Only 343 cases of child sexual exploitation reported in five years

Published July 22, 2022
(L-R) Shehzad Roy, M. Tahir Rai and Iqbal Detho at the programme organised by Zindagi Trust in collaboration with Meta. — Photo courtesy: Zindagi Trust
(L-R) Shehzad Roy, M. Tahir Rai and Iqbal Detho at the programme organised by Zindagi Trust in collaboration with Meta. — Photo courtesy: Zindagi Trust

KARACHI: While over two million cases of child exploitation imagery uploaded on to Facebook in 2021 in the country, a top official of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) puts the number of reported cases at 343 during the past five years, urging people to report cases and lodge complaints against sexual predators.

“We have responsibility towards the protection of children, all of us do. And my duty is to enforce the laws here. The protection of the rights of the child in cyberspace is extremely important. Unfortunately, we are among the countries with the highest incidences, which amounted to 2.1 million in 2021,” FIA Director General Mohammed Tahir Rai told an event here on Thursday

“But our nation is not reporting these to the law enforcement agencies and not to Meta also. Due to this only 343 such cases have been reported in the last five years. I am glad that Meta is removing such material from its platform,” he said.

The FIA chief was speaking at an event — Child Protection and Digital Safety Dialogue — organised by Zindagi Trust in collaboration with the technological company Meta, which powers Facebook, at the Government Elementary College of Education in Hussainabad.

FIA chief, Meta say 2.1m child pornography images uploaded on Facebook from Pakistan in 2021 alone

Besides identifying ways to make digital platforms safer for children and share policy recommendations with government agencies to help create better reporting mechanisms, the collaboration also saw the launching of the campaign titled #ReportDontShare that pushes for reporting inappropriate content to help remove it instead of sharing it further on social media platforms.

Accompanied by representatives from the FIA’s Cyber Crime Wing, Mr Tahir Rai emphasised on the lack of reported cases in Pakistan. He encouraged people to report cases and lodge complaints against sexual predators to help FIA take immediate action.

According to Meta, there were over two million cases of child exploitation imagery uploaded on to Facebook in 2021 in Pakistan.

Joining online, Michael Yoon, the manager trust and safety, law enforcement and outreach at Meta, said that they were working with the FIA and other law enforcement agencies in Pakistan to catch criminals involved in cybercrime including blackmail, extortion, terrorism, etc.

Also joining online, the head of safety policy at Meta, Shireen Vakil, informed the audience about safety measures available for young users on Meta to safeguard themselves from predators online.

She highlighted the new technology being used at Meta, including artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect inappropriate content and remove it accordingly.

A member of the National Commission on the Rights of Child, Iqbal Detho, stressed the need to review the Pakistan Electronic Criminal Act (PECA) as well as the Pakistan Penal Code and make amendments for child safety in digital spaces.

He also emphasised the implementation of policy making at the provincial level to help bring justice and provide legal aid to the victims.

Sarim Aziz, the director public policy, South Asia, Meta, said that they have a zero tolerance policy for content related to child exploitation and abuse.

“We use latest ground-breaking technology to prevent, detect and remove content related to child abuse and violence,” he said.

“Since this is a highly sensitive matter, we take a comprehensive approach to keep our family of apps free of such malicious content and continue to collaborate with local authorities, rights bodies and relevant stakeholders to fully ensure that the victims are not repeatedly traumatised by sharing evidence of their ordeal. Instead the content should be reported through proper channels so that the government agencies can move against those responsible,” he added.

Sharing his thoughts on the campaign, Zindagi Trust founder and president Shehzad Roy said that whenever he encountered disturbing content, his first instinct would be to share it so it could help find the perpetrator. “However, I have realised that the content can be distressing for many viewers and is a breach of privacy of the victims,” he said.

Earlier, the organisers also played an informative video produced by them to educate people about the harms of sharing inappropriate content and encourage them to report malicious content through proper channels instead of sharing it further.

“We want to push for justice for victims and advocate for safer digital spaces instead of sensationalising traumatic events. Zindagi Trust takes pride in being a vocal advocate of policy level change for children’s safety and education. We rely on the support of government institutions and social media companies like Meta to help us achieve our goals,” he added.

Published in Dawn, July 22nd, 2022

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