Our judgement of other human beings, our interaction with them, and many other aspects of our social lives today are determined largely by our presence on various social media platforms. But much like our offline world, issues of safety and security on social media are fast gaining momentum.

According to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, the number of central and state government websites that were hacked has been steadily rising—from 155 in 2014 to 164 in 2015 and 199 last year. This is a clear indication that cyber safety of portals are constantly under threat. Similarly, individuals too are often at the receiving end of cyber threats and attacks on personal security and safety, through social media platforms. Since cyber laws are still to be well formed and well defined in our country and loopholes are plenty, the chances of perpetrators being penalized are far and few.

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Taking this seriously, the Ministry of Women and Child Development has created a dedicated email (complaint-mwcd@gov.in) solely to address and resolve the issues of hateful conduct and stalking on social media platforms with effect from July, 2016. The Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir said that “So far, 69 complaints have been received. Relevant issues have been sent to concerned authorities for necessary action. Complaints of serious nature are reported by Ministry of Women and Child Development to Twitter India and Cyber Crime Cells of the Police authorities,” he said in response to a written reply to a question. As many as 69 complaints regarding hateful conduct and stalking on social media platforms have been received by the government since last one year, the Rajya Sabha was informed on Wednesday.

Through our collaborations with Facebook and Twitter, we have been conducting workshops on issues of online safety and counterspeech across India, with students across the country. In our experiences, we have seen that while people are intrigued by social media and using it for personal and professional use, many are not aware of the myriad of privacy settings provided by these platforms. Consequently, in the event of any abuse faced, many are not aware of the procedure to be followed to report these instances. Thus, this initiative by the Government is a wonderful one, as it provides a definite method to report any cyber crimes, and to seek redressal. This email id needs to be advertised across the Internet in India and on social media platforms, since users will only use this facility once they are aware of it.

In this fast moving world, which is becoming increasingly dependent on social media for transfer of information, what needs to be ensured is that one’s safety and personal dignity are not compromised. We hope that many more such initiatives do come up, and make the cyber world a secure place for all.