Facebook has the worst track record when it comes to cases of online harassment

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ISLAMABAD: Facebook has the worst track record when it comes to cases of online harassment, according to a report released by the Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) on Wednesday.

In fact, nearly half of all complaints received by DRF’s cyber harassment helpline involved individuals who were experiencing harassment, such as creation of fake profiles, non-consensual use of information, blackmailing, and unsolicited messages, via Facebook.

The toll-free helpline 0800-39393, which has been active for nearly a year now, received a total of total 1,476 calls, of which 67pc came from women.

According to a breakdown of the data, half of all calls came from the most populous province, Punjab, while other areas’ totals are as follows: Sindh (18pc), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (5pc), Balochistan (2pc), Azad Kashmir and Fata (1pc) and Islamabad (5pc).

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According to activist and DRF founder Nighat Dad, “the helpline aims to fill the gaps of service delivery to complainants and victims of online harassment – to do what law enforcement and other organisations cannot – while paying special heed to gender-sensitivity and mental health.”

The report also makes certain recommendations for government and law enforcement agencies to improve the reporting mechanisms for cyber harassment.

“There is an urgent need to build the technical and financial capacity of the National Response Center for Cyber Crime (NR3C) of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to deal with complaints in a timely and satisfactory manner,” the DRF statement said.

The report called for investigation officers and prosecutors to be trained in cyber crime laws, internet governance, criminal procedures and trauma counseling.

“We recommend that the FIA form a separate desk for addressing online harassment with [women]investigators [who are given]gender-sensitisation training. Lastly, the FIA is urged put in place case management and tracking systems to ensure an accessible complaint registration procedure and effective follow-up on cases.

When a caller wants to pursue a legal case or investigate the identity of their harasser, [they are referred to the]NR3C as the designated law enforcement agency tasked with the investigation of cybercrime under section 29 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016, the report stated.

“In emergencies that require immediate action from law enforcement agencies, or when specialised services are needed, our staff refers the case to other relevant government authorities or NGOs for assistance,” the report said, noting that over the past year, 511 cases were referred to NR3C by the helpline staff.

“In just the past two months, 38 cases were referred to FIA. Out of these, 15 reported back to us that they had successfully filed complaints with the FIA at their various regional offices,” said Shmyla Khan, who heads the DRF helpline project.

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