Social Media and Cyber Laws
With the emergence of a parallel, digital world; people from all around the world now have a common platform of connection and expression- the Internet. But like our normal, physical world – the digital world is also not free of the inherent biases and sexism which cloud over women on a day to day basis.
This existence of these partialities and prejudice raises a very important question- What does the ‘feminist’ version of the internet look like?
The Internet, in all its glory and grandeur, has become the breeding ground for harassment against women. It now provides a new forum for harassment and violence- be it lewd comments on social media, being a victim to misogynistic and sexist memes or tweets or plain and simple cyber-stalking. If you were to go around and conduct a survey asking the women in your life about the messages they receive on their social media or if they have faced a persistent pest, the stories will shock you.
The veil of anonymity and distance has appeared to give individuals immunity from any accountability.
As per data available with the National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB), the number of cases of cyber-crimes registered between 2014 and 2016 rose from 749 to 930. This data might very well be increased even more in 2020, and this is just taking into account the number of reported cases.
Despite well-intentioned provisions such as those of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 or the Information Technology Act, 2000; we are yet to provide a ‘safe space’ to what constitutes nearly 48% of the Indian population.
It is not just about the harassment and violence faced on the Internet; it is also about the lack of representation in the working of the same. Take Google, for instance. Among the 69% male employees of the conglomerate, 76% of those are in leadership positions.
The vacuums created in the system of internet governance makes it impossible to even think about the creation of a space wherein there can be equal representation and provision of equal rights.
However, we cannot neglect the positives provided to us by said creation.
If Ada Lovelace were to look at the battle being fought on this digital creation today for basic rights and protections, for access to and dissemination of information, for calling out patriarchal notions and oppressors, there would be a smile on her face. Feminism, as a philosophy and a theory, speaks of equality of all genders. It speaks about the creation and provision of an equal, level field wherein co-existence is harmonious. It is one where behind-the-scenes representation is adequate to ensure effective internet governance.
Simply put, a feminist internet would be one where women and queer persons – from all backgrounds, have affordable and equal access; and are able to create, design and use technologies to challenge sexism and discrimination. It is one where feminists’ use of the internet is linked to resistance in other spaces and where the internet allows us to connect and demand accountability.
On the occasion of International Women’s Day, which started to celebrate the adoption of women’s suffrage in Soviet Russia, we should work towards empowering and embracing our diversities and differences to present a united front for the dismantling of patriarchy and oppression – one Instagram post at a time.
 Economic Times – “Over 60% cases at state women’s panel on social media harassment”, accessible at https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/over-60-cases-at-state-womens-panel-on-social-media-harassment/articleshow/67863140.cms, last accessed March 8th, 2020.
 Google Blog – “Focussing on Diversity”, accessible at https://blog.google/topics/diversity/focusing-on-diversity30/, last accessed March 8th, 2020.
 The Guardian – “What does a feminist internet look like?”, accessible at https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/12/feminist-internet-empowering-online-harassment, last accessed March 8th, 2020.