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DRF helpline releases annual stats

July 04, 2020

Islamabad : Majority of complaints received by Digital Rights Foundation (DRF)’s Cyber Harassment Helpline’s in 2019 were related to WhatsApp hacking or phishing attacks through WhatsApp.

The trends of online harassment made part of the Cyber Harassment Helpline’s Annual Report for the year 2019. The helpline received 855 complaints related to WhatsApp hacking or phishing attacks through WhatsApp. After messaging apps, they received the most complaints regarding social media applications. About 29 per cent of complaints were related to cyber harassment on Facebook.

Over the course of 2019, the helpline saw a total of 2023 cases being reported, with a daily average of 146 calls per month. When compared to the overall complaints the Helpline has received over three years, the calls from 2019 account for 45 per cent of all complaints. This shows an alarming increase in the number of cases over time and a disturbing upward trend in cyber-harassment cases.

About 57 per cent of complaints were from women who are registering complaints about themselves. This is followed by 30 per cent of complaints from men who are calling themselves. Lastly, 10 per cent of calls are from men who are calling on behalf of someone, and 1 per cent are from women who are calling on behalf of someone. Less than 1 per cent of calls come from religious and gender minorities.

Over the past year, the helpline saw complaints trend towards phishing attacks where people are targetted through WhatsApp or text messaging. Another concerning trend is the increase of attacks on mobile wallets/ e-wallets like Easy Paisa.

The calls from minority groups were quite low, however the DRF believes that this must not be misconstrued as these groups not facing harassment. Due to the immense societal pressures on these groups, as well as their unequal access to technology, they are unable to speak out about the harassment they face.

Nighat Dad, Executive Director of DRF had this to say about the Helpline’s 2019 report:

“I am immensely proud of the work that our Helpline team has done over the past year. Our real champions are our callers. They put their trust in us and for that, we are eternally grateful. I hope that we continue our work and are able to give back to them for the trust they have given us.”

She said that 2020 saw an exponential increase in cases given the initial lockdown. “In the months of March and April, we saw an increase of 189 per cent as compared to January and February. With the help of UN Women Pakistan and other supporters, we are currently running our helpline 24/7 to accommodate this increase in cases, and also have professionally trained mental health consolers at hand to attend to sensitive calls and cases.”