Sexual harassment of women at workplace is a traumatic experience and can be incredibly difficult to handle for most people. The incredible emotional stress and the significant torment subjected to the victims leads to them quitting the job or sometimes leaving their career. This emotionally charged abuse of power based on gender is now quickly breaking the confines of the corporate rooms and spreading on social media. News of sexual harassment on social media or even a false accusation of sexual harassment on some innocent men can destroy his social image. On the other hand, social media has also become another medium for sexual predators to inflict sexual and mental abuse on their colleagues.
In the age of COVID-19, when most of the people are working from home, sexual harassment from social media has become a worrisome thing for many female workers.
The other side of this situation is the malicious use of social media’s reach to malign people using sexual harassment charges. The explosion of social media has given new outlets for workplace interactions to occur and so, new ways to misrepresent people’s words or actions have also come out.
As of March 2013, there were more than one billion active Facebook users with nearly 700 million of these users posting at least once per day.
With such huge no. of conversations occurring around the world simultaneously, the traditional boundaries of workplace conversations are losing meaning and the people are engaging more in gossiping on the social media platforms about their work-life and their colleagues. This obviously has given rise to cases of gender-based harassment cases related to the workplace. Let us understand the role of social media in accentuating cases of sexual harassment and defamation in the workplace and how can organisations and employees tackle these issues legally?
How Social Media Has Become a Tool for Defamation?
The exponential growth of social media has given a voice to each individual and so spreading fake news is not just limited to media houses. Nowadays even small-time influencers can be used to spread fake news to defame any well-known personality. By the time this fake news gets investigated and significant damage to the reputation of the individual is already done. Social media has become a tool for many people to use fake stories as a method of extortion. Even some big managers in companies have been blackmailed by their female colleagues to grant them favours or else be ready to face the wrath of social media due to their malicious accusations of sexual harassment. The other aspect of this situation is that many female workers have been threatened by the sexual predators at the workplace that there will be fake rumours spread on the social media about their character to if they don’t give sexual favours. There is hardly any medium for corporates or even investigative agencies to confirm the authenticity of any information available on social media. Also, no law stops people from posting fake information on social media. This has led to the misuse of this medium to a great extent.
Social Media and Sexual Harassment at Workplace
The social media’s rise has led to many instances where the case of sexual harassment have crossed the boundaries of the corporate building and reached to the general public. Sometimes when this information reaches the home of the victims through social media then it becomes stressful for the family of the victim. In most of these cases, the image of the employer itself gets maligned and the perception of the public about the brand changes. The public indirectly starts blaming the company for sexual harassment against the victim without the knowledge of sexual harassment case being true or not. Therefore, many corporates are refraining their employees from posting anything on social media about their work-life.
The opportunities offered by social media channels to employees gives them a medium to conduct discrimination or harassing behaviour. These platforms have often been used as a tool to post a sexual comment or mocking images to cyberbully some of their colleagues and intimidate them. It has lead to cases of sexual harassment continue even when the victim is not at work. The amount of stress faced by the victims of social media defamation has led to few of them to commit suicide. The case of a senior executive of the Genpact committing suicide because a fake case of sexual harassment reached social media is an example of it.
What Could Employees and Organisations Do to Tackle It?
Given the potential harm discussing workplace life or posting content on social media related to the workplace can cause, the corporates are putting restrictions on their employee to post anything related to the workplace on social media. Even employees can stop believing any fake news and should stop posting or forwarding content on social media without verification. The companies can order their internal complaints committee to maintain stern privacy in cases to stop information leaking into social media. The employees spreading fake rumours which can come under the scanner as sexually maligning could be punished under the PoSH act. Online PoSH training sessions can be organised for employees to make them understand the various aspects of sexual harassment and what could happen if someone files a malicious complaint or tries to blackmail someone. It is recommended that the organisations take the help of legal firms for POSH training of employees that can also make employees understand the provisions of cybercrime laws to tackle online harassment. All these steps could prove to be a deterrent to the menace of using social media for sexual harassment and defamation.