Cyber Harassment Helpline receives 513 complaints in first four months

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At least 513 individuals recorded complaints with the Digital Rights Foundation (DRF)’s Cyber Harassment Helpline (CHH) in four months, according to a report issued by the DRF regarding its operational activities on Tuesday.

The report reads that 62% of the calls were made by women, whereas 37% of the callers were men. The platform where people face the most harassment was found to be Facebook and most of the complaints were regarding fake profiles, non consensual use of information, blackmailing, unsolicited messages and hacked accounts or devices.

The report, however, says that these statistics do not necessarily reflect the proportion of cases dealing with harassment directly faced by men or women and only records the gender of the caller. “It has been noticed that a number of men called on the behalf of their female friends or family members, which perhaps reflects reluctance on part of the women to call the helpline directly,” the report says, adding that this is a weakness that the helpline team plans to consciously work on in the next quarter of its operations.

As per report, the majority of the cases received by the CHH were from Punjab (41.3%) whereas 23.9% of the callers chose not to disclose their location. The helpline also received calls from Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Azad Kashmir, and the Federal Territory where their percentages were recorded 17.8, 4.7, 1.3, 0.7 and 10.1 respectively.

After assessing the overwhelming number of cases, the report has identified some recommendations for law enforcement agencies and the government. “There is need for further improvement within the National Response Centre for Cyber Crime (NR3C) of the FIA,” the report suggests, while further adding that the NR3C is understaffed with limited resources which is why there are delays in registration and investigation of cases pertaining to cyber harassment.

The report proposes gender-sensitization training for FIA staff, along with the recruitment of female investigative officers (IOs). The FIA’s National Response Centers for Cyber Crime needs to be expanded to more cities, as they are currently limited to major cities of Pakistan, which restricts the accessibility to justice and is a deterrent to reporting for many women living in smaller cities or remote locations.