The curious case of the Helpless Cyber Cell in India

India the land of IIT’s, the back bone of the Internet, pretty much running the social media movement across the globe (agree we do not own the platforms, but most of the engineering, and maximum use of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp is being done by Indians). So much so that our Prime Minister, whose flagship project is called Digital India, is super active on Twitter and has visited Facebook’s head quarters.

I wonder, that after all this awesomeness, why is it that our Cyber Cell is totally clueless when it comes to cyber threats against women? It seems to be that rape/murder/abuse on the social media platforms is an epidemic. When the report is taken to the Cyber Crime cell, the first suggestion is to get off the Internet. Which might be a good suggestion for anyone living in the Stone Age, but for most of you reading this you understand what a useless suggestion it is.

After some persuasion comes the suggestion- ask Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/WhatsApp to send us a report. Fair enough! Though that’s not how the system works as all social media platforms have official working channels, our cyber cells need a *proper* FIR to be forwarded via the registered email id to even get started on the investigation. Filing a *proper* FIR is an art by itself, one does come across an artist or two in the metropolitan cities and state capitals but if you happen to visit any small town police station in India all one witnesses is a tragedy. I myself have been on long calls with helpless constables who have no clueless about the cyber terminology of “Status update”, “Revenge Porn” and don’t know the difference between profile and handle.

The list is long and ever evolving. So what do we do, or rather what can we do. Being an activist my approach remains from the field and using the tools we have. We need to build capacities of our cyber crime units, adding social medial savvy millennials to the crew. As the cyber space is ever evolving, we cannot come up with old methodologies of manuals and standard operating procedures. Additionally, a stronger communication channel between police and social media platforms, At the moment it is in a bottleneck situation, to put it optimistically.

But the most important magical ingredient of this, is the citizens’ will to change the scenario. Presently we find ourselves helpless and pessimistic to curb cyber abuse. Cyber forensics, though expensive, can help trace down devices from which the content generated, in fact we have seen rapid action taken by police on matters of cartoons, status updates regarding the cities traffic situation as a prominent leader had passed away. I am sure if the same urgency is shown in cases of cyber violence against women we will achieve a lot more.

Till then, Centre For Social Research has a WhatsApp helpline 08826888302 where we help out in cyber crime cases. Please reach out, also you can find the updated contact addresses of cyber crime cells under this link. Also a link to help you file an FIR.

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