By Mahvish Faizan Ahmed
You think real life is a scary place for women? Imagine when even the slightest inhibitions that harassers might face get tossed out of the window because they have a screen to hide behind. Yes, the internet is beautiful but also one of the scariest places in the world. Recently, Pakistan’s sweetheart, Mahirah Khan dedicated an entire Ted Talk to Cyber bullying and it’s catastrophic effects on individuals. “What I realized was, that I was looking at myself through the eyes of a troll,” she says, “My face through the eyes of a troll. My choices through the eyes of a troll. My life through the eyes of one. And let me tell you it wasn’t pretty.”
Like Mahira, thousands of women in Pakistan are harassed online on a daily basis. So we reached out to one of the coolest women in tech, lawyer and digital activist Nighat Daad, the executive director of Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), which educates Pakistani internet users, especially women, to protect themselves from online harassment and to safely and securely use the technology. Here are the five basic rules she believes every woman should be aware of while interacting online.
No boys allowed
Create safe spaces online -you can choose who should be a part of that space and who shouldn’t. A safe space can be set up as a closed group on a social media site or a mailing list. It can be a closed blog or a forum.
Blocking is not always a solution
Some people manage to block trolls permanently after having the unfortunate encounter with them on Facebook. But this technique doesn’t always work – if you block or unfriend someone, they can always make another profile. So while we recommend blocking, we also advise that it’s not always a solution.
Are you cursed with an online stalker?
Unwanted requests and messages online are a form of sex discrimination on the web – you get them because you are a woman online. Labels can be powerful and if you call out this activity for what it is, it will truly empower you.
Privacy comes first
Social media platforms are constantly changing their security and privacy settings. So, be vigilant and keep track of who is seeing what. To maintain anonymity, you can prevent users from looking you up through your email address or phone number and even from sending you messages, through your security settings.
Report it to end it
We encourage women to report situations of cyber-stalking and persistent unwanted engagement. While reporting mechanisms might not be perfect nor are law enforcement agencies. The more women report and engage with the process, the more gender-sensitive it will become. Use this link to report it – http://www.nr3c.gov.pk/ .