ISLAMABAD - A report on cyber harassment has recommended to the government and law enforcement agencies to improve the reporting mechanism regarding online violence.

Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), a non-government organisation and research-based advocacy in its “Cyber Harassment Helpline: Two Year Report”, that was launched on Tuesday, said that the rules of The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016(PECA) drafted by the Ministry of Information Technology need to be made public to expand the rights available to the citizens of Pakistan.

“There is also an urgent need to build the technical and financial capacity of the FIA’s National Response Centre for Cyber Crime (NR3C) to deal with the unprecedented complaints more effectively and efficiently,” the report says.

The report also makes recommendations to build the capacity of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to deal with cases in foreign jurisdictions with officers getting specialised training in international laws engaged by the NR3C. Furthermore, recommendations include establishing a rapid response cell that should be operational 24/7 in addition to the operations of NR3C. DRF also mentioned that at least 33 percent of investigation officers and prosecutors should be women and the entire staff of the NR3C should be given training in gender sensitivity.

DRF in a statement said that “Cyber Harassment Helpline: Two Year Report” marks a milestone in the ongoing battle against online harassment and violence. The report highlights data collected by the Helpline on the nature and extent of the problem of online harassment. It also contains recommendations for public bodies to improve their institutional response to online harassment.

DRF launched the Cyber Harassment Helpline in December 1, 2016, and it is the regions’ first dedicated helpline that addresses issues of online abuse and violence by providing a free, safe, gender-sensitive and confidential service, the statement said.

The Helpline provides legal advice, digital security support, psychological counseling and a proper referral network to complainants of online harassment, it added. The toll-free number [0800-39393] is available every day from 9 am to 5 pm.

The report marks the 2-year milestone of the Helpline and during this period, the Helpline received 2302 complaints from December 1, 2016, till November 30, 2018, with an average of 91 calls each month.

Nighat Dad, the Executive Director of the Helpline, stated, “As we are closing the second year of the Cyber Harassment Helpline; we’ve seen the great impact, the slightest bit of help, encouragement and support can bring about. Our callers have reached out to us from far-flung areas of the country which goes to show that the negative use of online tools has impacted lives equally.” She added that their aim for the coming year was to increase their capacity and reach out to a wider audience so that the internet could be a safe space for all.

According to the data collected by Helpline, women made 59 percent of the calls at the Helpline, whereas 41 percent of the callers were men, though several men were found calling on behalf of women. “Facebook is the most widely used platform in Pakistan, which is reflected in the fact that 29 percent of the helpline callers experienced harassment there,” the report said.

According to DRF, the Helpline has strict privacy and confidentiality policies in place, and only non-personally identifiable information is collected from the callers with informed consent. “While some of the callers did not want to disclose their location, we were able to identify that most of our callers on the Helpline were from Punjab (57 percent),” DRF said.

According to data, the Helpline received calls from Sindh (15 percent), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (three percent), Balochistan (one percent), Azad Kashmir and the erstwhile FATA area (one percent), and the Federal Capital, Islamabad (5percent).