When private videos go public

Clips showing private moments sometimes make it to meme pages. That’s not funny

Pages like NKM make use of popular culture in their memes.

Privacy is becoming a casualty when videos posted by individuals in good faith are used by meme makers, and the memes go viral. 

Many clips posted on TikTok, an app for short videos, have made it to meme pages.

Vimala (name changed), a college student, was recently trolled for her English accent, considered funny by meme makers.

She had posted a video on TikTok and it was picked up by meme makers.She ended up skipping college for a week; she was too embarrassed to show her face to her
friends.

“I am not so good at English. My friends started making fun of me and shared the troll video on WhatsApp groups,” she says.

Another girl was pushed into depression after a video showing her in a public toilet went online. She is too traumatised to talk about the incident.

Her parents told Metrolife she had got off all social media and locked herself up for a full day. 

Umesh Kumar, psychologist, sees many patients disturbed by invasion of privacy, and seeking help.

“Some develop an identity crisis. The consequences of being mocked is that people lose confidence and feel weak,” he says.

His advice: Meme-makers should always seek permission before they post any private video.
“Put yourself in the shoes of your subject and be sensible,” he says.

Vikas Badiger, photographer and founder of the social media page Faces of Bengaluru, says some who run meme pages are ‘socially uncivilised.’ 

“They should know where to draw the line. I found some disturbing private content and took it up with the admin of a meme page. They asked me to stop following them if I didn’t like the content,” he says.

Audience matters

The audience plays a huge role in deciding what is taken up for trolling. “They decide whether more of a certain type of content is produced,” Vikas says. The administrator of a leading Kannada meme page says ‘funniness’ is the prime criterion in a meme. “After all, we all have our awkward moments, he says. 

Shuba, co-admin of Troll Anthammas, says private content is mostly used by the less well-known meme pages. “Those with significant numbers of followers act responsibly. A few TikTok users text us and ask us to promote their videos. Only then do we post them on our handle,” she adds.

She advises people to reach out personally to the administrators in case their privacy is violated. “They can ask the site to take the meme down. If that doesn‘t work, they can contact us. We will track down the admin and help. Eventually, we can also help reach out to the police,” she adds.

One can personal message any of the leading troll pages and seek help. Pavan, founder of Namma Karnataka Memes, says their memes are always about topics such as cricket matches, exams and films. “We call them situational memes. We never take up personal content,” he says. 

Tejas from Troll Haiklu says humour comes first. “We do use TikTok videos but not personally attack anyone. Anything that makes our viewers laugh is content to us but we make sure we don‘t hurt anyone,” he says. 

If a video is reported as offensive, Troll Haiklu takes it down, he says. Its meme pages appear on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

No amendments

It is a crime to invade someone else‘s private life even if it is using just a photo, says Trivikram S, advocate.

He says the law could be behind the times. “Many apps used today were not even heard of when the IT laws were amended in 2000,” he says.

Many victims whose privacy is invaded keep quiet because the process of tracking down the perpetrators is tiring, he says.

“The victim first approaches the local police. They ask her to go to the cyber police. If the crime isn‘t severe, the cyber police refer them back to the local police. When none of this works, the victim looks for a lawyer to go to court, and that means a lot of time and money,” he says.

He reckons the police are not equipped to deal with crimes such as trolling.

“Can they track down the main source of the video? Even those who shared the video should be charged. Only then will all this stop,” he says.

What is a meme?

An image or video, typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users, often with slight variations.

What is TikTok?

An Android and iOS app that allows users to create and share short videos. The lip-syncing app has everything from movie songs, dialogues and challenges, all lasting about 15 seconds.

Who is a troll?

A person who fights or upsets people by posting inflammatory messages on social media. It‘s usually someone who deliberately says something controversial and spiteful.

Don’t make a meme if...

  • Video or picture shows the subject in a private moment.
  • If it encourages a stereotype, and fosters prejudice.

Always think

- Would you be comfortable with the meme if you were in the photo or video?

No complaints registered

Speaking to Metrolife, DCP (Crime) S Girish says no complaints have been registered against private videos being used for trolling.

“We are here to help, but we can‘t help if victims don‘t speak up,” he says.

The punishment depends on the severity of the crime. “If obscene or nude videos are floating around, we book the meme makers under the IT Act. If it is any other kind of trolling, and the victim wants action, they can reach out to the jurisdictional police,” he adds.

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