When engaged in any conversation sensibly and securely through social networks and other public forums it can be often beneficial socially and professionally. However, if we are not cautious enough, it can lead to numerous uninvited consequences, one of such crime is cyber stalking. Cyber stalking is harassment or stalking which takes place over internet. Anyone could fall prey to cyber stalking such as individuals, groups or even organizations and can take different forms including slander, defamation and threats. While the motive of the cyber stalkers is generally to control or intimidate the victim, to gather information for any personal purpose or to constitute any other crime like to create fake identity profile etc.
What is Cyber Stalking?
As mentioned above, cyber stalking could take place in several forms, but in the broadest sense, it is harassment or stalking carried out over online platforms such as social media, email, forums. Cyber stalking is one of the most serious crimes which can also known as online stalking. Cyber crime can be defined as the use of the internet or any other electronic means to stalk or harass an individual, a group of people or an organization. For instance, if someone monitors online activity of an individual without his/her knowledge is called cyber stalking. Ex- browsing history of some other person. The person who does this is called as cyber stalker.
Now, the question arises what constitutes this act of crime? basically, the stalker use the internet to harass individual or group of people through email, messenger, calls and other social sites to reach and try to find the online activities of the person by sending inappropriate messages, stating false accusations of defamatory nature, giving threats and tries to enter in one’s personal life.
Must know Cyber Stalking Legislation
The legislative provisions related to cyber stalking are mentioned in the Indian laws more specifically with respect to Information Technology Act, 2000 and Indian Penal Code, 1860. These provisions are related to cyber stalking and under which sections can the perpetrator be booked. The provisions for such is given below:
Section 354D of IPC
This section defines stalking as “any man who, follows a woman and contacts, or attempts to contact such woman to foster personal interaction repeatedly despite a clear indication of disinterest by such woman; or monitors the use by a woman of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication commits the offence of stalking.” Section 354A of IPC punishes the offender of sexual harassment with 3 years of imprisonment and/or fine.
Section 292 of IPC
Section 292 defines ‘obscenity’. The offence of cyber stalking takes within its purview the act of sending obscene materials to the victim on a social networking platform or through emails, messages etc., with the intention that the opposite person would read, see or hear the content of such material then he shall be guilty of the offense under Section 292 of Indian Penal Code.
Section 67 of IT Act, 2000
Section 67 of Information Technology Act, 2000 is like a replication of Section 292 of Indian Penal Code. This section enumerates publishing obscene material in an ‘electronic form’. Thus, this section covers the online stalking. If the stalker tries to bring out any obscene material about the victim on social media in an electronic form to bully the victim, he shall be held guilty under Section 67 of IT Act, 2000 with imprisonment up to three years and fine for the first conviction and up to five years and fine upon second conviction.
Section 67A of IT Act, 2000
Section 67A of Information Technology Act, 2000 “states that if stalker attempts to publish any ‘sexually explicit’ material in electronic form i.e., through emails, messages or on social media then he shall be guilty of an offence under Section 67A of IT Act with imprisonment extending up to five years and fine for first conviction and to seven years and fine upon second conviction.”
Remedies if you are Cyber Stalked
The current online landscape lends itself to creating ‘easy targets.’ For example, nowadays, many social media influencers/users without giving a second thought publicly post their personal information, uploading family photos and more. However, if used correctly and safely this crime can be stopped but in case you think that you are being cyber stalked you could follow the following remedies:-
Blocking the person
One should never hesitate to apply all the measures permitted by law, especially those offered by web services. If you have any doubt on someone and the required tools are available, block anyone who you wish to stop hearing from, even if the messages are just disturbing and not yet threatening. You got the right to decide when the boundary has been passed.
Report to the authorities concerned
If someone is harassing or threatening you, you should block them immediately and report their behaviour to the concerned authorities. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and many other online platforms have created easy to use buttons to quickly report abusive behaviour and also help the victims by deleting their accounts permanently in case of serious allegations.
Call the police
In India we have cyber crime unit, a special cell which is purely dedicated to the crimes which takes place via internet. If a person does not have access to any of the cyber cells in India, he/she can file a cyber crime FIR at the local police station. Recently, the government has taken the initiative to report the cyber crime complaints online through National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal for a prompt action.
Tips to Prevent Cyber Stalking?
Becoming a victim will be far less likely if we follow these 7 simple tips:
To make sure your physical location is off
This is the most important thing which we should always keep in our minds and that is, to turn off the physical location of whichever app a person is using so that the cyber stalker could not get access to one’s physical location.
This ought to be foremost factor that one must logout from the online platform every time when not in use. This could put a bar on the stalker as they will not be able to access our account or hack our account. In addition to this, some applications have access to our location so this could prevent oneself to get access to our physical location in case our physical location is turned on.
This also can stop cyber stalking which means they cannot enter into our account find our personal details. Even if you shared your password mistakenly with someone, immediately change your password for your own benefit. A good or healthy password could play a major role in the prevention of cyber stalking.
Turn off the location on mobile phone
Interestingly, in today’s era we have pre installed location icon in almost every mobile phone to estimate an individual’s location. The location icon requires using of Wi-Fi, GPS etc to activate the location. Hence, if we turn off our location the cyber stalkers could not get access to our physical location.
Avoid disclosing sensitive information
Surprisingly, many people share their personal information on social media platforms which is not safe. One should avoid giving personal information such as address and phone number by filling out questionnaires or submitting applications for coupons or surveys. By doing this, a person is increasing the likelihood of someone getting their hand on your personal data and makes it easier for the cyber stalker to access your information.
To Hide IP Address
Many applications and services reveal one’s IP address to the person with whom the individual is communicating to. This might not be one of the important aspects of this crime but this information is directly related to one’s personal data. For instance, our IP address is linked to the internet bill that is sent to our home and which we pay with our credit card. Cyber stalkers can easily find your IP address and use it to find your credit card data and physical address. To prevent your IP address, Virtual Private Network (VPN) can be used as this hides our actual IP address and replaces it with a location of our choice. One could even appear to be in a different country. This acts as a protective line from the prying eyes of hackers.
There are a few laws available to deal with the issue of cyberstalking, but no particular law exists. The Government needs to think about the stalking law for effective prevention from cyberstalking. People must, however, be mindful of their actions and while sharing knowledge with others. Also, during the time of pandemic one must require to be extra careful about privacy.