By Saddia Mazhar
Islamabad, November 30 (newsin.asia): Armata Haider, an active ID on Facebook, claimed to belong to Gilgit Baltistan. But the lie was exposed by Asif Naji, a lawyer and activists from Gilgit Baltistan. A family from Gilgit Baltistan claimed that the pictures used in his FB profile were of their’s. Pictures of that family had been leaked through one of the devices they had lost. They were appalled to see their veiled women being put on the social media.
Pakistan has 61.34 million internet users. The number increased by 11 million (+21%) between 2020 and 2021.Internet penetration in Pakistan stood at 27.5% in January 2021. The number of social media users in Pakistan increased by 9.0 million between 2020 and 2021 and is now 46 million. In 2017, Pakistan’s total literacy rate was around 59 percent, with less than 47 percent of women being literate and more than 71 percent of men.
The world largest social media platform like Facebook does not have a head office in Pakistan. So it is really difficult to get data regarding the number of Facebook profiles emanating from Pakistan. When complaints are filed with the Federal Investigating Agency (FIA), they show the least interest, Mahnoor Qureshi a show host told newsin.asia. When you call ‘15’ in any emergency, they console you, but the FIA does not do so. Even five months after an incident, nothing is done, Mahnoor added.
In Pakistan “Facebook “is the most popular social media platform. Viral content like hate speech, misogyny, sexism, homophobia, racism and fake content come from Facebook. It is the easiest platform to generate content, get fame and attention. But unfortunately it is used for online harassment and misuse of data on females.
What if someone uses your personal pictures taken out of your Facebook account or any other social media platform and damages your image and bring you into disrepute or threaten you?
“I trusted him as he assured me that I am the most beautiful and best match for him”, said Sumaira who belongs to a village in south Punjab to a female Lahore-based lawyer. “This relationship was started through FB friendship. We exchanged our numbers, shared personal pictures and kept in touched through video calls, as I was sure that we will get married. But after all this he blocked me and contacted me after some months and demanded money. Now I have given him 50 k. But he is demanding more and I have nothing more to give. I am afraid, my family will kill me,” she said.
The lawyer suggested that she file a complaint with the FIA and visit their office. I helped her in writing an application. But she refused to contact the FIA saying that he brothers will kill her.
The Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) has to be read by everyone in the country. It is available on the official website. The Cybercrime wing received atotal of 142 complaints under PECA Section 24 which is related to cyber stalking. The smallest number of complaints was under the Section 18, which is about electronic fraud.
Electronic fraud and forgery were at the peak in the beginning of 2021 which is alarming as digital media is also increasing these days. Sections 16 and 17 address “identity theft”. These come under Sections 65 and 56. Section 3,4 and 5 address unauthorized access to system/data.
The most important sections of PECA are Section 20 and 21, which every digital media woman should know. These are about sexual exploitation and abuse. Section 11, is about hate speech. 19 complaints have been received under this section.
The FIA has implemented PECA and its Cybercrime wing investigates complaints, especially from women. But in a country of 34 million internet users, the Cybercrime wing has a team of only 500 individuals (400 of whom were added in 2020). The agency does not have the resources to battle the daily online harassment.
“Two weeks are required only for verification although this process just needs 2 to 5 minutes. The time factor disappoints people when they think about filing their complaints with the FIA. Our women also do not feel comfortable about visiting the FIA office because of its male staff, says Irum Shuja, an advocate in the High Court.
“People do not have proper education about their rights and laws, that is the reason that the FIA does not respond to applications.But when you take the help of a legal advisor, the FIA will treat the case differently,” Irum added
Men dominate the FIA, and their track record shows they don’t grasp gendered harassment. They pursue cases subjectively. In 2017, the Digital Rights Foundation submitted a complaint about a Facebook account that repeatedly made memes about DRF’s founder. When asked for updates on the investigation, the agency said: “A public figure such as yourself must be getting these threats regularly, no?”