[Book Review] CSassy Tales: Cybercrimes & The Law by NS Nappinai

In CSassy Tales: Cybercrime Stories & The Law, the author has blended fact and fiction to make for a compelling narrative about the state of cybercrime in India today.
NS Nappinai
NS Nappinai

“The visible world is no longer a reality and the unseen world is no longer a dream.” ― Marshall McLuhan

These lines of one of the greatest philosophers of media theory portrays a very interesting paradox of existentialism. McLuhan says that ours is the customary human reaction when confronted with innovation: to flounder about attempting to adapt old responses to new situations or to simply condemn or ignore the harbingers of change, a practice refined by the Chinese emperors, who used to execute messengers bringing bad news. The newest technological environments generate the most pain among those least prepared to alter their old value structures.

The ignorance to the scheme of things gives an upper edge to cyber criminals and cybercrimes. When an individual or social group feels that its whole identity is jeopardized by social or psychic change, its natural reaction is to lash out in defensive fury. But for all their lamentations, the revolution has already taken place.

CSassy Tales: Cybercrime Stories & The Law, by Advocate NS Nappinai has taken this theme forward. While adopting a storytelling approach, the author has drawn from real-life incidents and experiences, adequately supplemented by case laws and relevant legal provisions to make for a compelling narrative about the state of cybercrime in India today. Furthermore, the book contains several interactive questionnaires, polls and other activities, which allow for immersive learning and encourage readers to apply themselves. 

Digital spaces have now become a necessity. These spaces are weaved into all  fabrics of life and society – be it communication, education or entertainment. While digital communication and new technologies have the potential to offer various benefits, they also have great potential for misuse. Cybercrime is on the rise, and it is becoming more sophisticated with each passing day. These are taking varied forms such as cyber-morphing, cyber flashing, online grooming, as well as crimes on social media and gaming platforms, and often entail unforeseen consequences. 

The recent string of high-profile cybercrime incidents such as Sulli Deals, Bulli Bai, and the Metaverse rape case highlight the unfortunate by-products and potential harms of having a presence in virtual spaces. Such cases underline the harsh reality that digital spaces are not vastly different from physical ones – the onus to ensure one’s protection lies on oneself. Cyber-bullying, cyber defamation, cyber harassment, among others, are risks that are inherent in the use of digital technology. However, they can be avoided and mitigated.

CSassy Tales makes for a handy toolkit for tackling cybercrimes. It puts forth certain indicative remedies and criminal provisions which can be availed effectively against cybercrimes. It equips readers with the necessary knowledge and basic skills they need to navigate digital spaces. Replete with case laws and recent real-life instances, the book cuts through complex legal concepts and encourages children and adults alike to take recourse to legal action when they witness or are impacted by cybercrimes.

With growing instances of cyber bullying, stalking, morphing, trolling, etc, students are left vulnerable to the dangers of the internet. While it is widely known that children can be victims of cybercrimes, it is often forgotten that they can also be perpetrators. Just like adults, children can use the internet to commit crimes such as hacking, DDOS attacks, ransomware attacks, cyber-bullying, fraud and identity theft, among others.

Unfortunately, these crimes often go unpunished because children are not typically held accountable for their actions in the same way that adults are. This lack of accountability can lead to a vicious cycle, especially when minors see no consequences for their actions. What appears to children as merely ‘testing their skills’, as Nappinai cautions, may actually be serious cybercrimes which may attract liability; there is a fine line between the two which must be understood and inculcated. Therefore, it is important for parents and educational institutions to implore children to imbibe cyber awareness and safety in their use of technology.

One of the primary goals of law, as the author has correctly identified, is to deter people from committing crimes. The book has clearly identified and promoted the deterrent effect imposing punishment and bringing criminals to book can have. In fact, this has been underlying theme of the work that Cyber Saathi does. As Nappinai writes:

“The focus of the launch of the ‘Be a Cyber Saathi’ program was based on peer mentoring as a concept and to ensure that such peer mentoring will focus not only on explaining risks from cybercrimes to help avoid becoming victims but also to ensure consequences of committing crimes were highlighted to deter persons from committing crimes.”

This will go a long way in ensuring general awareness and preventing perpetrators from being under the mistaken belief that they can go scot-free from liability, in case of cybercrimes.

Despite the efforts of law enforcement, cybercriminals continue to find ways to exploit unsuspecting users. This has led to a need for greater user vigilance against cybercrimes. The book has done a commendable job at promoting user vigilance and has urged individuals in digital spaces to take prompt recourse to legal remedies when they identify cybercrime. The author emphasizes throughout the book that while interacting across digital platforms, persons should be aware of the most common types of attacks and how to protect themselves from them. Users who take these steps will be better equipped to protect themselves from becoming victims of cybercrime.

Justice AK Sikri is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India and International Judge, SICC Singapore.

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