Online harassment is an epidemic all over the world, including in India. A recent nationwide survey by Bumble India found that 83% of women have experienced online harassment of some kind, with 1 in 3 reporting that they experience it weekly. And it’s worsened since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, women in India report: 70% say they believe cyberbullying has increased since lockdown began.
As a result of this digital abuse epidemic, well over half (59%) of women we surveyed in India said they feel unsafe. No one should have to feel afraid of harassment online, nor should they — as 1 in 3 women reported — put on a brave face and let this behavior slide for fear of retribution.
Bumble India has teamed up with Mumbai-based public safety platform Safecity to create a safety guide to help our community identify, prevent, and combat these common types of digital abuse and harassment.
Cyber stalking means using any form of electronic communication to follow or attempt to contact or interact with someone, despite a clear indication of disinterest from that person. A cyber stalker monitors their victim’s digital footprint, whether that’s via email, social media, or any other digital platform. Catfishing, monitoring locations and online check-ins, lurking on Google Maps Street View, and hijacking webcams are all forms of cyber stalking.
If you’re experiencing any of these, the first step would be to disengage with the stalker. Avoid contact with them in any capacity, both online and in person. Regardless of whether you intend to pursue legal action, it’s important to document the entire incident (or incidents, if there’s been more than one). Consider changing your passwords if the abuse and harassment don’t stop. Block and report the stalker on the relevant platforms. If you’d like to file an official complaint, you can do so on the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal, or report it to the police.
Stalking can be a traumatic experience, resulting in a feeling of helplessness and loss of control. This is a completely normal reaction; give yourself some time to heal, and remember, none of this was your fault. It can also help to tell a trusted friend or loved one about what happened so you’re not going through this alone.
Doxxing means revealing another person’s personal information without their consent, including their full name, home or office address, phone number, or any other identifying details. If you think that your information has been compromised without your permission and used in an effort to harm you, then document the entire incident. Contact the online platform’s support team and report the account of the person who’s publishing these personal details.
When someone uses your personal information — your electronic signature, your password, or anything that’s identifiably yours — without your consent, that’s online impersonation. If someone is posing as you online, start by sending out a warning to all your contacts. You can block and report the fake profile to the platform in question, and if you choose to, you can file a complaint on the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal.
Concern trolling is a bit tougher than some of these other types of harassment to define and identify, but essentially, it’s expressing concern disingenuously, pretending to care but in fact using phony support to criticise or undermine. For example, a harasser might claim to be worried for someone’s health when what they’re really doing is fat-shaming.
If you’re on the receiving end of such behaviour, you could call the person out for their actions, as they may not be fully aware of the harm they’re causing. You can also block and report the profile in question on the relevant platform.
Flaming means attacking another person online by posting disrespectful comments about them, often with hostile language. This can include character assassination, posting lies, hurling insults, or other such aggressive behaviour.
If you’re on the receiving end of flaming, you can correct the person’s offensive comments and ask that they refrain from attacking you online. You should document the entire incident (or incidents) and report and block them on the platform in question. If you choose to, you can also take legal action by filing an official complaint on the National Cyber Crime Reporting portal, or report it to the police.
Outing or leaking personal videos
Leaking intimate videos of another person, known as ‘outing’, is punishable by Indian law. You can report this act on the platform in question, document the entire incident or incidents, and seek legal recourse if you’d like.
Your first priority online should always be your personal safety. It’s important to know and understand your rights in the digital space. Social media platforms allow users to control how their information is shared and who has access to it. These settings are often customizable and may be found in the privacy section of the website. Bumble encourages its community to block and report anyone whose behaviour goes against the company’s guidelines — even if that means someone made you feel uncomfortable. Bumble users can also visit the app’s Safety and Wellbeing Center for more resources.
If you or anyone you know is affected by online abuse and needs support, please report cyber crimes at www.cybercrime.gov.in. You can also contact and share any incident of harassment anonymously on www.safecity.in.