With the arrival of the pandemic in our country, the State did what it considered it should to deal with the health and economic crisis. For the protection of life, health, jobs and businesses, among other things. (Unsuccessfully-to a significant degree…)
We are experiencing, already for the second time, a compulsory curfew and a ban on (normal) operation. We reconsidered what it means to coexist with ourselves and our family (more precisely: we had the opportunity to recollect).
Things, in most cases, did not go as smoothly for everyone. Having lost the alibi of long hours, due to professional obligations, our absence from home we had time with our children, our spouses, our partners, ourselves. In other words, we lost our “normalcy”. Did we seize the opportunity to experience and enjoy the “togetherness”?
Teleworking was the sufficient excuse to stay “stuck” on our laptops, ipads and smart phones. And since we were “forced” in long hours of professional self-isolation, that reasonably led to corresponding connections with the relevant devices and the internet. And to disconnections from the “togetherness”. And Christmas?
Internet addiction is a disease. This assumption (already adopted by the WHO) confirms the extent, range and depth of our exposure on the internet.
The pandemic and the second “lockdown” aggravate the problem.
We (both adults and minors) always have sufficient excuses to spend endless, as a rule, hours on the internet. But our exposure to the internet is inevitably linked to corresponding risks. We have already experienced some of them. And they never are of minor importance.
We become more and more aware of the dangers of the internet for children (and rightly so). But: cybercrime potentially affects us all. Without exception.
Prevention and repression
Prevention concerns the State, the Society, the Competent Bodies & Organizations, the family and, of course, each of us, individually.
What happens when prevention either does not work or completely fails? When do the perpetrators identify the “cracks” in our devices, networks, systems and attention? When do they manage to penetrate our exclusively personal world? And when does this happen to our children?
When prevention does not work (or fails), repression follows – under the self-evident condition of locating the perpetrator. And then again, we focus on prevention…
The State must create a grid of necessary regulations that provide for severe penal sanctions for those behaviors that go beyond what is socially, morally and legally tolerable. There are a number of criminal regulations concerning cybercrime and the treatment of those who adopt intolerable behaviors (as they are determined by society and the State that expresses it).
The criminal provisions
The pace of technological developments is remarkably fast. The legislature in an attempt to follow them, even panting heavily, has enacted a series of provisions concerning offenses committed through computer programs, the internet and unlawful interference with software and devices (which we all use daily to communicate, work, entertain ourselves, trade…). We mainly find them in the Penal Code.
In general: provisions referring to cybercrime
Most of them are the relevant provisions in the Penal Code. With time, the legislator tries to manage unknown, until recently, behaviours nobody was concerned about thirty years ago, for example, child pornography on the internet, exposure of our personal moments on social media. Such issues already concern us all – of course the legislator as well.
Penalties for cybercrime may relate to damage to major social goods. Such provisions concern, for example, insults to the democratic regime (Article 135 of the Penal Code), crimes against public order (incitement to disobedience-183 of the Penal Code, incitement to commit crimes, violence or discord-184 of the Penal Code, terrorist acts-terrorist organization) 187A PC, threat of committing crimes-190 PC, spreading of false news-191 PC, crimes related to currency-211 PC).
Of particular interest, however, are those provisions concerning ancillary goods of major value. As such: crimes against the security of telephone communications (292A PC), obstruction of the operation of information systems (292B & C PC), violations of the secrecy of public telecommunications (292D PC), obstruction of telecommunications (292E PC).
Such are those that concern crimes against personal, individual goods, such as social representation – honour (insult, defamation – 361 to 363 PC). Also, those that refer to violations of privacy and communications (breach of confidentiality of documents-370 PC, breach of privacy of telephone communications and oral conversations -370A PC, illegal access to information systems or data-370B, C, D & E PC.
One of the provisions that is gaining more and more interest (due to the frequency of such incidents) is that of computer fraud (386A PC).
Of particular importance are the crimes related to the love life of the individual and are committed through the internet and / or by electronic means.
They have a special social and moral value when it comes to children. Provisions concerning sexual offenses involving child victims are, for example: insult of sexual dignity (337 PC), facilitation of insults to minors (338 PC), and especially child pornography (348 PC), attracting children for sexual reasons (348 PC), pornographic representations of minors (348C PC).
