By Akshitha and Amandeep

In recent times, Social media has become an essential part of everyone’s life affecting the cultural, economic and social life of the people. It is used as a platform to express their views and in the light of freedom of expression, we can find that there is almost no limit to the extent one can go. The content on these sites is not just something from which we consume and move forward, we are influenced greatly by it, and it has a major role to play in shaping the decisions we make and gradually how we act. In this article, we shall discuss the various impacts of social media crimes along with how the victims of such crimes can get legal remedies and the authors shall critically examine the effects of social media-based crimes.

Impact on society
It is widely said that there is no rose without a thorn; similarly, social media has both positive and negative impacts. When it comes to social media crimes, some say social media uplifts crime, while others say social media helps in exposing the accused. The mushrooming of fake news, hate speeches and content about a particular community across the country has led to an increase in the number of cyber-crimes. Social media apps like Whatsapp have restricted the sharing of frequently forwarded messages to one chat which hampered the circulation of viral messages in order to prevent fake news.

Many cyber-crimes such as Cyberbullying, Identity Theft, Hacking, Online Threats, etc. have severe effects on mental health, especially for youngsters and teenagers. Focusing on the current trend #MeToo, both the sexual assault victims and offenders sometimes indulge in social media crimes. Although opening about sexual assaults on social media is proven to be therapeutic and healing, the consequences of such action can be very mentally draining to the victims. Consequences such as victim shaming, online threats, hate comments, public shaming of offenders, etc. can trigger severe mental health problems and some might lead to suicides or chronic depression as well. In the latest controversial case of a 14-year old boy who has committed suicide on May 4th, 2020 after being accused by a girl of sexual abuse on social media is a significant victim of mental health issues that have arrived due to social media.

Be it through people capturing and posting videos of law-breaking actions on social media or live tweeting proceedings, the transparency and interactivity of social media has the potentialto have a huge impact on the functioning of the criminal justice system. People nowadays tend to conduct ‘social media trials’ that act as an unfavourable alternative to the actual trial procedure. Social media users practically cannot be prevented from discussing issues that they think to be worthy of observation, and therefore cannot be prosecuted for having an opinion. Hence, it is very much advisable for the stakeholders of the crimes to be cautious on social media because anything can be held as proof against them and they should not misuse their freedom of expression.

Most of the social media crimes these days are covered under various laws such as the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Information Technology Act(IT) and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act). There is no general punishment for such offences because every different offence is covered under a separate section but the criteria for reporting social media crimes can be summed up in the following points:
Registering FIR- This first step is where a victim has to lodge a written complaint of the incident. One can register the FIR in any nearby police station or cyber cell unit if available in their city. The question of jurisdiction won’t come into existence because of the concept of ‘Zero FIR’ in cyber crimes’. Zero FIR refers to a FIR which regardless of the jurisdiction of the incident can be filed in any police station.

Cyber Crime Portal- Another way to register a complaint is the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal which was launched in 2019 by the central government. The portal is a platform where the victims can file complaints from home and without the necessity of being physically present at a police station. The portal is a piece of cake to be accessed by any victim with minimal knowledge of technology; it provides two separate options i.e. crime related to women or child and other cyber-crimes apart from the former one.

With the advent of technology and invention, social media has evolved in various ways and has resulted in a stereotypical image of our society which affects the way people think. Then users have started using these sites as a virtual trial room, better known as the ‘social media trials’ which affects the fundamental criminal justice system. Unlike the court trials, they do not require any professionals but are based on mere accusations and supporting evidence,. leading to irreversible judgments for those who were never given the right of ‘presumption of innocence’. Therefore, it is very important to realize that these trials although very satisfying can affect the stakeholders in a very negative way at the same time affecting our criminal justice system.

As addressed in this article, few of the major problems that must be resolved for a better society are circulating fake information, victim-shaming, hate comments, negativity that could affect mental health, etc. Considering that victim-blaming/shaming is a current issue under the ‘bois locker room’ incident, it is vital to understand that blaming a victim for sharing her experience is not going to resolve and rather it deters the situation. Hence, responding in a mature manner where you educate the person and resort to legal methods can be very favourable both to the victim as well as the offender. Simultaneously it is strongly advisable to keep
in mind the mental health issues that are the side-effects of social media crimes by getting support from professionals whenever required.

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