New Internationalist

Cyber criminals nailed by Chennai police


We need to fight abuse via social media and mobile phones. Photo: keiyac, under a CC license.

Some good news for a change! I’ve read so many articles about Indian girls and women being blackmailed and sexually harassed with compromising photographs and videos; stories of men who have forced their girlfriends to have sex with other men, threatening to expose them to their friends and family if they refuse. But now our local paper, The Hindu, has announced that, unusually, the police have arrested two men who used Twitter to threaten Chennai-based singer Chinamayi.

The problem, Chinamayi complained, started around two years ago, when some men asked her to support their cause. She refused, because she felt uncomfortable about their strategy of employing abusive, sometimes filthy, and always politically incorrect, language against the people they were fighting. So they began a relentless campaign against her, tweeting slander against her and her mother. They used ‘casteist’ and vulgar remarks. In India, ‘casteist’ abuse is the equivalent of using the ‘N’ word in the US. On 18 October, Chinamayi fought back. She lodged a police complaint asking for action to be taken to protect her from nasty, abusive tweets.

The Chennai police traced the tweet to one of the offenders, an architecture student. The other offender is a professor at the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Chennai. The profile of these men is interesting. I wonder what the reactions of their colleagues will be? These crimes are also an indictment of sections of our society. If there are people – family and friends of predators – who are receptive to filthy videos blackmailing women, then something is definitely rotten in our country. Or at least, with some sections of our population.

Girls and women are not the only victims, however. We need to crack down really severely on different groups of nasty predators who use the internet to prey on their victims. There are networks of pedophiles who exchange information and arrive at tourist spots to violate helpless child victims. So much of this is traceable on the net.

Women’s groups must fight back. We need to create new tools to fight 21st-century problems like mobile-phone and internet abuse via texts, Twitter, Facebook and so on. We must create awareness that, rather than succumbing to the feeling of being trapped and helpless, girls can seek justice at help-centres and cybercrime shelters to help solve these kinds of problems. We tend to feel inadequate because, for large sections of activists, fighting tech-savvy crimes seems a whole different game. An incomprehensible one. Many of us are unfamiliar with our laptops beyond using email and a few other features. But there is an entire world of young, net-savvy women out there who can join the fight against abuse, blackmail and sexual slavery.

I know there are young people – both men and women – who want to give back to society. Who want to do something useful and constructive with their lives. These are specially bright, talented tech-savvy folk who have made it in today’s world. They’ve been there. Done everything. They have money, cars, fancy gadgets, flats. They’ve achieved most things at a very young age. And now they want new challenges. Not merely money. I think it will help us hugely if we get these young people from the IT and corporate worlds to fight these issues. Their issues.

I think the challenges of the new century need new solutions and new faces. Young faces. So why not send out the challenge to the new generation? Let’s fight the filth thrown at our women. And let’s fight it their way.

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