Of course, it is not only children who are harmed by possible public exposure of “non-public” acts. The examples are, unfortunately, innumerable. As a rule, we usually become aware of such incidents involving public figures.
The recent, relevant, mistake of the legislator is serious: Unfortunately, with the reform of the penal code in July last year, the provision of 370A of the Penal Code was re-approached, I want to believe with negligence, which provided that “whoever illegally monitors by special technical means or imprints in a medium a non-public act of another, is punished with imprisonment of up to ten years”. The legislator reserved the same treatment for the one who would make use of the above medium. The specific criminal sanction does not exist, although the provision itself is maintained. Therefore, public exposure (eg circulation on social media or, more generally, on the internet) of a “non-public act of another” – such as so many serious and recent examples – is dealt with by the current Article 370A of the Penal Code, in conjunction with other provisions, no longer as a felony but as a serious misdemeanour.
A counter- argument would appear reasonable. Why is it a crime to photograph a non-fasting priest during a period of fasting? On the other hand, isn’t the circulation on social media and on the internet of a couple’s “personal” moments by an ex-partner a crime of grave social and moral depravity? Aren’t the consequences irreparably catastrophic?
Let us hope for a brief, relevant, redress – especially in the direction of independent addressing of such a crime.
And after the prosecution, what?
The aforementioned provisions concern only the sanctions that are threatened in case of occurrence of criminal behaviour and are always imposed a posteriori. It is doubtful whether the perpetrator of such a criminal act will be sent to prison – other than in absolutely extreme cases. The trauma left on the victim will be deep and last a lifetime. Therefore, the solution is only one: prevention. And prevention requires knowledge (but also a lot of effort).
Specifically: child pornography
Along with the development of the internet, child pornography began to flourish in the 1990s. It is, without a doubt, one of the scourges of the modern age. An industry that in 2010 was valued (based on a study by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) at an annual turnover of twenty, at least, billion USD. And, already, a decade has passed with an explosive further increase in the use of the internet and cybercrime. We assume that the increase in the relevant valuation will be exponential. And, of course, dramatic – as are its consequences.
It is common ground that the rise of cybercrime is unfortunately linked to the use of the internet. The pandemic and (in particular) the “lockdown” both act as a fertilizer. The addiction (which we allow – and perhaps unconsciously promote) of children to the internet. Respectively, the departure from the traditional family ties, essential relationships, honest, personal and human contact.
We probably all know what to do (and what to avoid) to reduce cybercrime which affects our daily lives and beyond. The actions of Institutions and Organizations are not, of course, sufficient to address it. Nor does policing seem feasible or democratically tolerated by logic: one police officer per citizen. There is a question of internalizing the reason that justifies the ban. An issue of understanding the value of personal responsibility.
The dangers of the internet: The second lockdown & beyond it
The dangers of the internet are present. And as time goes on, they magnify. The second “lockdown”, just a few months after the first, the new curfew (which we experience cumulatively with the first), the increased exposure to our computers and smart devices, telework and e-learning make us more vulnerable.
We must all be vigilant: the State, the Society, the Authorities, the Institutions, the School, the Family, each of us. We must protect the most vulnerable groups. The elders and our children. And it is important, without a doubt, to turn to experts. Caution: not to those who work for their own, ultimately, benefit. To those who are proven to work with social responsibility for the common good.
Let us not forget: our knowledge of cybercrime will always be limited compared to the perpetrators.
If we accept this, the next day will certainly be better. And even more: we will all be safer and, of course, happier.
And beyond (on the occasion of the already ongoing second lockdown):
Let’s reduce our exposure to the internet.
Let’s reduce the use of our laptops, iPads and smart phones.
Let’s invest in self-improvement, let’s invest in our loved ones, let’s invest in our family.
Let’s start one of these days.
(After all: it is CHRISTMAS…) .-
P.S. A brief version of this article has been published in MAKEDONIA Newspaper and makthes.gr (December 20, 2020).
Disclaimer: the information provided in this article is not (and is not intended to) constitute legal advice. Legal advice can only be offered by a competent attorney and after the latter takes into consideration all the relevant to your case data that you will provide them with. See here for more details.