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Friday, August 4, 2017

Growing Cyber Harassment in Pakistan

It is estimated that there are over 37.5 million 3G, 4G/LTE subscribers in Pakistan at the moment. This dramatic rise in the use of internet technology has virtually reduced the world to  a Global Village. Though there are some challenges in this new virtual space and one such challenge is the striking rise in cyber crimes across Pakistan.

Cyber Harassment is one such form of cyber crimes which is getting more common in our society.  In this regard, psychologists of Global Medical Services Rawalpindi (Mr. Adil Ali & Ms. Ruhma Shahid) took the initiative and did an awareness program on PTV World on August 1st, 2017.


Cyber Harassment is the use of Information and Communications Technology to harass, control, manipulate or habitually disparage a child, adult, business or group without a direct or implied threat of physical harm.  It is commonly understood as behavior that disturbs or upsets, and it is characteristically repetitive.

There are many different types of harassment over the internet, some of which are given below:

Cyber Bullying:
This  include mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles. Messages and images can be posted anonymously and distributed quickly to a very wide audience and can be difficult and sometimes impossible to trace the source or deleting inappropriate or harassing messages, texts, and pictures.

Cyber Stalking:
This includes the use of the Internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass an individual. It may include false accusations or attempts to defame the victim. It may also include monitoring, identity theft, threats, vandalism, solicitation for sex, or gathering information that may be used to threaten, embarrass or harass.

Spreading False Information about an Individual:
This includes sharing or posting false information about someone on social media that damages their reputation.

Hate speech:
This includes using abusive language, inappropriate comments based on religion, ethnicity or any other classification.

Leaking or publishing an individual’s personally identifiable information:
This includes publishing someone's identifiable information such name, date of birth, pictures or personal information such as medical conditions online.

Accessing and dissemination of private data without consent
This includes accessing someone's private information and sharing it online without their permission.

Hacking Electronic Devices / Accounts:
This includes hacking someone's electronic devices, email or social media accounts with intent to monitor their activities or to post something on their behalf without their knowledge.

On 11/08/2016, National Assembly of Pakistan passed Cyber Crime Bill in Pakistan.  According to this new law, there are punishments for all kinds of cyber harassment:

Spreading False Information about an Individual
Up to 3 years in Prison or up to Rs. 1 Million in Fine or both
Making /  Spreading Explicit Images or Videos of an Individual
Up to 5 Years in Prison or up to Rs. 5 Million in Fine or both
Making / Spreading Explicit Images or Videos of Minor
Up to 7 Years in Prison or up to Rs. 5 Million in Fine or both
Cyber stalking
Up to 3 Years in Jail or Up to Rs. 1 Million in Fine or both
Cyber Stalking with a Minor
Up to 5 Years in Jail and up to Rs. 10 Million in Fine
Hacking Email / phone for Stalking
Up to 3 Years in Jail or Up to Rs. 1 Million in Fine or both 
Making Videos/Pics and Distributing without Consent
Up to 3 Years in Jail or Up to Rs. 1 Million in Fine or both
Hate speech
 Up to 7 Years in Prison or fine or both

Two days ago, on 02/08/2017, a man who blackmailed and harassed a girl through social networking website “Facebook” has been jailed for 14 months in prison along with a fine of fine of Rs 200,000.

While discussing in a program World This Morning on PTV World (aired 1st Aug, 2017), Clinical Psychologist Mr. Adil Ali said that the freedom of privacy and personal anonymity that internet offers encourages many individuals to do things and say words that are generally not acceptable socially.  If there were no social norms, no rules, no regulations, no control, many of us would behave in the same way we do on the internet when we have the freedom of privacy.  Ms. Ruhma Shahid added that it is the persona that we wear that makes us civilized human beings.

According to a study, 70% of Pakistani women afraid of posting their pictures online due to lack of safety. Cases of stolen Facebook profile pictures are routine and in some cases have forced women to completely stop using social media sites and they in fact get blamed from their families for doing it.

Not quite surprisingly, there is so much stigma around it that majority of women choose to stay quiet for the honor of their families and would refrain from seeking any kind of professional support.

Not seeking help can effect the psychological well-being of victims.  According to Mr. Adil Ali, victims could develop different mental health issues including depression, anxiety and PTSD to name a few.


Realize that its NOT your fault:
There should be no threat to family's honor if someone bullies you or harasses you online. You have the right to go online, create your profiles use all the social media websites.  Don't ever blame yourself.

Block the Harasser:
There are blocking options available to users on almost all websites and social media platforms.

Report to the platform:
Don't forget to share your bad experience with the platform you had it on.  For instance if you are on Facebook, report it to the Facebook authorities.

Seek Help from Local Authorities:
Report the incident to National Response Center for Cyber Crime by dialing the Cyber Rescue Help line at 9911.  Or call the recently launched Pakistan's first Cyber Harassment Hotline at 0800-39393.

Seek Psychological Help:
Its never easy to deal with such issues all alone.  Your family and social support network is going to be a huge help for you but its always good to see a psychologist, or counselor for help.  Psychologists or Counselors can help the victims in getting a psychologically safe environment to discuss their harassment and to take necessary steps for their safety.

If your are a victim of cyber harassment and need psychological support, feel free to contact Global Medical Services in Rawalpindi at (051) 4848934-36 or see any other psychologists in your area.

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