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Is it Right to ‘LinkedIn Shame’ alleged Harassers? Posting Screenshots can’t be the Solution.

Kingson Chingakham

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Yesterday, I encountered a post on LinkedIn, where a woman in a high position posted a screenshot of a private conversation she had on WhatsApp with a man. The woman shared her phone number on LinkedIn. During the conversation, the guy asked her out for coffee on WhatsApp. The lady, in return, posted the screenshots on LinkedIn to ‘spread awareness and warn all the women about the man who asked her out for a coffee’.

This is not the first instance I have come across on LinkedIn, where, women have come up front to post the screenshots of the conversations with the alleged harassers.

A number of people on LinkedIn protested on her post. Many found the post ‘normal’ and ‘not offensive’. I commented on the post and asked the lady to take the legal route if she really thought that the man was harassing her. After collecting more than 200 likes and around 100 comments, she deleted the post later in the evening. This was a temporary stunt. The damage was already done. What did she get doing this?

However wrong the other person is, I have been strongly against such activities of posting screenshots. I have always considered this as a form of a publicity stunt and a part of some cheap thrills to malign someone’s image.

I asked one woman sometime back who did the same thing of shaming on LinkedIn. She responded:

It was necessary to spread words of caution among all the women and blacklist such men from any circle to prevent any future harassment.

I agree. Social media, tragically, has become an easy road for many to harass, stalk and bully people. The cases are only rising. But why are the cases rising? Because we solely believe in community justice and social media trial, and not take the legal route.

By promoting such forms of ‘online shaming’ we are only endorsing ‘internet vigilantism’ as a quicker source to find some cure to such problems. The rise of internet vigilantism has created the rise of online mobs and the subsequent increase in the case of cyber-lynching. These online mobs targets to publicly humiliate someone for actions done privately. Online mobs targets to destroy the reputation and career of the person. A number of experts in the field of Data protection and privacy strongly believe that online shaming is a severe case of violation of privacy and have urged for a global debate over the ethics of public humiliation.

We all remember the case of Jasleen Kaur and Sarvjeet Singh. The following picture will help you to recall the harsh story:

The face has been blurred. But when Jasleen posted his picture on Facebook to shame him, the face was clearly visible.

We only heard one side of the story. Blamed the man. Called him ‘pervert’ and whatnot. He is now suffering from a very hard time due to the social media trial. The court case is pending because Jasleen has not appeared in the Court proceedings. He is unable to get a job and support his family. People have already formed an opinion about him and look at him with distaste. He can never walk free. His image has been tainted. It is really harmful to judge someone based on one side of the story.

LinkedIn is more problematic. Because it is a professional platform. Once you get shamed through such posts, your career will be at stake. Not only that, the family has to bear psychological trauma because of such public shaming. Why should the family suffer because of one person’s mistake?

In 2016, a group of women started #SolidarityNotSilence which followed the same way of naming and shaming on social media. But defamation case was filed against them and this group of women is now fighting a defamation claim.

Our country has strict laws when it comes to the protection of women’s rights and dignity. If a woman, who faced any incident of harassment wants to send a strong message to all the women, then she should take the legal route to take actions and become a role model rather than posting the screenshots on social media.

Our Government has set up an online cybercrime reporting portal where you will get an option to report anonymously. You can lodge a complaint following the link :

https://cybercrime.gov.in/cybercitizen/home.htm

Cases can also be registered in your nearby police station and cybercrime cells. National Commission for Women has also been very active when it comes to addressing problems of online harassment, sexual abuse, stalking, and bully. A woman who goes for the legal route should try to educate the other women how to actually adopt legal means to address such menace. Social media will not empower the community but legal actions will.

Cases of harassment, bully and stalking should never be taken lightly. Social media can never find a cure. Social media trial can not give a permanent solution to this. If such cases go unreported because people want to go for an easier way of online shaming, then it will only demotivate the law enforcement agencies and reduce the laws made to protect us redundant.

I know blocking and reporting the profiles of the harassers may not help you. But if someone comes across any posts with screenshots, please advise the person to take the legal route. Please note that it is very important for all of us to know the person properly before you share your phone number. Never trust any person blindly. The other person might come with appealing offers. But it will be wiser not to share any of your contact details without knowing the person. When someone asks for your phone number in the pretext of Whatsapp, it is always safer to share the details of any ‘instant messaging app’ that doesn’t require a phone number.

Let us stop lynching people online. Let us not take the law into our hands. Please do not judge someone based on one side of the story. You never know what the other side of the story will unfold.

Personal Blog. For details please mail me at observersindia@gmail.com

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