Pakistan registers 189% increase in cyber harassment complaints during COVID-19 lockdown

PTI New Delhi, Delhi, India Jun 03, 2020, 11.42 PM(IST)

Representative image. Photograph:( Reuters )

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The Digital Rights Foundation said the complaints were registered with its Cyber Harassment Helpline.

A Pakistani rights body on Wednesday said it registered 189 per cent increase in cyber harassment complaints during the countrywide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The Digital Rights Foundation said the complaints were registered with its Cyber Harassment Helpline.

The helpline reported a combined 136 complaints of cyber harassment in March and April during the lockdown compared to 47 such complaints, an increase of 189 per cent, before the lockdown in January and February.

Seventy-four per cent of the complaints registered in March and April were reported by women, whereas men and non-binary persons registered 19 per cent and 5 per cent complaints, respectively, the not-for-profit organisation said in a press release.

"As Pakistan entered its lockdown 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," it said.

A majority of the cases that the organisation's cyber harassment helpline received during the lockdown months "pertained to blackmailing through non-consensual sharing of information, intimate pictures and videos".

Complaints of hate speech, phishing, fake profiles and defamation were also reported.

Women in Pakistan often face different kind gender-based violence in the digital sphere but the most common is sexual harassment and the Digital Rights Foundation suggested measures for the government to tackle this issue.

It asked Federal Investigation Agency's (FIA) accessibility for the people facing cyber threats and using technology to deal with digital harassment cases, like allowing for video testimonies.

The Digital Rights Foundation works to ensure digital freedoms in the country to ensure unhindered access to internet.