As the lockdown and social distancing continues with Covid-19 still posing a threat to everyone around the world, people are forced to remain within the four walls of their homes. One such coping mechanism and probably the only thing keeping us sane, has been the internet. From virtual classrooms to online board meetings, from Zoom sessions with friends, to catch up on Instagram stories, the internet has been a lifesaver for many of us during these difficult times.
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Cyber threats of lockdown
Whilst the internet has helped keep many busy and comfortable within their homes, it still poses a dangerous threat for many around the world. Given the boredom and frustration of staying inside, people are more likely to be vulnerable online and be the victims of cyber harassment. From fake accounts to abusive ex’s and blackmailing people, from experimenting on dating apps to relationships blossoming on gaming apps, the cyber-world is full of all kinds of people on all type of mediums right now.
Parents and guardians must be active in knowing what their children are doing and what they are exposed to on the internet. Whilst most children are getting away with a lot of ‘tablet time’ these days, the use must be monitored. Parental control should be activated and regularly checked to make sure no inappropriate content or cyber predators can engage with children. If your child is using a device for their online classes, be aware and vigilant of what else they can access.
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Cyber harassment and cyberbullying are on a rise all around the world due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. Everyone must know what their rights are and how the law can help. From someone making a fake social media account of you or misusing your pictures, blackmailing you regarding any personal information or stalking you on various platforms — the law is here to help.
Cybercrime laws: How to use them?
If you, or any minor you know, is a victim of online harassment, then you can either lodge a complaint on the FIA’s website, http://www.nr3c.gov.pk/, or put up a complaint on the Pakistan Citizen Portal App under the Media/Cybercrimes section. Both ways allow you to quickly communicate your grievance and will alert the relevant government departments to contact you.
Pakistan's first Cyber Harassment Helpline will officially start its operations on Dec 1, 2016. #CyberCrimes #NoToOnlineHarassment pic.twitter.com/ZLNSzPYKN0
— Islamabadian (@Islamabadies) November 27, 2016
As per Section 20 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016, offences against the dignity of a person which includes harming the reputation of a person can lead up to imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or a fine which may extend to one million rupees or both.
Furthermore, Section 21 goes on to provide that an offence against modesty of a person can lead to imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years or with fine which may extend to five million rupees or both. However, if the said offence of Section 21 is done to a minor then a stricter imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years and with fine which may extend to five million rupees may be imposed.
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The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016, along with the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Rules 2018, cover a wide ambit of cybercrimes. The laws in this area allow for victims of cybercrime to come forward and seek justice. The 2018 Rules set out that the Cybercrime Wing set up by the FIA will follow all investigations falling under the 2016 Act. These investigations are to be handled with the utmost care to privacy and caution, thereby acting as an incentive for victims to step forward and lodge a complaint.
The National Response Centre for Cyber Crimes which can be accessed on the FIA website sets out multiple cybercrime categories. The laws and regulations on cyber harassment are very clear but, unfortunately, mostly they are unheard of.
With the Covid-19 forcing us to remain inside, people find relief on the internet. They are hereby encouraged to use the cyber world maturely and alert the agencies regarding any form of cybercrimes. By initiating complaints about cyber-perpetrators, a lot of vulnerable people can be protected from online abuse and harassment. Like any other crime, criminals behind a screen should also be punished for their activity, and this will only be possible once people start filing legal complaints against them.
Faiza Asad is a Barrister practicing in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. She is a Junior Associate at a Law Firm. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.