Archives for August 2017

August 16, 2017 - Comments Off on The Cyber Harassment Helpline Expands its Operations

The Cyber Harassment Helpline Expands its Operations

The Digital Rights Foundation is expanding the services of the Cyber Harassment Helpline. As of August 19, 2017, the helpline will be operational throughout the week, including on Saturday and Sunday. The helpline support team will be taking the calls from 9 AM to 5 PM. The expansion wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our friends at Digital Defenders Program. The helpline has also signed an MoU with Ahung, and also with  Lo Bono Law, which is specifically geared towards providing low cost, high quality legal services to clients unable to bear the high cost of legal representation in courts of Sindh.

The Cyber Harassment Helpline is the region’s first dedicated helpline for cases of online harassment and violence. It was established in December 2016 to help the victims and survivors of online harassment with their ordeal. The services of the helpline are confidential,gender-sensitive and completely free-of-cost. The Support Team comprises of the trained lawyers, digital security experts, and qualified psychologists who assist the callers according to their needs.

The helpline, as it is no secret, was started with limited resources and on a very urgent basis to extend support to the people who didn’t know who to turn to when they fall victim to any kind of abuse online. In all honesty, the team didn’t expect a lot of calls when the service was launched. But to our surprise, just in the first week of its launch, the team answered 10 genuine calls daily  on average. We were humbled by the response, but also deeply worried with the stories and experiences our callers shared with us. By the time the helpline completed its 6 months of operations, we had received over 700 calls, out of which 63% were from women while 37% callers were men.

The six month report of the Cyber Harassment Helpline also outlines the psychological impact that online violence leaves on the survivors of harassment. According to the report, 19% of the callers experienced insecurity, 17% went through depression, 16% suffered chronic stress, and 15% experienced disturbed sleep.

It was then when we realised that online harassment needs to be taken seriously on governmental  level as well, in the corridors of the parliament and public offices. The DRF is constantly pushing for policy reforms within cyber crime wings of Federal Investigation Agency, pushing the concerned official to address the complaints referred to the FIA  and take immediate action against the perpetrators of online harassment.

Moreover, a strong support system is extremely crucial when someone experiences harassment, be it online or offline. It’s important that the people around the victim refrain from victim blaming, and the least they should do is to believe them when they express their ordeal. If you or someone you know is going through an unpleasant situation online, please call us immediately on the toll-free number 0800-39393 everyday from 9 AM to 5 PM, 7 days a week, or email us at helpdesk@digitalrightsfoundation.pk. For more information on the helpline and its policies, click here.

August 09, 2017 - Comments Off on Of Data Protection, Women’s Rights, Harassment, and Helpline: An Overview of July 2017

Of Data Protection, Women’s Rights, Harassment, and Helpline: An Overview of July 2017

DRF Launches 6-month Report on the Cyber Harassment Helpline

Helpline report

It is with great passion and hard work that the Cyber Harassment Helpline initiated by DRF reached the 6th month of its operation, and with it, came the release of its bi-annual report. The Cyber Harassment Helpline is the first of its kind in the region, and is run by a dedicated team to provide specialized digital, psychological, and legal help for cases of online harassment and violence. In the space of these 6 months, the Helpline has received 703 calls from all over the country. This time around, the report also included the psychological state of the callers, in an attempt to bring attention to the psychological trauma that online violence leaves on the victims and survivors of abuse. The report can be accessed here [PDF].

DRF Discusses Online Harassment and Surveillance from a Feminist Perspective at APrIGF 2017

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The APrIGF was held on 26-29 July 2017 at the Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand. DRF organized two panels around the subjects of online harassment (“Understanding Solutions Towards Online Harassment” and a stream of the session can be accessed here) in collaboration from SFLC.in and gendered surveillance (“Surveillance from a Feminist Perspective” and a stream of the session can be accessed here). Shmyla Khan, a fellow at APrIGF, was also part of a panel “Hack to fight online violence”.

