Right to privacy in the digital age
The topic of maintaining privacy over the internet has garnered attention after a writ petition was filed on August 25 this year, seeking directions to remove defamatory images, videos and reports from various platforms which infringe on the privacy of individuals, including college student Mosarat Jahan Munia and actress Pori Moni, among others. After the writ was filed, the Supreme Court lawyer stated, 'many reports, pictures and videos are being published on various platforms, including social media, targeting the character of individuals, specially women, violating personal privacy.'
This is not the first time a petition for direction in this regard has been filed with the High Court Division (HCD). The precedents present a scenario where BTRC's stance on privacy rights seems self-contradictory. In many cases, videos and images are taken down immediately without any fuss. However, the ordeal that the ordinary citizens have to trudge through reflects BTRC'S preferential approach in this regard. Their reluctance to adhere to guidelines and then letting the judiciary take the fall, borders on obstruction of justice. The court is getting bombarded with writs when the BTRC clearly has the power to prevent such events. It should not be a requirement for the HCD to give instructions every time such situations arise.
In a country where equality between the sexes is a constitutional right, the actions of administrative authorities should reflect that goal. But the actions, or rather the lack of action, on part of the BTRC, sets the narrative in the wrong direction. Their averseness to take down viral personal information is adding fuel to the fire of rampant misogyny on the internet. Because, as the lawyer put it, the women suffer the most damage when footage of their personal lives are put on display without their consent. These irrelevant footages are used as a tool for character assassination and to disregard whatever her claims are. In the case of college student Munia, videos of her personal life went viral after her death. Such an insignificant video was apparently enough for the public to blame her. After actress Pori Moni's rape allegation, the social media once again went up against her in a victim-blaming spree, digging up her personal life as an excuse to discard her statement. In these situations, BTRC'S inertia translates to turning a blind eye when these women are drowning in the wave of misogyny.
Victim blaming in cyber spaces turns into a vicious cycle when the government takes no steps to prevent such incidents. This proves that the fate of ordinary citizens, specially women, should no longer be placed in BTRC'S reluctant hands. After all, what use is the law of, if it is not uniformly applied? It is high time privacy rights in the digital age were developed. To counteract the negative impact social media has on the lives of the citizens, a Privacy Rights Act should be passed soon. The Digital Security Act can be amended too to ensure swift actions in regulating defamatory content over the internet. It is not too utopian of a notion that strict and fair application of these proposed provisions will ensure equal right to privacy for the citizens of Bangladesh.
THE WRITER IS A STUDENT OF LAW, JAHANGIRNAGAR UNIVERSITY.