People are usually aware of the benefits of the internet but very few know of its dark side. Online risk is a global phenomenon, however, from Pakistan’s perspective, we face additional challenges e.g. uploading/posting blasphemous and sectarian content. These are sensitive subject matters and require particular consideration to avoid the propagation of hate. Keeping in view the gravity of matter, it is imperative to sensitize our social media users (i.e. youngsters, parents, teachers, and other key stakeholders) about the issues and timely adoption of proper measures to save our generation from further harm. In order to achieve the desired results, a collective effort is required to be made by all stakeholders.
Youngsters are vulnerable in the online world and parents/guardians supervising them are not fully aware about online risks, community guidelines of Social Media platforms and punishments mentioned in local laws (i.e. PECA, PPC etc.). Parents and teachers need to be watchful of their kids/students online activities especially if they are exhibiting aggressive behavior, usually resulting from seeing inappropriate content or playing online fighting/War games. Kids/students at this stage require proper counseling by their parents/teachers from time to time along with adoption of proven measures such as: avoid giving them handheld devices and allow them to use PCs placed in a common area visible to all, and replacing online gaming facilities with physical activities. Most importantly, parents must spare time for their children, be friendly and educate them about online risks and allow them to discuss their issues without judgment otherwise, they may confide in strangers/online predators. Educational institutions should also step up and raise awareness through organizing seminars/webinars, workshops etc. In addition, using parental control software and built in safety features of SM applications is effective in filtering inappropriate content/apps, limiting screen time, observing online activities etc. (List of parental control software is available at PTA website: www.pta.gov.pk). For Social Media users’ guidance PTA has also placed a list containing links/URLs of Community Standards of major SM platforms having information/guidelines about their important policies to be followed while posting content over SM platforms or sharing with others.
Moreover, Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) was approved in 2016, which empowers PTA to control circulation of unlawful content over internet/social media and FIA to investigate cybercrime related issues. Public can report unlawful content to PTA for blocking through Complaint Management System (CMS): https://complaint.pta.gov.pk/RegisterComplaint.aspx or PTA CMS mobile app and cybercrime related issues to FIA Cybercrime Wing (CCW) for initiating legal action against offender.
It is important to mention that all popular SM companies and their systems are hosted outside Pakistan on encrypted HTTPs sites. PTA after analyzing received complaints takes up the matter with concerned SM platform for removal/blocking of reported content. For quick resolution of the matter, SM platforms always prefer direct communication with complainant since it is easier to seek further information (if required) directly from the complainant. Links to popular SM complaint reporting procedure/mechanisms are below:
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/help/181495968648557
- YouTube: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2802027
- TikTok: https://support.tiktok.com/en/safety-hc/report-a-problem/report-a-video
- Instagram: https://help.instagram.com/519598734752872
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By Muhammad Farooq