Cyber report

Editorial Board
Sunday, May 29, 2022

The helpline set up by the Digital Rights Foundation, a non-government organization aimed at monitoring and advising on the use of digital space in the country, has issued a detailed report on its findings over the past five years. Harassment figured prominently in the calls on the helpline, 68 per cent of the calls coming from women. Most of these calls involved allegations of harassment or blackmail over social media with WhatsApp, Facebook and other popular social forums reported as the main conduit for these. There were also multiple complaints of non-consensual use of photographs. In total, the organization received 11,681 cases in the last five years, with an average of 370 cases per month.

It is obvious that cyber harassment is becoming a growing problem notably for women in the country. New policies and regulations need to be put in place to protect women and girls, and also make them more aware of safe use of cyberspace. There should also be a regular review of complaints coming in so that these can be addressed as soon as possible. The necessary laws should be analyzed and amendments made where necessary, considering flaws which allow perpetrators of cybercrimes to escape penalty. That however does not mean that laws like Peca should be encouraged, with all the flaws in them. Today's mediated, interconnected world has made cyberspace an increasingly important part of life. It is therefore essential that they be governed with the sensitivity required – importantly, in conjunction with independent groups, especially those fighting for digital rights.

Draconian punishments suggested for those who harass women will serve only a very limited purpose. The FIA’s cybercrime wing, which has done some useful work, also needs to be strengthened both with an increase in personnel and technical knowhow. For children, parents must be made aware of how to ensure safety, with multiple reports of harassment of teenagers and young adults at colleges and other places of learning. This is not an issue that can be ignored. The DRF report gives us some insight into the kind of problems that exist. Public campaigns need to be run advising persons using the internet on how to act to protect themselves and to avoid sharing images over any site given the possibility of misuse and distribution to other net users. The report is an important one, and the matter of cyberspace and its impact on society should not be taken lightly in this age where more and more people own smartphones and use them for both good and damaging practices.