Open Government Partnership: Consultative Meeting on “Use of Technology for Openness and Accountability"

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The Planning and IT Department of Pakistan called a consultation meeting on Pakistan’s National Action Plan for Open Government Partnership (OGP) on July 10, 2017. The meeting titled “Consultative meeting on ‘Use of Technology for Openness & Accountability’” focused on one of the OGP themes “Use of Digital”. The representatives of DRF discussed the commitments proposed by DRF, including open information and data protection. Adnan Chaudhri of DRF stated, “The main problem is a lack of direct data protection legislation on the books in Pakistan. As a result telecoms and other industries that utilise citizen data have not put more legal attention or focus on their own inconsistent consumer privacy policies. This is all the more glaring given that those telecoms that operated outside Pakistan will provide more comprehensive and detailed privacy policies depending on the territories they operate in, because of the laws.” DRF also emphasized that Citizen involvement requires that there be stronger data protection laws that spell out for citizens- in English, Urdu and other regional languages - what happens to their data etc.

Making All Voices Count: Learning Event in Islamabad

MAVC event

Accountability Lab hosted a learning event with Making All Voices Count: A Grand Challenge for Development grantees in Islamabad on July 10 and 11, 2017. Seerat Khan and Shmyla Khan from the DRF team represented the organization and shared their experiences of working on the Hamara Internet project. They also got a chance to present their findings at a public learning event attended by representatives from organizations such as DFID - UK Department for International Development, The Asia Foundation, the Hashoo Foundation and several others.

Aware Girls: Pak-Afghan Women Peace Exchange Program

Aware Girls

DRF presented its work in the field of gender and digital rights in Pakistan and its implications in the region al the Conference on July 18, 2017. The event was attended by prominent women’s rights activists and parliamentarians.

Cyberbullying workshop @ British Council Library

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DRF conducted a session in Lahore on cyberbullying and child online safety titled “Anti-cyberbullying and digital awareness workshop” on July 16, 2017 at the British Council Library. The event was attended by children between the ages of 12 to 15 along with their parents.

2nd Dialogue Forum on Implementing Right to Information Acts- Promoting Data-Driven Journalism

DRF attended a meeting titled “2nd Dialogue Forum on Implementing Right to Information Acts- Promoting Data-Driven Journalism” called by GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) to acquire feedback from the participants for further challenges, needs and recommendations regarding Right to Information Act. The meeting was held in Lahore on July 20th, 2017.

The Internet as a Forbidden Library: Pakistan’s Clampdown Against Data Freedom

Internet as a forbidden library

"The most important aspect of any statutory legislation is its language and terminology, which expands or restricts the scope of its controlling provisions. The Cyber Crime Act 2016 is worded ambiguously enough so that it is entirely up to the discretion of an authorized offer to investigate, seize, prosecute and penalize an enumerated offender." Read the blog by Digital Rights Foundation here.

The Conviction of Taimore Raza and The Jurisprudential Insight It May Provide

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"Pakistan has often lagged behind developed nations in matters of technology. It appears that it is also behind in matters of jurisprudence pertaining to technology related issues of law. The Constitution and laws of the country may be adequate to deal with new age issues, however, we will only be able to say that for sure after the Superior Judiciary grapples with several such issues and pronounces authoritative opinions on the matter. Till then, its best to err on the side of caution." Read the blog by Digital Rights Foundation here.

Why Pakistan Badly Needs A Data Protection Law

data-protection

"A data protection law regulates, defines, limits and controls the type of data that can be stored, analyzed and processed by both public and private entities and the purposes and durations for which this information may be used. It acts as a safeguard against the misuse and mishandling of private data and provides citizens with a mode of accountability." Read the blog by Digital Rights Foundation here.

Female Lawmaker in Pakistan Accuses Imran Khan of ‘Inappropriate’ Texts. Abuse Follows.

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When a Pakistani lawmaker [Ayesha Gulalai] said this past week that she had received “inappropriate text messages” from a male colleague, she was met with a wave of vitriol on social media.

Nighat Dad, the executive director of the Digital Rights Foundation, a Pakistani internet advocacy group, said, “There is a culture of violence against women that already exists in the home, the workplace, in public places, and now it is increasingly manifesting itself in online spaces as well.”

Read the full article on The New York Times.

Ayesha Gulalai is paying the price for decrying harassment publicly

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On August 1, Ayesha Gulalai - an MNA and now former member of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) - came forward with allegations of harassment against Imran Khan - Chairman PTI - and claimed that she had been receiving lewd messages and overtures from him since October 2013. Gulalai’s allegations were largely rejected by the public, leading to a backlash.

The inevitability of the backlash stems from the fact that in the majority of cases involving harassment, women are, more often than not, castigated whenever they speak up and hold a public figure accountable for his actions.

Read here how women who choose to break their silence against the harassment they face, are treated in Pakistan. A blog by Hija Kamran and Zoya Rehman of Digital Rights Foundation in Dawn.

