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Dealing with revenge porn 

In the backdrop of increasing revenge porn videos on internet, Express digs into the system to churn out a possible solution to the problem

Published: 26th January 2020 06:36 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th January 2020 06:36 AM   |  A+A-

Illustration: Amit Bandre

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Riya was 15 when she was raped by her neighbour. Four years since the nightmare, Priya still lives in fear that a video of her assault would be on the internet, and that she would be recognized. This was the primary reason why she quit school, and took up homeschooling. Now a college student, Priya still feels unnerved when people look at her for more than a few seconds. She fears they would recognize her. Priya was raped in September 2015 by her neighbour. The ordeal continued till she became pregnant. The neighbour had claimed to have videotaped the assaults, and threatened to leak them online if she refused to cooperate. 

Even today, she checks the internet to see if her video has been leaked. Experts point out that once a video is uploaded on to the internet, there is a no complete delete option. With the trend of rapists filming their crime increasing, it’s no longer about coming out of the trauma of the incident for the victims.  They live in perpetual fear of their assault being leaked online. Awareness about this part of the crime is still low among law enforcement agencies. In Priya’s case for instance, the police did not include the fact that the accused had videotaped the incident, in the chargesheet. They made no efforts to trace or delete the videos. 

Once online...
Experts say it’s nearly impossible to completely delete any digital content. However, with coordinated efforts, the reach of such videos can be curtailed. “Tracing people who upload and download such videos can be challenging as there is a ban on most of these sites,” says Alagunambi Welkin of Union of IT and ITES Employees.

“Suspects find different ways to leak the videos. However, on the brighter side, the government has technology to trace the uploading process, and also get an alert if the video is uploaded again, immaterial of the time frame.” The only problem is they have to keep a track of it, in which they fail, says Welkin.    Abroad, there are paid services that help victims delete revenge porn content. In India, the question is if there is such a private firm, is there a monitoring board to check them from misusing the content. Recently, Twitter banned revenge porn posts. Most other websites take down obscene content once reported.

Noting that most victims are unaware of their videos or photos being leaked on the internet, experts say doing a search with your full name can tell if any offending material is online. Reverse image searches may also help. S Prasana Venkatesh, executive committee member of Free Software Foundation Tamil Nadu (FSFTN) says content once uploaded can be traced and monitored, but once minor changes are done, the file becomes a new file and hence, untraceable. 

“We can still approach the legal route and contact service providers, but its a long and tedious process,” says Venkatesh. A senior police officer says it would still be ineffective. “Even if we find the accused and the websites on which he has uploaded the videos, and taken them down, chances are other viewers have already downloaded the video. They might circulate the same video a few years later.”

Priya is not alone in her ordeal. With video evidence becoming a dangerous weapon to silence victims, such threats are now rampant. Activists point out that victims can come forward to file a criminal  defamation suit and make the person who uploaded the video pay a huge monetary compensation. This could work as a deterrent. “Also, parents and family members should be more supportive and help the victims overcome the fear,” the police officer points out.

A senior police officer in the Cyber Crime Branch says, “We have all the mechanism to delete if any such videos are uploaded. The first step when such cases are reported is to seize all the electronic items and send it to the forensic lab to check if the video has been shared or uploaded. We also monitor all the websites where these videos would be viewed.”

Recently, the state police sent out a message that viewers of child  pornographic material in the internet will be apprehended and prosecuted under the Information of Technology Act and POCSO Act. M Ravi, additional director-general of police says that as many as 1,500 people have either shared or downloaded child pornographic material from the Internet. “The internet protocol of these viewers are being traced and the police will book them under relevant cases. We have an exclusive cyber laboratory and a few cyber ethical hacking volunteers, who would help us to trace and track the suspects,” he says.

It may be noted that, only if the victim is aware that the incident has been videotaped can she file a complaint, but the police during investigations fail to check if the accused has videotaped the incident. 
Lawyer N Lalitha says the people watching this also have to be blamed. “After a recent rape and murder in Hyderabad, there was an article which pointed out that there were more than thousands of searches on Google for rape videos. Same happened after the Pollachi case. Who is to be blamed now? Only the person shooting, or also those looking for the videos?” 

“Of late, people are being booked under the IT Act for criticising governments. But if a woman files a complaint about receiving threats over the phone or social networking platforms, or if they complain of receiving obscene content online, they are directed to file a case under the IT Act. No further action is taken,” says Lalitha, adding that the police department was still far behind in adoption of modern technology while criminals are finding new ways to commit crimes and intimidate victims.

sexual abuse cases related to revenge porn

Pollachi case: The accused videotaped the entire crime. The police are unable to check if or not the videos are uploaded on websites, yet.

In July 2018: An 11-year-old hearing-impaired girl was allegedly gang raped by 15 men, and was videotaped. The case was initially filed under the POCSO Act and later under Section 14 of the same, after it was added.

In Nov 2018: Two men were arrested by the police in two different incidents of sexual harassment against a woman and a juvenile, threatening to upload their naked pictures on the internet. They were arrested under the POCSO Act on rape charges.

In Nov 2018: Two men were arrested for allegedly filming the female nursing staff of a private hospital in Saidapet.

In Nov 2019: A 28-year-old tuition teacher and her male friend were arrested for forcing a school student to pose for explicit videos. The duo was arrested under POCSO Act. However, Section 14 was not included.

What the law says
IT Act, 2000: 67A - Punishment for publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act, etc., in electronic form

67B - Punishment for publishing or transmitting of material depicting  children in sexually explicit act, etc., in electronic form

POCSO Act, 2012
Section 14 and 15 of the Act are proposed to be amended to address the menace of child pornography by levying fine for not destroying, deleting or reporting pornographic material involving a child with an intention to share or transmit it



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