Countering Digital Harassment

Digital literacy and the associated digital rights are the most significant aspects of human rights in today’s world. Young people are among the pre-eminent victims of cyber-bullying on Social Media. Young people especially girls’ are facing online violence, cyber-bullying and digital harassment on online platforms in Pakistan. They lack awareness about digital security and digital rights and the interlinked international and domestic laws.

In the last two years, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA)’s cyber-crime wing has registered over 8,500 complaints regarding women’s digital harassment. However, it is only one side of the story, as hundreds and thousands of such cases currently go unreported due to cultural barriers and lack of awareness. In recent times, the internet has become an unsafe space for Pakistani women. Instances of online harassment, abuse, and blackmail are not uncommon. In everyday life, women in Pakistan experience online stalking, unsolicited online contact, and threats of physical and sexual violence.

Our youth only have the rudimentary understating of digital rights and the associated laws in the context of Pakistan. Effective communication between parents, students, academic institutions and their faculty members has a major role to play in this vexatious situation. However, the government needs to launch proper initiatives to counter cyberbullying and digital harassment.

According to the statistical data provided by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the number of mobile users in the country has crossed 160 million, as of May 2019. In our society, there are very few avenues for women to seek support. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has reported more than 7,000 cases of sexual violence against women in the last 15 years. Digital harassment is increasingly interlinked with offline forms of abuse, harassment, and blackmail.

To raise awareness in youth about the safe usage of social media and the digital harassment reporting techniques, Facebook with the help of local partners in Pakistan is launching a digital literacy campaign in the coming months. The initiative will not only help youth to interact and communicate effectively with family and friends on online platforms but will help them to identify the potential risks associated with online platforms.

It is important to educate the youth on digital literacy, so they can grasp awareness about the different dimensions of digital rights and identify the various techniques to deal with cyber-bullying. Our youth only have the rudimentary understating of digital rights and the associated laws in the context of Pakistan. Effective communication between parents, students, academic institutions and their faculty members has a major role to play in this vexatious situation. However, the government needs to launch proper initiatives to counter cyberbullying and digital harassment.

The government needs to organize a series of workshops focusing on digital security awareness in major universities of Pakistan, typically for young women. Such initiatives will provide information on what online harassment looks like for young women, where experts will be providing information and tips on how young people can protect themselves while staying online.

The state also requires to involve parents and faculty members of different academic institutions in the process as they are an integral part of this countering process. Potential initiatives of the government will not only help in increasing the awareness level of young people about digital rights and cyber harassment but will play an essential role in their professional careers.

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