This is the second instalment of the Bumble India Safety Handbook. For the first, from 2021, see here.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have spent an unprecedented amount of time online. In this third year of our new normal, we’re increasingly dependent on the internet in every aspect of our lives. With increased time spent on the internet, there has also been a sharp rise in online abuse across the world. A recent survey* conducted by Bumble in India found that one in two (50%) of respondents have encountered hateful content online—and one in four women say they have witnessed online abuse at least once a week.
It’s crucial to understand what online hate and abuse look like—and what to do if you or a loved one face such harassment. Bumble has partnered with New Delhi-based nonprofit Centre for Social Research (CSR), which is dedicated to creating a violence-free, gender-just society in India, to support and empower its community to recognise, identify and combat online hate and discrimination. CSR shares some helpful insight, as well as actionable advice for anyone who lives even part of their life online.
“Someone left me a comment on a dating app, asking if my breasts were real. Then kept pleading with me to send my private pictures. The person insisted that they were hurt and kept flirting to lure me to send my private pictures. I felt extremely awkward and disgusted.”
- There are always going to be people who try to exploit, control, or influence others online. This manipulation is emotional abuse.
Rude, inappropriate behaviour
“I met a person online, and they started inappropriately commenting on my pictures which made me feel uncomfortable. They proceeded to call me prudish after that.”
- When someone deliberately violates your personal space and makes derogatory comments, recognise that as unacceptable behaviour.
“I met someone online and after initial icebreakers, the person said, “You have a cute smile, but you could cut down on some weight, then you’ll look even prettier! For a brief moment, I started to look at myself differently.”
- It is important to recognise that making unsolicited and derogatory comments about someone’s appearance, body shape, size, or health is body shaming. This includes language that can be deemed fat-phobic, ableist, racist, colourist, homophobic, or transphobic.
Identity-based harassment and discrimination
According to Bumble’s recent study, 40% of people surveyed in India claim that they have faced hate-driven speech and bullying that includes discrimination against a particular group or community.
“Someone wrote to me that I and other LGBTQ+ community members are the reason for the spreading of AIDS, who misguide ‘normal’ families and brainwash children.”
- If someone is abusing or threatening you using their words or actions on the basis of prejudices and bias based on race, religion, class, caste, gender, or sexual orientation, it’s identity-based hate.
“A person once sent me a misogynistic video on social media and when I called them out, they told me they were hurt. When that didn’t work they tried to give a backhanded apology. I was made to believe that they only meant it as a joke, and maybe I was being too serious and didn’t have a good sense of humour. I really did start to question my own sensibilities, and second-guess myself.”
- When someone tries to manipulate you and make you question your own judgement, know that you are being gaslighted.
“Somebody ghosted me in real life, and then tried to keep a tab on me via constant checking of my posts and cryptic comments on social media. I was scared to go online most of the time.”
- Orbiting is the new ghosting. If someone has broken ties with you, but still continues to check up on you through your social media or makes comments on networking sites, then it’s a case of orbiting.
“I once met a person online, and eventually found out that I was their backup romance, and that he was seeing other people while lying to me about it. I felt belittled.”
- Cookie jarring refers to a situation when a potential date doesn’t have the intention of entering a relationship, but constantly keeps you as a backup option while pursuing other people.
Ways to safeguard yourself
- Don’t disclose personal information like your phone number or home address. You can always use Bumble’s Video Chat and Voice Call features if you’d like to protect identifying details.
- Do regular security checks of your social media accounts to ensure they’re safe and secure.
- Update your passwords regularly, and activate two-factor authentication to prevent hacking.
Bumble has partnered with Nyaaya, an open-access, digital resource that provides simple, reliable and accessible legal information in order to solve day-to-day legal problems. Here, they share some quick insights into your legal rights and action you can take if you face any of these scenarios.
- Bodily integrity and autonomy are fundamental rights recognized by the Supreme Court of India. This means that one has the right to choose how they look, what they wear, and what their gender and sexual identities are.
- Indian law punishes any act which hurts a person’s religious sentiments or identity (race, caste, religion, skin colour, place of residence, etc.) or discriminates against them on these grounds.
- Sexual harassment, Cyberstalking and Orbiting—the latter, when it amounts to stalking—are punishable with up to three to five years of jail time—and a fine depending on whether the person has committed the crime before.
It’s crucial to understand the legal rights to protect yourself. If you want to take action against online abuse, make sure you take screenshots of all conversations and document evidence of abuse or harassment. Following that, you can take these measures:
- Social and technology platforms have privacy policies detailing how you can stay safe, providing guidelines to report and block individuals.
- Contact your nearest district-wide Cyber Crime Cell.
- Contact your nearest police station. Give all the information you know about the incident and issues you have faced. File a First Information Report containing details of the crime.
- Filing an online complaint with the Online Crime Reporting Portal maintained by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Choose from ‘Report Cyber Crime Related to Women/Child’ or ‘Report Other Cyber Crime.’
- National Commission for Women Helpline Number: 181
- Women in Distress helpline number: 1091
- National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal: www.cybercrime.gov.in
- National Cyber Crime Reporting: Helpline Number 1930
Your first priority online should always be your personal safety. It’s important to know and understand your rights in digital spaces. Social media platforms allow users to control how their information is shared, and who has access to it. These settings are often customizable, and may be found in the privacy section of the website.
Bumble encourages its community to block and report anyone whose behaviour goes against the company’s guidelines—even if that means someone made you feel uncomfortable. Bumble users can also visit the Safety and Wellbeing Centre within the app itself for more resources.
*Commissioned by Bumble and conducted by YouGov with a sample size of 2000 adults across India.