The Digital technology is one of humanity's most significant inventions. Technology is fast evolving in the twenty-first century, as the country develops. Internet allows individual to explore the world and connect with different people. With the availability of the internet on different electronic devices, one cannot avoid its usage. However, this progress is a blessing as well as a curse for the society. The rise of internet has given birth to numerous cyber-crimes such as hacking, morphing, cyberstalking, web jacking, etc. This offence has power to worn out a country’s economy without any war. These cyber-crimes cause great threat to a person’s privacy. In India, cyber-crimes against women are on high. The Indian government mainly focuses on other crimes due to which these cyber-crimes are neglected and becomes more fatal. The demand of obscene material on internet is increasing which has given rise to morphing. The provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000 deals with these types of offences. These crimes not only affect women, but men are also susceptible to such acts.
The word morphing has been derived from the Greek word called metamorphoun which states the change in the identity of the person to a completely different look of another person. It has grown a lot in recent times. With the view from legal aspect, morphing is a cyber-crime in which images and video are morphed from one image to another by using various morphing tools and apps which are easily available on the internet. In recent times, the most targeted gender of morphing is women. People with malafide intention use morphing to create fake identities, misusing women pictures for creation of pornographic materials due to high demand of obscene material over the internet. This results to defamation of victim in the society which causes great effect to mental health of the person. Morphing leads to violation of Information Technology Act,2000, and Article-21 of the Constitution. There are several provisions under Information Technology Act 2000 and Indian Penal Code 1860 which deals with cyber-crimes. Women can be victimised in two ways because of various forms of deceptive portrayal, as demonstrated below:
Visual images of the victim are used to represent the victim: The targeted media in this pattern could be Facebook and pornographic websites. Images of the victim depicted indecently may be included in the representation. These images can be complemented with victim's full details so that the viewers can know the victim more personally.
False and derogatory verbal descriptions of the victim were used in the representation: The targeted platforms in this pattern could be Twitter, Facebook groups, Instagram and so on. The victim's professional orientation and political philosophy may be specifically targeted, and the victim may be described in an objectionable manner. Personal anger is the most recognized reason or objective for these crimes.
The significance of social media in morphing is significant. Young people are well-versed in the use of social media platforms and have thus begun to create illegal content. The rise of morphing in today’s era is due to high usage of social media and due to the covid pandemic 2020-21, according to Digital India reports the number of social media users has drastically increased by 21%.
LAWS RELATING TO MORPHING-
The first law on cybercrime was enacted in the Council of Europe's Convention on November 23, 2001, which was effective on July 1, 2004, in Budapest due to which it is also called as Budapest convention. Most of the country's cybercrime legislation is based on this standard. The first legislation made in India regarding cyber-crimes was Information Technology Act 2000. This act was hastily amended by Lok Sabha in 2008 due to the recent terror attacks in Bombay. This new law gave birth to new provisions linked to cybercrime. Various provisions which deal with morphing are demonstrated as follows: -
Section-66E of Information Technology Act, 2000- This provision was created to address the issues concerning violation of privacy. If a person captures transfers or publish any image of private area of other person with bad intention without his consent, this is deemed breaching personal privacy of someone, will be punished with imprisonment up to three years or with a penalty up to two lack or both.
Section-67 of Information Technology Act, 2000- It states that if any person is posting or transferring any obscene material in electronic will be punished.
Section-67A of Information Technology Act, 2000- This provision describes the punishment for the offences under section 66. According to this section if an accused is committing the crime for first time, imprisonment for up to five years or with the fine up to 10 lacs or both.
Section-43 of Information Technology Act, 2000- This section deals with penalties and compensation. If any individual gives damage to other persons electronic devices
without his permission to access or copy or download any data will be liable for the penalty and the compensation to the owner.
Section 499 of Indian Penal Code 1860- It describes that if a person intentionally harms other persons reputation by words, signs or by visual representation, that person's reputation is said to be defamed.
Section 500 of Indian Penal Code 1860- If an individual tries to defame the other person shall be punished with imprisonment of 1 year which may increase to 2 years. The criminal can also be punished with fine or both imprisonment and fine.
Section 501 of Indian Penal Code 1860- This section deals with matters related to printing and refinishing material that can be defamatory to another person. If a person prints or engrave material which can defame another person, then the accused will be liable for imprisonment of a year to 2 years or with fine or both.
