RAMALLAH – While use of the Internet and social media is growing in the
Palestinian territories, some experts warn it has also brought with it
the danger of cyber crime -- especially against women – more harmful and
at a greater rate than it is worldwide.
conservative and patriarchal nature runs counter to the Internet's call
to share everything with everyone, and makes women more vulnerable to
cyber threats. As a result, many are very deliberate about not using
pictures on the Internet, not only in personal use, but also in their
professional lives, fearing their reputations will be ruined.
result, even women running for public office think twice about how much
exposure they want to give their photos and where. Women running in the
municipal elections in the Palestinian territories last year in some
cities like Hebron opted not to use their photos on the Internet,
sometimes replacing them with flowers.
Public officials are not
the only women being threatened with blackmail via the Internet and who
are becoming more careful about what they share online.
Salem, a 26-year-old writer from a village near Nablus, told The Media
Line that she doesn't post any of her photos on Facebook or online,
especially after hearing stories of threats via the Internet.
in particular is a public place. Technology in general is not a safe
place and Facebook and email accounts can be easily hacked," she told
The Media Line, explaining that if photos of her were spread through the
Internet, it might make her seem indecent and harm her reputation.
than half of those using the Internet in the Palestinian territories
were subject to information threats, according to polls published by the
Palestinian Bureau of Statistics last month. Differences were clear
between the West Bank, which recorded 49.1% were affected by
cyber-crimes and the Gaza Strip where 61.9% said they were targeted.
its establishment in 2010, the Palestinian Digital Crimes unit has
dealt with hundreds of Internet-related complaints. Last month alone,
nine reports of cyber crimes were filed with police.
Due to society's mindset, even the online dissemination of everyday photographs of women can be a potential threat.
(not her real name), 23, was blackmailed by a man she met through the
Internet. “I was lured by the fact that he was a good friend and sent
him a photo of mine without the headscarf I usually wear,” she told The
Media Line. That photo was later used it to blackmail Amira.
use among Palestinians is on the rise despite the threat of cyber
crime. One-third of Palestinians polled used the Internet in 2011
compared with 9.2% in 2004. Among those between the ages of 15 and 29,
55% used the Internet in 2011compared to 5% in 2004.
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