Here’s an account of how things change for the better if you just take a stand against people who harass others online behind their veil of anonymity
Words Malini Agarwal
When I started MissMalini.com in 2008, little did I know that the internet was going to become my second home over the next few years. But it did. Presently, my team and I spend more than half of our days on social media because of the nature of our work (and frankly, it’s also because we love it!). We’re almost obsessed with keeping up with the latest trends from across the world, tracking the new hashtags and consuming all the cool content that gets shared on cyberspace every single day. So it’s only natural that I want my virtual world to be as livable as my real one. And I also seek the same amount of safety and comfort for my friends and family online.
Unfortunately, that’s far from the truth. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad. To be honest, I think it is both the best and the worst time to be on the internet right now. On one hand, there are endless opportunities for artists, creators, entrepreneurs and anyone and everyone who wants to showcase their talent, work or products to a vast sea of consumers. There are online courses, webinars, and even workouts and dance classes being held over Zoom calls. You can also find a lot of information and conversations happening around topics like feminism, mental health, LGBTQI rights, positive masculinity, racism, menstruation, sexuality, body positivity and much more on the internet nowadays – which was not the case even until a few years ago. So yay for that!
BUT on the other hand, online abuse, harassment, trolling and several other forms of cyberbullying have become so rampant that most people are seldom shocked even when they witness something heinous on social media. They don’t question or challenge it just because someone’s doing it from under the veil of anonymity. In fact, our ignorance has empowered these trolls to such an extent that some of them don’t even feel the need to conceal their identity even while sending the nastiest DMs. There are people who use their real accounts to send something as grave as a rape threat. Do we really want to live in a world where THAT is acceptable?
I’m guessing (and hoping) your answer is a big ‘No’. I’d like to believe that just like me, all of you want our next generation to grow up in a safer, kinder and happier place. So we have to join hands and build it together. I believe that if we really put our minds to it, we can change what's wrong, only if we don't ignore it anymore.
I thought I was already doing my bit in making social media a more positive space through Malini’s Girl Tribe. But I was wrong. I was used to ignoring inappropriate pics and creepy DMs in my inbox. Then something happened a while ago that shook me out of my state of complacency. I have a friend who’s an actress and model named Teena Singh and she has been known to call out creeps publicly on Instagram and been very much applauded for it.
When we put our foot down and took a stand and turned from ‘sl*t’ and ‘wh**e’ to ‘ma’am’ and ‘didi’ in just a matter of moments
One day, she took things up a notch by finding the profiles of parents, teachers and relatives of the offending DMers and started reporting them directly to their families. This, I thought, was all kinds of genius. Not so much taking the law into your own hands but giving the folks at home a serious reality check into exactly what their Raja beta does online all day.
Around the same time, I got introduced to the ‘cybercop’ working in the ‘Bois Locker Room’ case - Shubham Singh. He guided me through the process of reporting some online harassers. When we put our foot down and took a stand, both Teena and I turned from ‘sl*t’ and ‘wh**e’ to ‘ma’am’ and ‘didi’ in just a matter of moments. That’s when I decided to start an initiative called #IgnoreNoMoreOnline to empower and inform people about cyberbullying. A lot of it is a criminal offence and we should not let it slip so easily.
The process of reporting cybercrime is fairly straightforward. You make a list of all the people you want to report. You gather their virtual information like URLs, handles and collect evidence like screenshots of their comments or DMs. Then you report everything to www.cybercrime.gov.in. You can call them on their helpline number 155260 to find extensive details on cybercrimes as well as how to report and track them. After Teena and Shubham, several celebrities, ethical hackers and pro bono lawyers have come forward and volunteered to be a part of this campaign and I couldn't be more grateful. Let’s combat the issue of the ever-increasing rate of online harassment, let’s change the attitude of “Arre, just block that account yaar.” Let’s come together and #IgnoreNoMoreOnline!