The Senate’s Standing Committee on Interior has called upon the government, FIA, and PTA to take action against malicious defamation of political candidates online in the run up to the elections.

The Senate’s Standing Committee on Interior has called upon the government

“As objectionable material is being uploaded from abroad so it becomes difficult to take action. We are trying our best to investigate the matter and take action against the elements concerned, but there is a lack of coordination between the FIA and the Pakistan Telecom­munication Authority (PTA),” the investigation agency’s cybercrime director, retired Captain Muhammad Shoaib, said in a statement before the committee.

Commenting upon the toll social media has taken upon the electioneering process; Senator Ateeq Shaikh said some elements had posted disrespectful pictures of politicians with their faces on animals such as donkeys and dogs.

“These elements circulating such images on social media want to sabotage election activities and bring unrest to the country,” he said.

The senator was especially disturbed by one such element falsely using the image of a grave as an election symbol. “I asked the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) but was told that the grave was not included in the list of election symbols,” Ateeq Shaikh said.

Mr. Shaikh stated that strict measures had become necessary to curb this abuse on social media aimed at damaging the authority of the election process.

According to the FIA, several important politicians such as Shehla Raza, Talha Mahmood, Pir Sadaruddin Shah, Ayesha Gulalai, Faheem Mughal, and Mir Muhammad Sadiq have placed complaints over defamation and independent smear campaigns being circulated about them on social media. The FIA claimed that they are doing their best to apprehend the offenders.

Chairman of the committee, Senator Rehman Malik, pressed the FIA and PTA to put together a collaborative strategy to identify and carry out action against offenders and resolve complaints like the ones mentioned above. He added that to deal with cybercrime issues competently, it was paramount that the ability of the cybercrime cell be improved.

He advised that the PTA buy equipment for automatic detection of derogatory and objectionable material on social media since it would not at all be possible to monitor them all manually.

 

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