The Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) has recorded a 189 per cent increase in complaints filed with its Cyber Harassment Helpline amid Pakistan’s coronavirus lockdown.
A press release published by the not-for-profit organisation stated that “As Pakistan entered its lockdown [in March] in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, we feared there would be an increase in cyber-harassment cases as well as cyber attacks in general,”.
Cyber Harassment Complaints Increase Amid Lockdown
The organisation, which operates to ensure digital freedoms in the state, recorded a combined 136 complaints of cyber harassment in the months of March and April during the lockdown compared to 47 such complaints before the lockdown, showing an increase of 189pc.
About 74 per cent of the complaints reported in March and April were filed by women, whereas men and non-binary persons reported 19pc and 5pc complaints, respectively.
A significant portion of the cases that the organisation’s cyber harassment helpline recorded during the lockdown months “pertained to blackmailing through non-consensual sharing of information, intimate pictures and videos”.
According to DRF, complaints of hate speech, phishing, fake profiles and slander were also reported. Women in Pakistan are sufferers of different forms of gendered violence in the digital sphere that encompasses sexual harassment, surveillance, unauthorised use and dissemination of personal data, and manipulation of personal information.
The DRF also issued a list of recommendations for policymakers and law enforcement agencies. It entails, “These [recommendations] cover problems of the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) accessibility particularly during the pandemic, and also how technology needs to be used hand in hand while dealing with digital harassment cases, like allowing for video testimonies,”.