• Sunday, Jan 17, 2021
  • Last Update : 06:22 pm

OP-ED: So you’re an influencer?

Social Media
Photo: Bigstock

Having a public platform comes with its share of risks -- here’s how to seek help

In the past few years, with the rise in Instagram users, influencers have gained tremendous popularity, mostly among the new generation. 

Anila (not her real name) started documenting her favourite food from her regularly visited restaurants and cafes. With her quick popularity, her followers connected with her and wanted to know more about her. Due to popular demand, Anila decided to record every bit of her life and show it to her 20,000 followers on Instagram.

Soon, Anila started receiving uncomfortable messages from anonymous accounts, consisting of derogatory remarks about how she dressed or lived her life. Initially, Anila believed that such messages were a part of living life as a social media “celebrity,” and did not think much of it.

However, the situation soon escalated, and her inbox began filling up with messages of harassment and death threats. Anila felt that she was being followed whenever she went out. Anila could not understand why these anonymous accounts were after her when all she tried to do was promote goods that she liked or was paid for, and spread positivity.

Anila is not the only influencer or minor using social media who has been subjected to such dreadful messages. The question remains: What would you do if you were Anila?

Before taking legal action, here are ways to avoid Anila’s situation if you have a public platform:

  1. If you are in a public place, avoid going live, especially without parental supervision if you are a minor (under the age of 18). Instead, put up a post later.
  2. If you are posting photos of yourself in your own house, or a friend’s house, do not add the location. It is very easy to click on the location and find your private residence on the map.
  3. When you are taking photos of yourself in your house, make sure that people cannot see your windows or your street. It is easy for perpetrators to find your address by marking a landmark on your street.
  4. All influencers must engage with followers, but beware of the followers who constantly want to meet you in the name of meetings or collaborations. If you must meet anyone for work, take someone with you (definitely a guardian if you are a minor) and try to do a background check on the company or organization that the person asking to meet you claims to work for.

If you do end up getting threats, these are the following actions you can take:

Bangladesh Police on November 16, 2020, introduced Police Cyber Support for Women - PCSW (available on Facebook) to handle such matters directly. For those in need, please call the hotline: 01320000888 and/or send an email to [email protected]

You can call the CID Cyber Crime Unit, which provides citizen advice at +880173-033-6431 and/or email them at [email protected]

You can also contact the Cyber Crime Investigation Division, CTTC of the DMP if you have been subjected to serious cyber crimes. Email: [email protected] Address: 36 Minto Road, Ramna 1217 Dhaka, Dhaka Division, Bangladesh.

In 2009, a High Court bench issued a set of guidelines defining sexual misdemeanours to prevent any kind of physical, mental, or sexual harassment of women, girls, and children in workplaces, educational institutions, and other public places.

According to the directive, disturbing women and children through letters, e-mails, SMS, posters, writings on walls, benches, chairs, tables, and notice boards, or threatening/pressing them for sexual relations constitute sexual harassment and torture. It also criminalized “teasing” women and children through e-mail or telephone. The HC also directed the government at that time to make a law on the basis of the guidelines.

In 2011, the High Court declared stalking illegal and directed the government to consider the offense as sexual harassment. The court also added that incidents of stalking anywhere in the country had to be brought under trial in accordance with the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act.

What charges can victims file?

Section 503, Section 506, and Section 509 of the Penal Code 1860 include punishment for criminal intimidation of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or both; and punishment for criminal intimidation with death threat of imprisonment of up to seven years, or with fine, or both; punishment for insulting the modesty of a woman with words, gestures, or intentional acts, with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or both, respectively.

Let us work collectively and prevent perpetrators from getting away with their crimes; a law is only useful if put to use.

Mariha Zaman Khan, Tahsin Noor Salim, Zaiba Tahyya, and Faran Md Araf are writers at I Know, Right (IKR), an organization focused on helping you know your rights.

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