Social Media is undoubtedly one of the most significant innovation of 21st century. It eased the way people used to interact and communicate. However, everything comes with its own demerits, so does the Social Media. It has become a platform for abuse, harassments, and various other social crimes.
Women are the most vulnerable to cyber abuse like online harassment. Increased attention of women in social media often makes them the target of repressive activities, which results in gendered barriers for women online as in public places.
Online offences are often normalized due to the difficulty in tracing offenders and the complexity and inaccessibility of the justice delivery mechanisms, which creates mistrust of the public towards the justice system, leading to the further marginalization of women.
In this backdrop, social media has become a tool for the rapists to threaten their victims to not report the crime. Platforms such a Instagram and Facebook have been used by Jihadi harassers to commit religious motivated attacks and silence Hindu women and girls, who strive to break the misogynistic social norms.
There are many objectionable pages on Facebook, that provoke people to target Hindu women because of their religion. The page admins share highly objectionable and explicit images and videos, which show Hindu women with identifiable and cultural markers such as bindi, sindoor, and bangles that differentiates Hindu women from others. The posts uploaded on these pages exhort followers to target and sexualise Hindu women.
Instagram, which is another product of Facebook, is another robust social media platform that is rife with harassment and misogyny against the Hindu women. There are numerous accounts active on the Instagram that repeatedly indulge in objectifying Hindu women by sharing pictures of them with identifiable markers to portray them as Hindus.
They also serve the pictures of Muslim males that are superimposed with Islamic symbols such as the crescent moon to characterize them as Muslims. They also do some collaboration of Hindu Girls and Muslim Boys and then spread in their Broadcast lists and channels, which are created to commoditizing and sexualising Hindu women.
Even the chat application Telegram has also become a breeding ground for sexual harassment of women based on their religion. There are many Telegram channels, that are using images of Hindu women with derogatory, sexually explicit references for harassment and abuse. Even the audio-only chat app Clubhouse has been misused by some depraved individuals to continue their misogyny against Hindu women.
The mentality demonstrated by these criminals is the one that furthers crime such as ‘Grooming Jihad’, that is openly happening in western World. The radical islamist and sexual predators target Hindu women, often trap them using fake identities (Hindu identities) before obtaining their photographs in comprising situation. These photographs are then used to blackmail the woman into converting to Islam.
Such instances often end terribly for the women, who are shamed in public by leaking the photographs, or even murdered. We have seen numerous such cases in India, and many states such as Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat have enacted stringent laws against such perverts.
Government is taking action, but that is too little too late
While the number of such incidents are increasing, the action taken by law authorities and government are too little too late. Recently, we have seen miniscule action from the Government, where they have blocked or banned such objectionable accounts, websites, or groups. But honestly speaking, this cannot be an ideal way of ensuring that women do not endure online abuse.
The truth is, that despite repeated endeavor of social media users to raise such issues, these issues seldom get the kind of attention they deserve and only some of them are brought to notice, often depending on the discretion of Ministers or influential people. In some cases that manage to gain prominence, the pages and abusive accounts get suspended but those who are responsible for creating and running them are hardly brought to book.
It can be rightly concluded that the free flow of ideas and easily accessible content on social media platforms may instigate adolescents to engage themselves in crimes in the real world. In addition to this, a number of factors and instances cited above prove that social networking sites act as platforms for adolescents to commit various illegal acts.
This may jeopardize the future of our youth and put them behind bars at an age when they grow and develop into valuable assets for our nation. It is the need of the hour that we understand the intolerable future consequences of exposure to social media content and protect the adolescents from falling into this dangerous zone.