By Shane McGinley
Female victims said to have been blackmailed with threats to publish lewd photos
Internet users in Bahrain who attempt to extort money from young women by by threatening to upload private photos onto pornographic sites could be fined up to BHD100,000 (US$263,762), it was reported on Sunday.
The move is part of a proposed new law to combat the growing number of cyber criminals in the kingdom.
First Lieutenant Mohammed Yousif Bu Ali, head of the Interior Ministry's cyber crime unit, said incidents of young women and girls being targeted by sex predators and cyber criminals are on the rise as the use of social media sites increases, Gulf Daily News reported.
The report claimed cyber crime in the kingdom had increased ten-fold since the unit was set up seven years ago and the number of cases each year is around 200. Bahrain police said women make up 80 percent of the cases and urged them to be more vigilant in their online activity.
"People create fake accounts on social media and start disclosing personal details of females and even post their pictures on pornographic or matrimonial sites… When it comes to individual cases that we deal with, the majority of them are related to social media abuses or theft mainly via Twitter and Facebook,” Bu Ali was quoted as saying.
Under a new draft law being considered by the Bahrain parliament, those caught engaging in such activities - especially those who directly hack into victims accounts to obtain the photos - could be fined up to BHD100,000, the report said.
According to the latest figures form research website socialbakers.com, Facebook penetration in Bahrain is currently 55.13 percent, with the total number of users rising by 18 percent in the last six months to reach 406,840.