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The world wide web of deceit

Internet users have to ensure their own safety as they become vulnerable to crimes every time they log on to a networking site. Mohamed Thaver writes.

gadgets Updated: May 16, 2012 01:38 IST
Mohamed Thaver

The Cyber Crime Investigation Cell (CCIC) of the Mumbai police arrested a 25-year-old man from Buldhana, on May 10 this year, for allegedly posting obscene content about a journalist on a networking site.

When questioned about why he did it, Shyam Bahekar, who holds a diploma in pharmacy, told the police that the victim had refused to befriend him and, hence, he decided 'to teach her a lesson' by defaming her online. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/5/16_05-mumbai2.jpg

The popularity of social networking sites coupled with the anonymity it offers has made them a tool for unlawful activities.

An indication of its popularity is brought out by the American Express Global Customer Service Barometer, 2012, which states that there are more than 100 million internet users in India, of which 87% log on to social networking websites at least once a week.

According to cyber experts, while most cyber frauds are committed for monetary gain, those targeting social networking sites are, most often, trying to get back at someone by maligning their name or for cyber bullying.

An officer from the CCIC, requesting anonymity, said, "On many occasions, those found abusing social networking sites turn out to be people known to the victim. People think if they create a fake profile and write obscene things about someone, no one will be able to trace them. This belief has led to several cases wherein people, especially youngsters, misuse the networking sites for wrongful purposes."

The officer pointed out that this phenomenon differentiates crime originating from networking sites from other internet crimes.

"In most cases of phishing or credit card frauds, the accused is not known to the victim as they randomly send out chain emails or messages to people without knowing them."

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Cyber expert Vijay Mukhi said, "Crimes relating to social networking sites outnumber crimes such as credit card frauds. There are more people on networking sites - especially youngsters - these days as compared to people making online transactions. People do not realise how networking sites are used by people for wrongful purposes."

An incident showing how networking sites have become an easy way to get back at someone took place in Ghatkopar last year.

A class 10 student from a Ghatkopar school won an intra-school competition following which her name was to appear in a local newsletter. The publisher, however, made an error and published another girl's name instead.

This upset the winner so much that she and a few friends created a Facebook page on which they posted that the other girl had paid the publisher to get her name printed as the winner. They also called the girl names and posted defamatory content about her.

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The girl told her parents who managed to get the page deleted after contacting the winner's parents and threatening legal action.

As the majority of crimes originating from social networking sites tend to point towards persons known to the victim, it results in a drop in the number of cases registered by the police.

Another officer from the CCIC requesting anonymity said, "Initially, we receive a written application by a person who has been victimised via networking sites. We then investigate the matter. Once we tell the victim about the person harassing them, on most occasions they prefer not to file a formal complaint."

He said, "The complainant on most occasions prefers to settle the issue with the accused rather than get a formal complaint registered."

The officer said that in several cases, the persons who are victimised do not know that such offences are categorised as crimes and can be reported to the police.

"We do carry out awareness drives asking people to report crimes to the police," the officer said.

Case studies:
Picture on networking site leads to riot-like situation
Man uploads obscene photos of friend who spurned him