GUEST COLUMN

A growing concern

76-Debarati-Halder Dr Debarati Halder

Though Facebook and WhatsApp have become part of our daily lives, this rapid growth of communication technology has also led to some devastating results. One such result is the eruption of a new cyber crime known as revenge porn. I first came across such cases in 2009, when some women contacted me for help. Their private pictures had been leaked on various websites, along with defamatory texts.

Revenge porn, as such, is an old interpersonal crime in a new bottle. Earlier, jilted lovers, jealous colleagues or ex-spouses would circulate private pictures of the victim to prospective in-laws, families or even at the workplace. However, the damage used to be limited to the people among whom the hard copies had been circulated.

I see thousands of cases on a daily basis, and I’ve observed that there are several ways to create revenge porn material. At times, the perpetrator may even use photos or videos sent by the victim herself to create the material. In such cases, the girls may have sent nude or semi-nude pictures to their partner to gain appreciation and confidence. However, this makes it easier for the perpetrator to post such photos or videos to websites. The perpetrator could then deactivate the account and go to another website with a new identity, possibly with new IP address and geolocation.

The question, however, is, why does one engage in revenge porn? In my experience as a cyber victim counsellor and independent law researcher, I have observed that most of the perpetrators enjoy “double pleasure”. Not only is the victim defamed within minutes of uploading the content, but the police might also become helpless if there are cross-border jurisdiction issues. The perpetrators do not fear the police or they know that the victim would not dare take the matter to court for fear of damaging family reputation. Moreover, there is a lack of any focused law criminalising revenge porn.

The sadistic pleasure might be because of the perpetrators’ inherent nature. They may have certain common characteristics, like a history of being possessive in relationships. Jilted lovers might become angry and revengeful because their “belonging” is no longer under their control. They might use revenge porn to show that they still remain dominant and control the victims’ reputation. The perpetrators could also have an extreme superiority complex, in which case the ending of a relationship could have come as a shock to them, making them angry. Or, they might have an extreme inferiority complex, which make them feel jealous of the ex’s “happiness” to be free from them. In some extreme cases, I have observed that the perpetrators might have a strong, influential backup, which makes them believe that they may have whatever they want, at any cost. In fact, once the victim contacts the perpetrator, asking him to remove the content, the latter might become more adamant not to do so.

A reason for the increase in revenge porn is the lack of forgiveness among today’s youth. There is no willingness to go on with life. People unnecessarily harm others, forgetting that they are setting an extremely negative example for all.

To save oneself from such a situation, I would suggest not posting or circulating private pictures even to intimate partners. Next, the victim must consider reporting the profile and the offensive pictures to the website concerned. Above all, victims should report the matter to the police.

Halder, a lawyer, has written several books on cyber crime in India.

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