Today’s society is largely referred to as the Digital Society. Serious efforts are been made in adopting and integrating information and communication technologies at home, work, education and recreation. One can certainly not deny the numerous benefits given by being a Tech savvy, but at the same time it has also brought new compilations and worries. One of the major one being- Trolls.

Trolls or trolling someone can be defined as when someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

Trolls is said a way of removing their vengeance and aggression towards a particular person. It’s an online aggression and the people behind these trolls stay in anonymity. Thus relatively little is known about the type of people who troll. Abusive and derogatory words are used by the people who troll. The purpose behind trolling is derive pleasure from annoying others, it is a source of entertainment for the troller, to get attention, recognition and feel powerful. It has been compared to flaming in cyberbullying and many people who troll think what they do is an “art”. There are different types of trolls such as Paid by Neta Trolls, Religious Crusader Trolls, Misogynist Trolls, Body Shaming trolls etc.

One should not confuse trolls being similar to bullying. There is a difference between the two. Bullying is definitely a subset of trolling, as bullying is done with the primary intent of provoking people into an emotional response. But there are many other actions that can be categorized as “trolling” even though they aren’t necessarily bullying. In fact, provoking readers into an emotional response is often a huge component of getting them to laugh.

Trolling’s is not done by one single person’s act or comment. It is done by a group of people at large, the numbers of which vary from hundreds to thousands. Question arises why do people indulge in such act? According to a study published by the University of Manitoba, in Canada, it was found that trolls exhibit the personality traits of narcissists, psychopaths and sadists – taking pleasure in the suffering of others and lacking remorse or empathy for their victims.

The victims of trolling are particularly the vulnerable and minority sections of the society. In India it has been observed that it is the woman who have majorly been the victims of trolls. One can certainly not forget Smt. Sushma Swaraj (MP) and journalist Barkha Dutt being trolled for doing their work. They were abused and various offensive terms were attached to their names and offices. Even their family members weren’t spared.

It is believed that Trolling is a ‘mind game’ and is done to silence the person and therefore the best way of dealing with trolling is to ignore rather than engage with a troll. But is it that easy to ignore them? Writing or commenting is said to be utilizing ones right of expression and opinion. Can it be said and accepted that this is the ‘new’ mode of expressing one’s opinion regarding a particular person and his/ her work? Importantly can it be said that this is the new way Freedom of Speech and Expression will be exercised in India?

In a country like India where freedom/ liberty is given by the law of the land to question and express one’s views and opinions, this liberty certainly cannot be used to tarnish one’s dignity and image. This liberty/ freedom certainly has invisible boundaries which cannot be crossed by any person no matter what the circumstances. Trolls in no way can be used as ‘way of speech and expression’. Trolls cannot be encouraged as a platform for expression of opinions. The victims of Trolling have to face serious consequences such as- being mentally disturbed leading into depression (chronic or acute), being defamed in society, being suicidal. It is important for people to understand the damaging consequences trolling can cause and therefore should refrain oneself from indulging in such acts.

In India the laws and sections dealing with trolling are as follows:-

  1. Section 509 of Indian Penal Code: Words or gestures intended to insult the modesty of a woman, or intrude on her privacy
  2. Section 354A of Indian Penal Code: Unwelcome sexually coloured remarks
  3. Section 503/ 506 of Indian Penal Code: Threats of injury to a person, his or her reputation or property, or to the person or reputation of any one in whom that person is interested
  4. Section 354D of Indian Penal Code: Cyber and physical stalking
  5. Section 295A of Indian Penal Code: Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage feelings of a class by insult to religion, with a calculated tendency to disrupt public order
  6. Section 153A of Indian Penal Code: Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc. There must be two groups between whom enmity is being spread
  7. Section 66A of the Information Technology Act: Punishment for sending off ensive messages through communication service, etc.
  8. Section 66E of the Information Technology Act: Capturing, transmitting pictures of private parts without consent
  9. Section 3, SC/ST Act: Intentional insults or intimidation with intent to humiliate a member of a scheduled caste or scheduled tribe

It is important to note that there is no agency in India to specifically monitor trolls or comments so posted. If one complaints to police, then police can approach a court of to pass an Order directing CERT-In and Google to delete a set of defamatory blogs. The Police is empowered to obtain such an order from the Court as per section 69A of the Information Technology Act. This section refers to the power to issue directions for blocking public access of any information through any computer resource.  Law is particularly handicapped in cases where the person is based abroad, and not within Indian jurisdiction.

Trolling is a problem which requires urgent attention of the authorities. Just criticizing trolls and people indulging in trolling isn’t enough. Stringent Laws should be made. An agency needs to be set up either at the National or State level to address this issue. It is important that those who are trolling in the grab of moral policing be punished. India should not be heading towards becoming a society where trolls are used as an excuse to express oneself or for fun at the cost of another person. People should realize that ‘Civilization’ and ‘Being Digital’ have no place for trolling.

by Pinny Pathak

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