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International Women’s Day 2021 – Safety tips for your Facebook and Instagram account

International Women’s Day 2021 – Safety tips for your Facebook and Instagram account


  • GS 3 II Security II Internal Security Threats II Social Media & Internal Security

Why in the news?

On social media platforms, harassment and safety is a major concern for women. From strangers messaging on Facebook to unwanted comments on Instagram photos, there are several problems that women face when navigating social media

Women safety on digital platform:


  • As the world embraces a digital life where we are connected 24X7, the Internet has become our second life and mobile phones an extension of our personalities.
  • For all practical purposes mobile apps have blurred the lines between what is personal, social and professional. But as much as ‘digital’ is making our lives easy, we are also being exposed to the dark side of this ‘virtual life’.
  • When it comes to cyber harm, it is hard to distinguish what age or gender is at a greater risk. But in recent times there have been a spate of incidents targeting women with their safety being compromised.
  • Some example of online harassment of female:
    • There was the recent case of a US-based 26-year-old physiotherapist, whose cloud account was hacked and private videos stolen by a blackmailer. And a 17-year-old girl from Udaipur whose photos, taken from her social media account, were morphed before being circulated on the internet
    • Attacks were most common on Facebook, where 39 percent of girls polled said they had been harassed, followed by Instagram (23 percent), WhatsApp (14 percent), Snapchat (10 percent), Twitter (9 percent) and TikTok (6 percent).
  • Due to lack of awareness, cybercrime victims, especially women, do not come out in the open and register a complaint, and even if they do, they are not taken seriously.
  • Recent data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that every sixth cybercrime in India is committed through social media.

India, with its younger population hooked on to social media:

  • Recent data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that every sixth cybercrime in India is committed through social media.
  • Lack of awareness and ignorance are the root cause:
    • With nearly 14% of our population now on social media and this number only likely to rise in the near future, the need to create awareness has become more important than ever.
    • It is more so for women, as they are the most vulnerable group, only after children, to fall prey to these crimes.
    • People often forget that the virtual world is not so virtual. That activities performed on social platforms could have real consequences in the real world.

Threats to women on digital platform:

  • Women are the most vulnerable to cyber-abuse, such as online harassment, and their increased presence on social media often makes them the focus of oppressive practices. Women face gendered obstacles both online and in public spaces as a result of this.
  • Due to the difficulty of tracing criminals and the sophistication and inaccessibility of justice delivery systems, online offenses are often normalized.
  • In this context, social media has become a platform for rapists to intimidate their victims not to report the crime, increasing public distrust of the justice system and further marginalizing women. Harassers use such outlets to silence women who want to change misogynistic social norms.
  • According to a report, a third of the women polled avoided sharing their opinions online because they were afraid of being abused. Online trolling has spread beyond the internet, resulting in cases such as suicides.
  • According to an international report, 20% of women who have been attacked offline believe their assaults are related to the online harassment they have received.
  • Some people are also targeted by stalkers as a result of their online activity. This is particularly common in areas with lax law enforcement, powerful patriarchy, and widespread online trolling.
  • According to an Amnesty International study titled “Troll Patrol India: Exposing Online Abuse Faced by Women Politicians in India,” the majority of victims are members of minority faiths, marginalized caste communities, and some who are members of opposition parties with opposing political ideologies.
  • According to the survey, women lawmakers in India face twice as much violence as their counterparts in the United States and the United Kingdom.
  • In recent years, the internet has been used to discriminate against women, with hate campaigns abounding around the world.

Being safe online:

A few important steps that women should follow to ensure their safety while enjoying an active social life online:

  • Say no to strangers: It is very important to know the person personally before knowing him/her virtually. If you don’t say yes to strangers in real life why allow them access to your social profiles.
  • Be very careful with passwords: Do not share your passwords with your friends, family members, etc. The risk of personal data going out is even higher if you have a common password, which, in turn, is shared with ‘near and dear ones’
  • Customise personal settings carefully: Turn off your location services in the settings in all the devices you use and check for the same under the privacy settings on all social media accounts as well. Potential abusers may identify patterns from your posts and attack you based on the same.
  • Think before share: You should be extremely careful about what you post on social media as this may lead to people forming opinions about you and could take an ugly turn.
  • Don’t follow trends blindly, be smart with them: Don’t hashtag anything and everything you post on social media as it makes you visible on the internet. Therefore, think before hashtag is used
  • Protect computer: Install anti-virus software to safeguard your devices. Also, ensure that your browser, operating system and software are up to date.
  • Remember to log off when work is done: Last but not the least, try not to be online 24×7.

Regulation issue of social media:

  • There is no explicit provision in India regulating Social Media. However, there are series of laws which do regulated content on Social media -:
    • Information Technology Act, 2000 – Social networking media is an “intermediary” within the meaning of the act and is liable for various acts or omissions that are punishable under the laws of India; Section 79 of the act mandates that if there is some objectionable material on a site then there is ought to be action within 36 hours of the offence being pointed out.
    • Indian Penal Code (IPC) – Promoting enmity between groups on grounds of religion, Race etc. (S. 153A), Defamation (S. 499), Insulting The Modesty Of A Woman (S 509), Criminal Intimidation (S 506), Sedition (S124-A), Defamation (S 499 and S 500) etc. can be invoked against content on social media.
    • Cyberstalking of women: Cyberstalking involves anonymously following the victims’ movement across the internet for harassing in platforms frequently visited by them and bombarding them with emails, messages etc.
    • This offence encompasses sending threatening/obscene contents, stealing an individual’s identity and circulating misinformation about the same for humiliating and harassing, tracing individual’s locations illegally, posting derogatory remarks online etc.
    • Section 354A and 354D of the IPC penalises cyberstalking of women.
    • Online sexual harassment: The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, CrPC 1973 and Indian Evidence Act enable prosecution of sexual harassment.
    • Fake profile creation:
    • Fake profiles are often created for sullying victims’ reputation.
    • If the creation of such profiles is accompanied by the uploading of vulgar or obscene photos of the victim, following sections of the IPC will apply:
    • Section 354A (sexual harassment)
    • Section 354D (stalking)
    • Sections 499 and 500 (defamation and punishment for defamation)
    • Section 507 (criminal intimidations by an anonymous communication)
    • Section 509 (word, gesture or act for insulting the modesty of women)
    • Obscenity:
    • Digital transmission of materials that are obscene, sexually explicit etc., would attract penalty under Sections 67, 67A and 67B of the IT Act.
    • Section 67B of IT Act deals with Child pornography.
    • Sections 292 and 294 of the IPC also have similar provisions.
    • Privacy breach:
    • Section 66E of the IT Act penalises individuals who intentionally captures, publishes or transmits images of a private area without consent.
    • Activities insulting the modesty or breaching the privacy of a woman are punishable under Section 509 of the IPC.

Initiatives taken by the government:

  • Cyber Safe Movement: Initiated by Maharashtra cyber police, it was a week-long campaign aimed at creating awareness about cybercrimes targeting women and children. This came in response to the increased number of cybercrimes like stalking, picture morphing, online abuse and defamation, sextortion, pornography, matrimonial and dating apps fraud.
  • CybHER: It is an online awareness campaign initiated by the Telangana police for women and children. It emphasised on the threats within cyberspace.


The potential of social media is revolutionary. With increasing digital penetration and increasing development of application, social media rise is indispensable. Also, the values of social media like freedom, transparency, openness etc. are innate to human beings, part of their social being. As Victor Hugo said, “No power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come”. Today, this power is “Social Media”.

Mains oriented question:

In the functioning of democracies, social media is a double-edged sword. Examine the argument critically in light of current events. (200 words)