A man recently paid another to troll a woman: he assumed there was no way he could be caught that way.
“Giving a contract to harass someone on WhatsApp is a first that has come to us,” a senior police officer told Metrolife. The troller eventually gave away the name of the man who had hired him.
Police discern a new pattern: people who want to send abusive messages and post defamatory content pay others to do it anonymously. “Harassment on social media usually stems from money and land disputes. During the investigation, 10 to 15 names crop up but the real criminal is someone else,” the officer says.
In such cases, investigation related to real-world criminality and cyber criminality go hand in hand, he explains.
Complaints of harassment on social media (Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter) are on the rise: in 2017 they numbered 70, and this year police have received 102.
“There is a slow but steady rise in complaints of harassment. It is good that people, especially women, are coming forward to register complaints,” says the officer, who works at the cyber crime branch of the city police.
“Complaints of harassment related to women certainly outnumber men. Women are usually harassed by colleagues, former boyfriends, husbands and men obsessed with them. And women who either borrow or lend money are also harassed,” he says.
A photo of a woman on social media is enough to damage her reputation, he observes. Harassed men, especially those with high social status, stop working and slip into depression, police say. Threats and abusive language on social media can damage people psychologically and affect their routine.
“This is a new form of harassment. Rumour kills because it affects not just the target but also his family and dependents,” he explains.
Victims get multiple messages from a single source or from different sources.
The abusers are tech-savvy, and the police often find it a challenge to break through privacy walls. “That’s why we study message patterns and interrogate multiple people,” he says.
Alok Kumar, additional commissioner of police (crime), concedes is it a challenge to track down cybercriminals, but it is not impossible.
Precautions for social media use
- Don’t share personal pictures.
- Don’t accept friend requests from strangers.
- Don’t give out your location: you could be stalked.
- Avoid publicly sharing your mobile numbers.
- Keep your Facebook page accessible only to people you know.
Those found guilty of online crimes could face imprisonment of up to seven years.