Vrinda Shukla, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Crimes Against Women and Children, Indian Police Service, in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, in The Indian Express (October 8, 2020)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes
With only three days to go before her wedding, the bride-to-be received a call from her fiancé. Nothing could have prepared her for what he had to say. Hundreds of links had suddenly appeared on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook flashing extremely obscene pictures of the woman. Thus began a terrible nightmare for the hapless woman, her sole solace the strength of character and commitment of the groom-to-be.
The couple approached the police. It was a classic case of revenge porn – an invasion of sexual privacy and a form of online harassment where the perpetrator, usually a disgruntled ex-partner, posts intimate photos, often to shame the subject. The consequences for victims can be extreme, encompassing honor killings, breakdown of relationships, destruction of reputation and career, and immense emotional trauma.
While the police may succeed in prosecuting the perpetrators of such crimes, it can do little to clean up the mess left behind on the internet, the root cause of the victim’s suffering. Reporting such content by victims to social media platforms is often of no avail. Facebook receives half a million reports of revenge porn each month.
The dissemination of such photos and videos deserves to be defined as a sexual violation. It will then be considered a serious offence and encourage victims to report such crimes. Demanding accountability from social media giants is more important. Several countries have proposed tough laws on the issue, including imprisonment of their executives in extreme cases of non-compliance of requests made by law enforcement authorities.
With India having the world’s largest population of young people vulnerable to new mutations of deeply scarring sex crimes, the public-interest litigation filed in the Supreme Court is critical to establishing an efficient mechanism to remove sexually graphic abusive content and to seek accountability from social media platforms.