Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media platforms are rife with false news and manipulated images.
Someone posted a photograph of a young woman and her mother with a claim that the girl was the victim of a tainted priest. They were in fact the accused priest’s relatives. Another photo followed with the same claim. This time another mother and daughter were shamed.
The priest has been accused of raping a girl. Criminals in social media jumped on the opportunity to defame two other girls and their families.
The moment the harassment of an actress was reported, someone fished out a woman’s photograph and spread it on social media with a claim that she was the girlfriend of the accused. The perpetrators even forged an audio file - claiming to be the voice of a police officer investigating the case - to back the lie. Those who defamed the woman on social media were no better from ‘Pulsar’ Suni, who waylaid and harassed the actress.
A bright student from Kerala who has secured a prestigious scholarship abroad was also targeted on social media. Her photograph that appeared on a news site was misused to spread lies online.
Even a woman police officer found herself the victim of online harassment when an audio file claiming to be her voice started doing the rounds.
Why do we have so many false campaigns on social media? Don’t the perpetrators know that they are always leaving traces when they post something on Facebook or WhatsApp. Don’t they know that they run the risk of legal action?
Perhaps they do not know about the people who have been arrested for trying to defame Pinarayi Vijayan and Panakkad Thangal. Perhaps they do not recollect the legal action that followed cyber attacks against a woman journalist and a leading publishing house.
Many of those arrested and sentenced to jail in such cases have even lost their livelihood. They thought they were safe abroad but the police had issued lookout notices against them and arrested them from the arrival lounge in the airport. They are busy dealing with the cases against them.
Any online mischief is stored by the telecom service providers in the form of call detail record (CDR), Tower Dumps and IP Dumps. The data, complete with the time of the action, could be accessed by the police and the courts whenever they wish to. The courts take the data at face value.
Dissemination of information on social media should be honest and accurate. Many of the social media groups have made commendable efforts by helping out the others. Unfortunately, the space has an equal amount of forgers and their followers who forward anything that comes their way.
Anyone who forwards offensive messages without verifying them are knocking at the doors of a prison cell.
(The writer is an independent cyber forensic expert and a reviewer of journals on the subject.)