Report notes use of AI for violence against females

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LAHORE: A report has found a surge in the technology-facilitated gender based violence (TFGBV) in Pakistan in 2023 with nearly 2,500 cases reported in the year with significant rise of such complaints by women and marginalised groups, including girls. The year saw another alarming trend, i.e. the use of generative AI content for violence against women in the public sphere near the general elections.

The annual cyber harassment helpline report 2023 was released by the Digital Rights Foundation (DRF).

The seventh annual report by the foundation showed a total of 2,473 complaints on its helpline with an average number of 206 each month.

The report is a compilation of the data from complaints received by the DRF helpline through its toll-free number (0800-39393), email and social media platforms.

In a press release, DRF Executive Director Nighat Dad noted that a significant rise of complaints relating to the TFGBV against women and marginalised groups was reported during 2023.She said the instances of violence were also leading to a rise in the potential offline violence for these groups.

She said the helpline noted another alarming thing that the use of generative AI content was being used to exacerbate violence against women in the public sphere near the general elections, particularly against the women journalists.

`These growing numbers are alarming and show how online spaces are perpetuating identity-based attacks on women and marginalised groups.

Ms Dad stressed the need for urgent redress and protection for survivors facing the TFGBV with holistic support from the state institutions within the country.

The women were the main victims of online harassment constituting 58.5pc of the complainants while the transgender community was also subjected to anorchestrated online hate campaign.

Helpline manager Hyra Basit said they had seen how the manifestation of the TFGBV had evolved over the years, with rising complaints of incredible privacy violations of women via unregulated apps and the use of modern editing and generative AI to produce non-consensual intimate images (NCII).

The report highlighted that the highest number of complaints received in 2023 were from Punjab (1,724), followed by Sindh (261) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (112).

It also includes a set of recommendations for policymakers and the law enforcement agencies regarding online harassment cases.

Acknowledgement: Published in Dawn News on 5th April 2024.

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