Rita studies in a private university in Dhaka. She met a boy, randomly, online. His profile said he was a graduate from a reputed private university in Dhaka. They started having long conversations online. Gradually, they became good friends. Rita saw his photos on Facebook. He looked very handsome and innocent too.
Eventually, she felt a connection with the boy which compelled her to take it to the next level: Meeting him, spending time with him, and even possibly spending the rest of their lives together. Rita felt hopeful, and looked forward to building a new happy life with him. A few months later, the boy proposed, and the girl gladly accepted.
They started seeing each other on webcam. Rita stated to share every minor detail of her everyday life with him. However, when she asked for his personal details or phone number, he avoided the topic.
Slowly, a few things became very clear to Rita. He was, in fact, hiding his true identity and using a fake Facebook ID. Rita felt devastated, as she truly trusted him. He abruptly ended communication with her. And from that point on, Rita was struggling to forget the whole episode.
A few weeks later, he messaged her saying that he recorded some of their personal video chats and was thinking of disseminating them to Rita’s close relatives and friends.
She was shocked. She asked him to delete everything, but he said he would only do so if she paid him an amount of money as per his demand.
He kept demanding the money and he believed he deserved a reward for not exposing her personal videos and pictures to the world. Finally, she got to know that the boy had disseminated the screenshots and video chats to her friend and family members. She suffered severe bouts of depression, out of shame and panic.
Internet users need to educate themselves on matters of online crime and need to learn how to avoid perilous situations
Rita’s story is one of millions
With increasing access to technology, cyber crimes have also increased proportionately. Parliament has enacted Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act 2006 (amended in 2013) to combat cyber crimes.
Section 57 (1) of ICT Act says: “If any person deliberately publishes or transmits or causes to be published or transmitted in the website or in any other electronic form any material which is false and obscene and if anyone sees, hears, or reads it having regard to all relevant circumstances, its effect is such as to influence the reader to become dishonest or corrupt, or causes to deteriorate or creates possibility to deteriorate law and order, prejudice the image of the state or person, or causes to hurt or may hurt religious belief or instigate against any person or organisation, then this activity will be regarded as an offense.”
S57(2) states that whoever commits offense under sub-section (1) of this section, he/she shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years and with fine which may extend to Tk1 crore.
Rita decided that she had to tell someone in her family about her troubles. She could no longer keep blaming herself for something that was not her fault. It is true that she was careless. But that doesn’t give someone the right to blackmail her and threaten her. And so, she was able to convey to her friends and family that she was, in fact, trapped in a web of lies.
There is a need for legislation and enactment of laws, but at the same time, internet users need to educate themselves on matters of online crime and need to learn how to avoid perilous situations and how to be protected from cyber-crime.
We all want to get acquainted with the digital world, but sometimes seemingly trivial actions from our side can lead us to become a victim of cyber-crime.
We always have to maintain online privacy and security of our data by not providing any personal information to any unknown person. We have to get educated about various applications that can help us to be safe and secure online. Providing personal information to an unreliable and unknown person can have serious consequences.
This is not something that can be left to the government alone. Everyone one of us must take internet security very seriously, and should contribute to the fight against cyber-crime.
Miti Sanjana is a Barrister-at-law from Honorable Society of Lincoln’s Inn and an Advocate of Supreme Court of Bangladesh and an activist.