Monday, 30th October 2017

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Folded hands after tragedy

A police officer today stood with folded hands and said sorry to the parents of a girl who had killed herself in Tamil Nadu after her morphed pictures were posted on a fake Facebook page created in her name.

By G.C. Shekhar in Chennai
  • Published 29.06.16
SP Amit Kumar says sorry near the Salem hospital

Chennai, June 28: A police officer today stood with folded hands and said sorry to the parents of a girl who had killed herself in Tamil Nadu after her morphed pictures were posted on a fake Facebook page created in her name.

Amit Kumar Singh, the Salem superintendent of police who had studied in Calcutta, said he had apologised in his personal capacity.

Professionally, his force is facing grave charges - that the law-enforcers dragged their feet on getting the semi-nude pictures removed and, worse, they forced the family to give bribes in cash and kind to speed up action.

The 20-year-old chemistry graduate had hanged herself at her home in Salem, 380km from here, on Monday, 10 days after the photos were posted twice along with her father's mobile number. The pictures were sent to her cousin's WhatsApp account as well.

On June 19, her father, a weaver, had complained to Amit Kumar who referred him to DSP Kandasamy who had in turn sent him to Vivekanandan, an inspector. The inspector asked the family to report to the cyber cell.

The personnel there told the family it would take at least 10 days to remove the photos. They also allegedly demanded a bribe of Rs 2,000 and a mobile phone, both of which the father gave.

As more morphed photos appeared on social media, the parents had gone to the SP's office on Monday. The distraught girl had then hanged herself. "Police inaction is the sole reason for her death," her father said.

The family members refused to take possession of her body after the post-mortem and camped at the Salem government hospital.

On Tuesday afternoon, Amit Kumar met the parents near the hospital, apologised to them and promised to probe the allegations against the police. The parents then took their daughter's body home.

Later, Amit Kumar, who hails from Bihar and studied in Calcutta, told The Telegraph : "I told them I was very sorry for their loss and requested them to understand the police were doing their best and we would definitely nab the culprit. How can I explain to them, who are going through so much trauma, that the very nature of cyber crime takes time to unravel? That is the reason I met them personally, shared their grief and said sorry for any misunderstanding or the laxity of some of my officers."

The reputation of law-enforcers in Tamil Nadu has taken a knock at a time investigators are struggling to crack the early-morning murder of an Infosys techie in Chennai.

According to police officers in Calcutta, the laid-down procedure to get objectionable pictures removed is to ask Facebook to do so. "Earlier this procedure used to take about seven days. But nowadays it is taking at least a month," said an officer. The stated duration could not be corroborated with Facebook.

Another officer said investigators sometimes "unofficially hack" accounts and remove pictures for quicker relief of victims. "But this may have serious consequences for the investigation," said the officer who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Facebook offers users the option of reporting any post, photograph or comment as objectionable. The reporting can be activated through a drop-down menu, which can be accessed by clicking on the top right of the offending post.

Even those who do not have a Facebook account or who cannot see whatever they are trying to report (for instance, if a user is blocked from seeing a post) can fill out a form available on the Facebook website to report objectionable content.

The Facebook website advises users to "contact local law enforcement" if they feel threatened by something they see on the page.

Facebook's Community Standards state: "We remove content that threatens or promotes sexual violence or exploitation.... To protect victims and survivors, we also remove photographs or videos depicting incidents of sexual violence and images shared in revenge or without permission from the people in the images.... Where appropriate, we refer this content to law enforcement."