Wednesday, November 29, 2023

How social media misuse claims lives in Pakistan

Incidents involving deaths, suicides and prolonged suffering affect both women and men due to stigma

A representational image of a depressed woman. — Canva
A representational image of a depressed woman. — Canva

PESHAWAR: Misuse of social media platforms by posting fake pictures and videos has claimed many lives and threatened individuals in Pakistan and the recent Kohistan incident shows how dangerous it could be for women and other vulnerable sections of society, The News reported Wednesday.

Many women have gone through traumatic experiences after their photoshopped or even original pictures were posted anonymously on Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube or Twitter.

This has resulted in severe issues for not only individuals or families but also for the government and law enforcement agencies.

There were a number of incidents in which women and men were killed, some committed suicides while hundreds had to suffer for years due to stigma after their photos and videos were uploaded on social media.

Some of the cases were worked out and the accused held but the majority of the incidents could not be handled properly and timely by the relevant agencies.

Five girls from Kohistan lost their lives 11 years ago after their video went viral on social media in which they were seen clapping as two boys danced.

The issue was taken up by the media and social media after which the government authorities rushed to the area but it was too late. Another girl lost her life in Kolai-Palas (Kohistan) last week after her doctored images appeared on social media.

Police said the photo had been photoshopped and posted on a fake account. However, the girl in the picture was killed before the incident could be probed to ascertain whether the photo was fake or otherwise.

“We have sent the matter to the Cyber Crime Wing for further probe and to identify the people behind these accounts,” the regional police officer Hazara Muhammad Ijaz Khan told The News.

However, a large number of cases are sent to the Cyber Crime Wing every month. Since the procedure takes time, lives are lost even before the first information report is lodged or the probe is completed.

Families suffer as societal pressure persists

Such cases are sensitive in the Pashtun society and need to be dealt with as a top priority as they can result in serious law and order situations.

“A family from the suburban Peshawar approached the Cyber Crime Wing and the Peshawar Police a couple of years back after pictures of one of its female members were uploaded on social media for blackmailing,” a source said while narrating the ordeal of the family.

The family requested senior officials to expedite the probe and arrest the accused as new pages were popping up regularly to add to the humiliation and mental torture of the family.

However, nothing was done as the pages were being uploaded from abroad.

“They lodged another complaint a couple of months later and approached the authorities concerned through one or the other influential people. Nothing was done in the case either because of the negligence or lack of technology to access the person behind the concerned pages that were being uploaded from abroad,” he added.

After nothing happened for over a year and the blackmailing continued, the lone brother of the victim woman, Hussain, could not tolerate the mental torture and committed suicide. The father of the girl had died years ago.

There are innumerable such stories that have happened in the last many years.

“Facebook and other social media networks cooperate much when the local officers take a case seriously. They know the importance of human life but the officials need to take up the issue in a proper way,” said an official.