Parents in Arab world warned over cyberbullying threat

People use computers at an Internet cafe in China on June 20, 2007. Japan has over 38,000 unofficial middle and high school Web sites that are not overseen by the schools, and harassment, sexual content, and violent slang are prevalent among them, one survey showed. (Reuters)
Updated 15 August 2017
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Parents in Arab world warned over cyberbullying threat

LONDON: Parents across the Middle East have been told to remain vigilant after a study in the UK found that almost half of all girls in the country had been victims of cyberbullying.
The survey conducted for children’s charity Plan International UK involved 1,002 children between the ages of 11 and 18. While the results illustrated that all children can be targeted by online abuse, it highlighted the particular threat girls face.
The study found that 48 percent of girls had experienced some form of harassment or abuse on social media. A total of 29 percent admitted to receiving abusive messages from someone they know in person, and 22 percent said they had received abusive comments on a status or photo they had posted.
This has led to calls for parents across the Arab world to watch out for similar hijacking of social media to target girls in the region.
Ashjan Al-Ananzeh, head of advocacy and communications at the Jordanian Commission for Women, told Arab News that social media being used as a vehicle to peddle sexist hate was a growing worry. The biggest issue right now, she said, was that the victims do not report such abuse.
“Victims tend not to talk about it, they stay silent. We are doing workshops about online abuse and what to watch out for on social media,” Al-Ananzeh said.
“We have to train girls about what to be aware of and how to deal with it. It’s difficult to say whether (the number being bullied online) is rising, there are no statistics about it and the victims don’t speak.”
Al-Ananzeh said that dealing with the problem partly revolves around the cultural differences between the West and the Middle East. For example, images that would be considered normal in Europe might be thought of as unacceptable to some in the Arab world. Girls who had been victims of cyberbullying might not just feel embarrassment and shame — they may also face being punished or ostracized by family and friends should they speak openly about it.
“We are raising awareness, trying to tell women and girls to break the silence,” Al-Ananzeh added.
“Girls have to tell people, whether it be the police, the women’s complaints office we have here, their mother or family, or someone they trust if they feel too ashamed or feel they cannot tell their family.
“We have to be more open-minded and to let people know what’s right and what’s wrong and increase awareness.
“Our mandate is to increase awareness for women’s rights.”
A Kaspersky Lab and B2B International study conducted in the UAE in 2015 found that 40 percent of parents were worried about cyberbullying, with 48 percent reported to have intervened to protect their child from online abuse.
Last year, a BBC investigation found that there was an alarmingly high number of cases of women in the Middle East being shamed or even blackmailed with private and sometimes sexually explicit images. It also revealed the difficulty in persuading victims to speak up, such is the conservative nature of the region.
Louay Zreiqat, a police officer in the West Bank, told the BBC that the Palestinian police cybercrime unit handled 502 online crimes in 2015, many of which involved private pictures of women.
“Sometimes the photos are not sexual, a photo of a girl not wearing a hijab could be scandalous. A man could use this photo to pressure the girl to send more photos,” he was reported as saying.


UN fears Myanmar human rights abuses in Internet shutdown

Updated 25 June 2019
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UN fears Myanmar human rights abuses in Internet shutdown

  • Mobile phone operators ordered to shut down all internet data across at least eight townships in Rakhine and one in neighboring Chin states
  • The decree was made under Myanmar’s Telecommunications Law

YANGON: An Internet blackout in parts of Myanmar could be cover for “gross human rights violations” in an area where a brutal army crackdown has already forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to flee, a UN rights investigator said.
The military is locked in battle with the Arakan Army (AA), insurgents fighting for more autonomy for the region’s ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.
On Friday the government took the unprecedented step of ordering mobile phone operators to shut down all Internet data across at least eight townships in Rakhine and one in neighboring Chin states.
“I fear for all civilians there,” said UN Special Rapporteur to Myanmar Yanghee Lee, calling for the immediate lifting of restrictions.
The military’s “clearance operations” can be a “cover for committing gross human rights violations against the civilian population,” she said, referencing alleged mass atrocities committed against Rohingya Muslims in 2017.
The decree was made under the Telecommunications Law, hitting all mobile operators for an unspecified period.
Telenor Group said the Ministry of Transport and Communications justified the measure, saying the Internet was being used to “coordinate illegal activities.”
Thousands of troops have been deployed to the western region, which has seen more than 35,000 people fleeing their homes to escape heavy artillery fire in the violence that has spilled over into Chin state.
Both sides stand accused of committing abuses and dozens of civilians have been killed in crossfire and shellings, even while taking refuge in monasteries.
The military confirmed it shot dead six Rakhine detainees in late April.
The violence has even spread to near the Rakhine state capital Sittwe with insurgents attacking a naval vessel during the weekend, killing two.
Few people own personal computers so the mobile Internet blackout has effectively shut most people off from the outside world.
AFP spoke by phone Tuesday to local residents in three of the affected townships, all angry and afraid.
“We can’t share information which is really dangerous and frightening when you’re living in a conflict area,” said Myo Kyaw Aung, Sapa Htar village administrator in Minbya township, by phone.
Rakhine is also home to several hundred thousand remaining Rohingya, many confined to squalid camps.
Around 740,000 of the stateless group were driven into Bangladesh in a 2017 army crackdown.