FIA continues to tackle cyber harassment

DRF report stated FB and WhatsApp have the worst track record when it comes to cases of online harassment

Talib Fareedi January 27, 2019

LAHORE: Social media and internet crimes are increasing with each passing day. According to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Lahore Cyber Crime Cell, the region received 4,974 applications from September 2018 to December 2018. These included 998 applications from women who were sexually abused.

Cyber Crime Cell Deputy Director Muhammad Usman told Express News that girls and boys initially befriended each other, but tended to take revenge after developing differences. “They post edited pictures to defame each other and in many cases nikkahs or marriages end [as a result].”

He went on to say that in around 11 cases, girls blackmailed boys and the marriages of the latter ended.

The report stated that doctored photos and videos of women on social media also caused many a marriage to come to an end. It added a large portion of the married girls returned to their parents’ home after divorce.

In the 9,974 calls received by the FIA Cyber Crime Circle Lahore region in four months, 988 women reported that they were sexually abused and blackmailed. Most of the women who reported their cases either study at universities or work at offices. The suspects first befriended the women and later doctored their pictures or made videos before posting them on social media.

According to the Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) report released earlier this month, Facebook and WhatsApp have the worst track record when it comes to cases of online harassment and misuse of data.

The DRF released its “Cyber Harassment Helpline: Two Year Report” in the first week of January. The report highlighted that data collected by the helpline focused on the nature and extent of online harassment. It also contained recommendations for public bodies to improve their institutional response to online harassment.
The Cyber Harassment Helpline was launched on December 1, 2016, and is the region’s first dedicated helpline which addresses issues of online abuse and violence by providing a free, safe, gender-sensitive and confidential service. The Helpline provides legal advice, digital security support, psychological counseling and a proper referral network to complainants of online harassment. The toll-free number [0800-39393] is available every day from 9am to 5pm.

The report stated that 59% of the calls were by women, whereas 41% of the callers were men. However, it is important to note that several men were calling on behalf of women. Facebook is the most widely used platform in Pakistan, which is reflected in the fact that 29% of the helpline callers experienced harassment there.

The helpline has strict privacy and confidentiality policies in place and only non-personally identifiable information is collected from callers with informed consent. While some of the callers did not want to disclose their location, the cell was able to identify that most of them were from Punjab (57%).

Nighat Dad, the Executive Director of the Cyber Harassment Helpline, stated that “our callers have reached out to us from far-flung areas of the country. This goes to show that the negative use of online tools has impacted lives equally. Our aim for the coming year is to increase our capacity and reach out to a wider audience so that the internet can be a safe space for all”.


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