes easier for the users to initiate legal action if someone bully them on such platforms. When the users have connected to persons whose identity is not known, it would be hard to initiate action in an event of cyber bullying. If someone receives a message or information which may affect someone’s reputation, such information should not be shared. The sender should be informed of the dangers of cyber bullying if possible. If someone’s action violates any other person’s privacy or safety, report it and avoid interacting with the cyber bully. All contacts should be avoided and blocked if their action endangers your safety and security. Social media users should think twice before posting photographs and videos that might affect their reputation or security in an adverse manner.