Section 292 of Indian Penal Code 1860- this section deals with sale purchase etc of obscene materials which appeals to dissolute interest and defame someone personality. If the person is committing the crime for the first time, then he will be liable for a punishment of 2 years and fine up to 2000 rupees and if the person is committing a same crime for second time, then the imprisonment can be increased to five years and fine to 5000 rupees.
IMPACT OF MORPHING ON CHILDREN
Almost every student child nowadays has access to social media, but unfortunately, few of them are aware of their privacy settings. Even under lockdown, enhanced technology allows all school and college classes to be accessed online. Even tiny children have a good understanding of how to use technology. They expose themselves to all kinds of cyber harassment by making details of their private lives public. According to a 2012 international research conducted by software giant Microsoft, 53 percent of India's children have been experienced cyberbullying. Child Pornography, kidnapping, morphing, trafficking are the examples of cyber-crimes against children which are drastically increasing. The youngster develops a variety of personalities, including social isolation, a limited number of general friendships, bad attitudes and ignorance, and problems being accepted in activities, schools, and the workplace. Furthermore, privacy and life and accomplishment standards are lowered, and many children attempt suicide because of their awful photos being uploaded online.
MORPHING HELP CRIMINALS - To get across the border, criminals find someone who looks like them, whether it is a family member or an unknown random person, and then use that person's passport photo to move them into the country. Once the criminals have applied for a passport, officials check to see that the passport photo matches the person standing in front of them. This assists the criminals in getting out of the country.
REASONS FOR GROWTH OF MORPHING
The ready availability of personal information about victims, such as images, names, and contact information, is one of the main reasons for the occurrence of cyber-crimes like morphing. People use social networking sites in large numbers, and many of them do not secure their accounts, making them vulnerable to cybercrime.
Sociological Reasons- Women are especially vulnerable to cybercrime since the criminal's identity stays secret, and he may repeatedly intimidate and harass the victim utilizing various names and identities, and women often fear that filing a case will cause difficulties for their families. Due to the incompetence of reports, the spirits of the perpetrators rise even higher.
Another reason is negligence of users and their ignorance. There are several elements that contribute to women becoming victims on social networking sites, which is a lack of understanding of policy rules and safety precautions. Before enrolling with social media platforms, the percent of people never read the policy standards.
The Social Networking Site's sluggish response- Most of the social platforms notify the users in case of violation of their services and they have policies to deal with the same and the time frame for acting might range from 24 hours to 15 days. The victim may be required to act within 24 hours because of the offence's impact. The victim must delete his profile between the stipulated time or must exit the group or that society. The victim's panic is heightened by the website's slow or non-responsive response, and the harasser has an unlimited number of possibilities to hurt the victim within the time limit.
One of the main reasons for the growth is of morphing in children is their anger. Youngsters use the method of morphing to exact revenge on their peers after a fight has taken place. To illustrate, police in Odisha apprehended an 18-year-old after he posted altered indecent and obscene photos of a girl on social media platforms after she turned down his marriage proposal. During the investigation, an adequate evidence was discovered against the accused, leading to his capture.
The fast globalisation and modernization of the world's economies, as well as the growing desire for personal computers in underdeveloped nations, are all contributing factors to the rise in the number of victims. Recent years have seen an increase of 108 percent in the overall commercial PC market in India.
The most recent case law of morphing was in April 2021of X vs. Union of India and others where the photographs of victim was taken from social media accounts without her consent and have been posted illegally on obscene sites and some other personal details of the victim was also shared. The accused was held liable under section 67 and 67A of the information technology act 2000 for the same.
Another example in this category is the Air Force Balbharati School case (Delhi), in which a kid was harassed by all his classmates for having a mottled face. He decided to retaliate against his torturers since he was tired of the nasty pranks. And he scanned photos of his classmates and teachers, merged them with naked photos, and posted them on a website he created. When the father of one of the classmates depicted on the website learned of this, he filed a police report. Such acts are punishable under the I.T. Act, 2000, and are subject to Section- 43 and 66 of the said Act. IPC Section- 509 can also be used to prosecute the offender.
Ok A 29-year-old man was detained in Odisha for reportedly publishing many modified indecent images and videos of a state minister and a girl on several websites, regarding the individual enmity against the girl's father, whose astronomical forecasts about the accuser's career went terribly wrong. After going unemployed for 13 years, the accused gathered the girl's images and altered them with the education minister. When the minister became aware of the photos, he filed a complaint with the cybercrime police and therefore the accused was held liable under Section-294, 465, 469. 500 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Section 67 and 67A of Information Technology Act, 2000.
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AUTHOR- PARUL GARG
AMITY LAW SCHOOL, NOIDA