An electronic gadget (owned or borrowed), access to the internet, and a collection of obscure realities, illusive fantasies posted under the cloak of anonymity- such is the reality of confession pages rampant around the globe. Driven by curiosity and a culture of gossip, uncontrolled and unmoderated, these pages bring about an infringement of personal space, serving as a hub for brewing gossips, distasteful rumors, objectification, exposed secrets, and insidious undertones of cyberbullying.
With the expansion of social media, confession pages can serve as a tool to bully an individual or a group 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. Geared across multiple platforms these pages and perpetrators can act anytime, from anywhere, with access to your safe spaces, even your isolation.
Prefaced with anonymity and impunity, these students led spaces allow the users to post without any consequences. Lies are written, stories are cooked, rumors are spread, secrets are leaked, identities are revealed, and people are defamed as the culprits are aware of the protection they wield. While these confession pages are usually limited to schools, colleges or universities, their effects are far wider and do not remain confined within the walls of these educational institutions.
The educational institutes in Pakistan are witnessing increased accounts of cyberbullying and harassment led by these confession pages, posing a disturbing challenge for the youth to encounter. These pages are backing extreme forms of cyber-incel culture and are inherently derogatory towards females. The latest dark trends propagated through these pages include leaked personal information, harassment, threats, stalking, revenge porn, and a shift from cyberbullying to physical actions of hate and violence.
The fear of the unknown and the claustrophobia of the known community, forces the victims into isolation, depression, identity crisis and other damaging behaviors such as drug abuse, food disorders, self-harm and in extreme cases the trauma inflicted triggers suicidal tendencies. The personal and communal lives of the victims are overshadowed by these anonymous transcripts for the rest of their lives.
The educational institutes can no longer ignore the prevalence and disastrous impacts of unregulated confession pages and closed groups. Secret App, and were consequently linked to many cases of teen suicides and cyberbullying in the past, which eventually led to these apps being shut down for good. Similar trends have been observed around confession pages, which have been shut down by concerned authorities only when appalling and negative outcomes surface creating a PR scandal for the institutions involved.
The prevalence of the social media and the emerging complexities, necessitate promulgation and implementation of comprehensive cyber laws that identify the existing gaps and lacunas in the legislation and detect the trends and challenges of the future. The current cyber safety laws in Pakistan have failed to mandate a conducive environment for vulnerable groups and allow opportunists to infringe their rights through threats and bullying. The imbalance created within the shared cyberspace as a result, allows certain groups to thrive at the expense of others, setting dangerous precedents of social behaviors for the youth.