'It's all sextortion and revenge porn': the woman fighting cyber abuse in Pakistan - The Guardian

Nighat Dad

After the killing of Qandeel Baloch last summer, Nighat Dad reached breaking point. Visiting colleges and universities across Pakistan, Dad had been building quite a reputation for herself and her work. She was spreading the word about the Digital Rights Foundation she established in 2012 to help Pakistani women deal with the new phenomenon of online harassment. Read the article by The Guardian.

August 08, 2017 - Comments Off on How to Keep Yourself from Becoming a Cyberstalking Statistic

How to Keep Yourself from Becoming a Cyberstalking Statistic

The free flow of information created by the internet can be both a blessing and curse. Though we can enjoy unprecedented levels of access to information for purposes such as research, education, activism, corporate oversight and government accountability, there is a real trade-off for this increased knowledge about the world around us. Specifically, our individual privacy and the amount of personal information that is now freely available online for anyone who cares to do a simple search has changed dramatically thanks to the digital revolution.

For many of us, the loss of privacy is merely an annoyance, but for others, it can pose a true threat to safety. The anonymity of cyberspace can give stalkers practically limitless information about their victims. Also, the internet provides another communication channel for these cyberstalkers to harass and intimidate their targets.

Though no one can predict or prevent the behavior that instigates a stalker’s obsession, there are ways you can protect yourself and your online identity to make it harder for anyone to gather personal information about you. Here are some ways you can protect your identity online and keep yourself from becoming a cyberstalking statistic:

Know Your Rights

The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), passed by the National Assembly and approved by the Senate in 2016, is a controversial bill that outlines many cybercrimes. It specifically includes cyberstalking and prohibits individuals from attempting to coerce or threaten others through online communications. The penalties are severe if the charges are proven to be correct and can include five years in prison and a fine of up to 10 million rupees.

Offenses can be reported to the authorities who can then trace the sender’s internet address for use in prosecution. Though stalking victims have the law on their side, many are too afraid or embarrassed to seek help from authorities, which makes cyberstalking a seriously under-reported crime around the globe. It’s important to know you have the upper-hand in these situations.

Speak Up

Like many other crimes that target women, cyber harassment tends to be severely under-reported. Some victims don’t think the authorities will take their concerns seriously while others are embarrassed and feel responsible for the behavior of the stalker. Many abusers count on this hesitancy and capitalize on it to further the harassment.

In 2016, DRF launched a Cyber Harassment Helpline to support victims of online abuse. The helpline is staffed by experts including an attorney, cybersecurity experts, and a psychologist, all of whom can help victims understand their rights and empower them to make informed choices about how they can move forward.

If you or someone you know is the victim of a cyberstalker, DRF’s confidential helpline is a great resource. Call the toll-free number: 0800-39393 Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m to speak to a staff member about your situation.

Protect Yourself

When it comes to cyberstalking, it can be very difficult to monitor all of the information available online about yourself. However, there are some preventative measures you can take to make it more difficult for someone to follow you online.

Proxy Software Service

Using a proxy software service turns your internet activity anonymous, making it much more difficult for anyone to track your browsing history or access your personal data online. Using a service such as this is especially important if you ever access the internet using a public or unsecured WiFi connection. Accessing the internet via any unsecured connection makes your information much more vulnerable to tracking and theft by a third party who is interested in following you.

Privacy Settings

If you use social media, it’s important to be aware of exactly how much information you’re sharing and with whom you’re sharing it. Check the privacy settings on your accounts regularly and be sure you know everyone who is getting updates about your page. You should also check your mobile phone privacy settings to ensure you aren’t sharing your geographic location through any apps or other services without realizing it. More closely restricting privacy settings is an easy way to ensure a cyberstalker is locked out of many avenues of information.

Google Alert

Set a Google Alert with your name to let you know if anyone else is posting information about you online. If someone is posting private information about you publicly, this service will alert you quickly so that you can get it removed as soon as possible. Staying aware of what information about yourself is public is key to reducing cyberstalking threats.

If you or someone you know is being stalked or threatened on- or offline, it’s important to remember that it’s not your fault. Stalking is the result of obsessive behavior, and you are in no way responsible for the actions of anyone stalking you.


This is a guest post by Sandra - a freelance writer. Her areas of expertise include cybersecurity, technology and women’s rights. She is a frequent contributor to The Right Side of Truth.