A case was registered against a man harassing and blackmailing a woman online and was sentenced to six years in prison along with a compensation of Rs.0.7 million to the victim. Cyber harassment is on the rise in Pakistan and it’s our duty to act as responsible citizens by understanding the procedure to face this social problem and how to protect ourselves online in this digital era.
Cyber harassment is a global challenge and the Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) is playing an important role in providing awareness and assistance in helping Pakistanis to face this online exploitation. DRF Cyber Harassment helpline is dedicated to help women who face online exploitation and has got a team of digital security expert, lawyer, and psychologist. There are thousands of women who get blackmailed via hackers hacking their personal data on mobiles and laptops, who get threatening messages and abusive comments online, and bloggers and social media influencers whose photos are used publicly without their consent.
There are countless examples of online harassment and we need to educate people about their rights.
Ignorance of the law is delinquency and it’s a dilemma of our society that majority of the people in Pakistan are unaware of the fact that our country has got strict laws against cyber harassment. Turning a blind eye towards online harassment is definitely not the answer to this problem when the internet is transforming towards digital influence and content. It’s the dire need of the time that we get well aware of the laws and the organizations working to facilitate people in this regard. Any person who uses or transmits any information to harm any person including women or to take any sort of revenge online or to create hatred or spread rumors is punishable under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016. According to the report published by DRF, only 28% of the women are aware of this act.
This Act is available online and it covers all the topics of cyber harassment, blackmailing and abusive comments.
The Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) has recently published an extensive report on stats and data gathered on their cyber harassment helpline (0800-39393). This helpline is dedicated to support the callers’ cases with the help of their team of experts and help them to pursue their cases further via pro bono lawyers. This helpline is known to general public majorly by the help of social media or word of mouth.
The stats published show that a total of 2781 calls were received out of which 2190 were the new cases received over the past two years with an average of 91 calls per month. The further breakdown of the stats shows that approximately 59 percent cases were reported by women and 41 percent were male victims with 85 percent females reported their own cases and 73 percent men themselves and rest were reported by someone else on behalf of the victim.
The geographical distribution of the reported cases depict that Punjab has got the majority of the cases with 57 percent calls and Sindh is second with 15 percent cases reported. A similar trend of calls is observed on city level with 811 calls received from Lahore and 273 calls from Karachi. Moving forward to the age wise distribution, 21 percent of the callers’ age varies from 21 to 25 years. The helpline deals with all the types of online platforms and has lodged 29 percent of the cases related to harassment on Facebook. However, with emerging online security challenges like Whatsapp hacking, an increase in the number of related cases has been observed from 2.6 percent to 9.5 percent calls.
The cases reported belong to various categories including (listed from most to least reported):
- Without permission use of information
- Uninvited contact
- Fake profile
- Online Stalking
- Gender-based bullying
- FIA related
A deeper analysis of the cases related to FIA shows that 37 percent of calls made on the helpline came directly under the domain of FIA. So, these cases were directly referred to FIA for further investigation in case the callers show intend to pursue the case on legal grounds.
While breaking down the services provided by the cyber harassment helpline. 35 percent cases were given guidance related to digital security, 22 percent cases were given legal counseling and 31 percent callers sought help related to legal and digital spaces. Well, 10 percent of the exceptional cases were assisted in all of these fields.
The report published by DRF has got some serious insights related to cyber exploitation and the bright side of the report is that our people are actually coming out to seek help in this regard. Silence is not the solution to digital space challenges encountered by people on a daily basis and we should be well aware of our rights in order to face online harassment. Such online exploitation has got some adverse effects on the mental health of the victims and the DRF report explicitly shows that there were some callers who were assessed to be suicidal. Being responsible citizens, the first thing to do today is that we should know our rights and learn about the cyber-crime act. And for its implementation, look around and spread the awareness in our social circle and most importantly, educate them to report such cybercrimes to the relevant departments like cyber harassment helpline and FIA Cybercrime wing,