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Confronting the dark side of the social networks

Yasir Dil

Each year, around 9 million users join the social networking sites. There has been a revolutionary change in technology, especially during the last two decades that led us to today’s digital era. While one may argue that the digitalization has attracted a lot of youngsters into the ways of entrepreneurship and to become active developers of software/applications, run online marketing business, and develop, maintain and operate websites etc., the internet has a darker side too that cannot be ignored for the devastating consequences it entails. This dark side of the internet includes the usage of the web based activities for taking disadvantage of others and has been termed as digital crimes. However, absence of the right legal framework to deal with such complex issues has rendered many of the users clueless on protecting their cyber space.

The current web-surfing structure may be distinguished into three major categories, a) the surface web: common people mostly using web for social networking, b) the deep web: which is used by national and international organizations e.g. data maintenance, record keeping etc. and c) the dark web: the most dangerous category of web users consists on the hackers, criminals, terrorists and other elements that are antisocial in their essence.

The people belong to dark Web category usually tend to involve in several criminal activities such as hacking, drug trafficking, human trafficking, target killing and blackmailing etc. Recently, the international internet users came across an online crime game ‘Blue whale’ which was developed by a Russian hacker group F57’s member Phillip Budeikin, a 21-year boy who invented a sick suicide game targeted at children claiming to be ‘cleansing the society’.

While there might be a huge dark web category, there is a grey part of online interactions as well. The greater online interaction amongst people is becoming a reason for innovative online social networking such as the invention of Instagram and Whatsapp after Facebook. But the problem that is a real matter of concern is that we usually interact with unknown people and hence unaware of their intentions.

While interacting, there comes a situation when while sharing of private data or media files,  one could be at risk of interacting with the criminals or dark web users ready to exploit this opportunity. Recently, a new approach that has been applied by these dark web users is the ‘Online dating’ which can turn into ‘Sex trafficking or blackmailing’ and thus, the people from dark web commit their criminal activities by blackmailing youngsters. This usually has drastic ends specially for females in our society.

The incidents of honor killings are prevalent in our society at alarming scale and this has a role to play in this dark online dating tactics being used to take undue advantage of the innocent victims of such cyber-crimes. Usually, the criminal will mask/fake his/her identity to presume themselves as a close friend, relative, colleague, etc., and take advantage of the innocence by trapping the victims, especially girls from middle or the lower middle-class families, and blackmail or exploit them in illegal ways.

The National Assembly (NA) passed the controversial Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill (PECB) 2015 and one of the salient feature says, ‘If your identity information is used without authorization, you may apply to the authorities to secure, destroy or prevent transmission of your information’.  The bill does not adequately differentiate cyber-crime from cyber-terrorism and cyber-warfare.

Hence, there is a dire need on the part of the government of Pakistan to develop a policy to ensure that such victim find their way out of incidents and their honor and confidentiality of information/data/media is ensured by the government of Pakistan cybercrime unit

*The writer work in Sustainable Development Policy Institute.

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