Facebook offender in the dock: FIA sees solution in cyber crime law
LAHORE: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) recently brought Raja Ubaidur Rehman back from Saudi Arabia through Interpol. Rehman had allegedly uploaded objectionable pictures of his former wife on Facebook after creating her fake ID. ‘AN’, a working woman, told the FIA Lahore Cyber Crime Wing that she got divorce from Rehman last year. Rehman before leaving for Saudi Arabia for work posted her objectionable/obscene pictures after creating her fake ID on Facebook in order to “create hurdles in her second marriage”. AN’s suitor left her after her obscene pictures surfaced.
Acting on her complaint, the FIA investigated the matter and found the charges against Rehman “true”. On FIA’s request, Interpol arrested Rehman who was working in Saudi Arabia as driver and handed him over to it. The FIA charged Ubaidur Rehman under Section 36 of the Electronic Transaction Ordinance (privacy of information or illegal access to an information system). Under the law he may face imprisonment up to seven years if proved guilty. Rehman has been sent to jail on judicial remand. There has been at least 50pc increase in Facebook-related complaints filed in the FIA this year compared to 2015. “Although we have taken up the complaint of the woman in question, in the absence of relevant law the agency faces problems to get the suspect convicted,” FIA Lahore Cyber Crime Wing head Shahid Hasan told Dawn.
The FIA says it is awaiting the passage of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2015, commonly known as cyber crime bill, from the Senate to deal with cyber crimes. It is of the view that the new law will help it check ever-rising cyber crime such as cyber stalking, fake and stolen identities on Facebook, Twitter and other social media links. Although the civil society and some bloggers are strongly opposing the cyber crime bill on the ground that it would be widely misused and an attempt to curb freedom of expression, Mr Hasan said it would help check the rise in crime in the cyber world. “To me unlike many other laws of the land, there are minimum chances of misuse of the new cyber law (if enacted). Laws about blasphemy to theft are being misused in the country. But the new cyber crime law involves digital evidence to prove any offence. Therefore the chances to use it against anyone to settle some score are minimal,” he said, adding there were seven digital footprints available for cross verification. Mr Hasan further said the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) would also be regulated under the new law which is the need of the hour. “The cyber law will also help Pakistan sign treaties with different organisations such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and some countries as well. “At the moment the FIA is taking the help of the Electronic Transaction Ordinance (ETO) which was primarily enacted for banking-related offences. In 2007, the Prevention of Electronic Crime Ordinance was introduced which was repealed in 2010,” he said.
The FIA official said there had been a phenomenal increase in cyber crime complaints and without a relevant law Pakistan could not move forward on this front. “In Punjab we received 2,100 Facebook-related complaints such as fake ID, uploading of obscene pictures, hacking of the account and threatening messages last year. We have received more than 1,500 complaints this year,” he said, adding the situation was more or less the same at other stations. The proposed cyber crime bill criminalises activities such as sending text messages without the receiver’s consent or criticising government actions on social media with fines and long-term imprisonment. Online criticism of religion, the country, its courts, and the armed forces are among subjects which could invoke official intervention under the bill. The bill proposes up to five-year imprisonment and Rs10 million fine or both for hate speech, or trying to create disputes and spread hatred on the basis of religion or sectarianism. Similarly, there is up to five-year imprisonment, Rs5m fine or both for transferring or copying of sensitive basic information. Up to Rs50,000 fine for sending messages irritating to others or for marketing purposes. If the crime is repeated, the punishment would be three-month imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs1m. Up to three-year imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs500,000 for creating a website for negative purposes. A suspect may face up to three-year imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs1m for spreading misinformation about an individual.
The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill also proposes up to one-year imprisonment or a fine of up to Rs1m for forcing an individual for immoral activity, or publishing an individual’s picture without consent, sending obscene messages or unnecessary cyber interference. A suspect would face up to seven-year imprisonment, a fine of Rs10m or both for interfering in sensitive data information systems. There has been a three-month imprisonment or Rs50,000 fine or both for accessing unauthorised data. The bill also proposes a three-year imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs5m for obtaining information about an individual’s identification and selling the information or retaining it with self. Cellular companies’ dealers and agents will also face strict action for issuing SIMs in an unauthorised manner. The proposed law suggests up to three-year imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs500,000 for issuing a SIM card in an unauthorised manner.
Similarly, there has been up to three-year imprisonment and fine of up to Rs1m for making changes in a wireless set or a cell phone. The cyber crime bill is currently pending with the Senate as its critics are looking up to the opposition senators to reject this controversial draft law. The bill has been referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology which is asked to consider and review it and report to the Senate in a month. The Bill was passed in the National Assembly at a time when the opposition was on strike. The committee held its last meeting on June 29 and would submit its report to the Senate this month. A source says some members of the committee are in favour of redrafting the Electronic Crimes Bill 2015 because it is “full of flaws”.