Pakistan’s internet landscape needs a lot of work. The government is in agreement in this regard, but their understanding of what the problem really is might be completely off course. Our recent ranking on the inclusive internet index 2020 – 74 out of a 100 – also tells us that the situation might be worse than the state currently imagines.

This argument is only further solidified when we really let the revelation in the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology’s meeting on Wednesday sink in; according to the FIA, it only investigated 36 online abuse complaints out of 56000. To put that into perspective, the FIA has only investigated 0.064 percent of complaints put forward. The only way it could be any worse is if did not even bother with the 36 that it looked into.

According to PTA officials, many of these complaints were forwarded to their organisation. In a country where the lack of gender parity is one of the major reasons for the lack of inclusivity on the internet, it is clear that the authorities have failed to make the internet a safer place for all involved and this is simply because it has failed to act, even when 56000 users have looked to them for redressal.

Bear in mind, that these complaints have come under existing rules and laws and yet, they have still not been looked into. What then is the point of any additional rules to police the internet? Clearly, the problem is with our law enforcement agencies and online protection. Complaints that merit investigation are just passed around between departments.

Instead of focusing on controlling discourse on social media based on their perception of public morality, both PTA and the FIA need to improve their performance in dispensing with their primary responsibilities. Protecting citizens suffering under direct online abuse must be prioritised, because while preserving public morality is a vague and subjective goal with no real victims, real abuse that stands ignored is an everyday menace that affects thousands.