LAHORE: Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) has registered more than 2,600 complaints of cyber harassment during 2022, according to a report released by the organisation on Saturday.

The report, titled ‘Cyber Harassment Helpline Annual Report 2022’, said 2,695 new cases were received throughout the year, an average of 224 cases each month.

The data was compiled on the basis of cases reported on the organisation’s ‘Cyber Harassment Helpline’ and through email and DRF’s social media platforms.

Cyber harassment was the biggest issue faced by the complaints with 2,273 — 84 per cent of the total complaints — about it.

Digital rights group says most of complainants were female

People aged between 18 and 30 were around 52pc of the total complainants while around 58.6pc of the total complaints were registered by women. Most complaints were about blackmailing, followed by financial fraud and non-consensual use of information. While females complained the most about blackmailing, males were the biggest victims of financial fraud.

The highest number of cases were reported from Punjab (1,712), followed by Sindh (354) and KP (144). The data showed that journalists, activists and transgenders made up the bulk of complainants.

Fraud, hate campaign

DRF Executive Director Nighat Dad said her organisation saw a significant rise in cases of financial fraud, scam attempts and online smear campaigns against transgender activists and individuals in 2022. The rise in digital hate speech against the transgender community was pointing to a worrying trend of identity-based attacks, she said.

DRF helpline manager Hyra Basit said it was their responsibility to advocate for the most vulnerable segments of society.

The report recommended addressing the existing digital gender divide by removing financial, safety and social barriers that women faced in accessing digital and internet spaces. It also recommended the FIA enhance its technical expertise and urged the government to take decisive action to eradicate online harassment and gender-based violence.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2023

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