Online harassment major concern of Pakistani Internet users

Internet users in Pakistan also identify data privacy issues as their most pressing concern online

News Desk July 31, 2019

Pakistani women’s use of the internet is hindered by online harassment, said a research by Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD).

MMfD research recommended better implementation of harassment safeguards in anti-cybercrimes law and demands legislation on data protection.

Internet users in Pakistan have identified harassment and data privacy issues as their most pressing concerns online, according to a new study released by Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD) on Tuesday.

The study, titled “The Internet as we see it: Gendered perceptions from Pakistan”, also found that men and women users agreed on the benefits of the web, such as connectivity and access to information, but differed in their reactions to harassment and restrictions on expression online.

The research sheds light on the challenges and opportunities of using the Internet in Pakistan and the difference between how men and women navigate digital spaces.

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The launch event was attended by journalists, women working in the field of technology, and members of the civil society. A panel discussion was held to discuss the access and use of the Internet by women. Speakers at the panel discussion included prominent news anchor Maria Memon, tech entrepreneur Sidra Jalil, and women rights activist Aisha Sarwari.

For the research, MMfD conducted eight focus group sessions in Islamabad and Karachi, ensuring inclusion of men and women Internet users from different income groups. The discussions from these sessions were used to evaluate the effects of Internet usage in Pakistan and differences in Internet perceptions across gender.

The MMfD study revealed an overwhelming majority of research participants understood the importance of data privacy and surveillance. Speaking about the findings, Amel Ghani, a programme manager of MMfD and the co-author of the study, said, "Many believe that awareness and understanding of these issues in the general users in Pakistan is somewhat low, but it was really interesting to see a rather deep understanding of these issues in Pakistani user base.”

The MMfD study recommends several ways to make the Internet a safer, more accessible space for users, especially women, in Pakistan where credible information is shared. It suggests improved implementation of the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act 2016, and a gender-sensitivity training for law enforcement officials so women facing online harassment feel confident about initiating legal actions against perpetrators.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2019.


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