Islamabad, (15 December, 2020): Bytes for All is shocked to observe the disturbing online trends, targeting women of political families of Pakistan, which have recently circulated over social media. The development of such unbefitting and inappropriate trends, targeting families of political parties, on social media platforms, such as Twitter, have raised serious concerns about blurring boundaries of human rights, where freedom of speech of one overlaps with the human dignity of another.
On Wednesday, 9th December, inappropriate hashtags comprising of abusive language about Maryam Nawaz, vice president of PML-N party and the daughter of former Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif, started trending on Twitter, followed by similar abusive hashtags about Bushra Bibi, wife of PM Imran Khan and the First Lady of Pakistan. These hostile trends, designed to undermine the integrity of the political parties’ members and their families, were started as a social media political battle/conflict and were among the top ten Twitter trends in Pakistan, on Wednesday.
According to Keyhole Analytics, the abusive hashtag targeting Maryam Nawaz (Raiwand ki R****) involved 94 users, 150 posts, engaged 3,254 people, reached 187,058 people and left 228,403 impressions. Whereas, the abusive hashtag targeting Bushra Bibi (Pakpathan ki R****) involved a total of 100 users who posted it, its engagement was of about 10,628 people, reached about 181,597 people, and left 275,036 impressions.
Such trends with a political agenda are started by cyber armies. Political parties of the State and opposition have maintained their cyber armies or cyber troops, which are teams dedicated to manipulating public opinion over social media for their political agendas. The political parties have, therefore, invested greatly in building and maintaining these cyber armies by providing them with essential tools and infrastructure for operation.
While these Cyber Armies are trained social media activists and IT professionals, the political leaders of respective cyber armies have the responsibility to also invest in training them, disciplining them and teaching them basic ethics of being online. The recent undignified social media trends started by the cyber armies from different political actors are a result of the criminal negligence of the leaders of these political parties’ top leadership, who are solely responsible for this shameful act as they are in the leading and influencing positions of these cyber armies. This implies that it is important for the political parties to set rules of engagement for their social media teams and make sure that they abide by them in all circumstances.
Bytes for All condemns this recent incident of political conflict on social media, which in every way is a disgraceful and dishonorable act. Consequently, there is an urgent need to bring transparency in political parties’ social media handling and adopting an ethical code of conduct. There should be a mechanism of filtering indecent content from decent content. It is also the responsibility of the political parties to educate, control and monitor their cyber armies in order to improve the social media culture and promote and protect the fundamental rights of the citizens especially the vulnerable population including women, young girls, transgenders and religious minorities.
We sincerely hope that such an incident will never occur again and that law enforcing agencies will act as per law to stop such incidents.