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Social Issues

Cyber harassment cases increased by 70%: DRF Reports

Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) helpline for cyber harassment documented a total of 3,298 cases, which is an increase of 70 percent from the stats of 2019 in Pakistan.

DRF, through its Cyber Harassment Helpline, has provided its callers with assistance on digital safety, legal aid, and mental health counseling for the past four years. The last year was recorded, as the most challenging and demanding year for the helpline, which is surprisingly not due to the COVID-19 related lockdowns but due to the surge in online violence and harassment cases.

From June to September 2020, DRF Cyber Harassment Helpline operated round the clock to assist the unprecedented hike in calls and complaints, during the pandemic.

With July 2020 being the busiest month, the helpline received 212 calls per month on average. A total of 697 cases were recorded just during the month of July, alone.

Out of the total calls, 33 percent of cases were about blackmailing and extortion. These types of cases usually involve the use of an individual’s personal information, photos, or psychological manipulations to make threats and demands.

Around 23 percent of cases of hacking were recorded that included hacking of social media accounts, and social-engineered WhatsApp hacking.

On a provincial level, Punjab province reported the highest number of cases at 57 percent. Sindh province recorded 11 percent, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and Islamabad, the capital city, recorded 4 percent, Baluchistan province recorded 2 percent, and Azad Kashmir areas recorded 1 percent of cases.

“However, we found new and innovative ways to keep working, especially when we realized that as lockdowns grew, so did cyber harassment. I am also amazed at the bravery of the people who called on our helpline. These people are extremely brave for speaking up, and their efforts will hopefully break the cycle of violence in Pakistan.”

Nighat Dad, DRF’s Executive Director, said in a statement.

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