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January 16, 2024 - Comments Off on DRF launches Disinformation Whatsapp Tipline to counter Gendered Disinformation during the elections

DRF launches Disinformation Whatsapp Tipline to counter Gendered Disinformation during the elections

December 21, 2023

Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) in collaboration with Meedan and Check has launched the Disinformation Whatsapp Tipline to counter growing gendered disinformation and misinformation during the elections. The WhatsApp Tipline is a move towards documenting instances of growing disinformation which is shaping narratives and reinforcing online harms like hate speech and technology facilitated-gender-based violence in Pakistan, particularly during election time. 

The WhatsApp Tipline is available in both Urdu and English and can be reached at 0301-3249539. Mithu, an interactive bot, greets users at the Tipline and collects content that is false, sexist, and misogynistic in nature which can be in the form of text, pictures, videos and audio. To share content on the Tipline all one needs to do is share links or the content itself on the WhatsApp number and their response will be recorded by Mithu. With the upcoming elections, there will be a rise of disinformation particularly targeting women politicians, journalists and human rights defenders which will translate into offline spaces. The WhatsApp tipline is a step to counter these harmful narratives stemming from social media platforms in such a crucial democratic moment. 

DRF’s Nighat Dad noted, ‘We’re seeing a rise in harmful content online particularly with respect to gendered disinformation with the use of false information manipulating the masses and the use of sexist and misogynistic narratives that are perpetuating harms. These attacks are well coordinated and planned and seem to be adding to offline harms of individuals, particularly women human rights defenders and journalists. The tipline is one step towards documenting these and ensuring to make Hamara Internet a safer space for all.’

Digital Rights Foundation is a registered research-based NGO in Pakistan. Founded in 2012, DRF focuses on ICTs to support human rights, inclusiveness, democratic processes, and digital governance. DRF works on issues of online free speech, privacy, data protection and online violence against women.

QR Code for Disinformation Whatsapp Tipline

For more information log on: 



Nighat Dad 
[email protected] 

Hyra Basit 
[email protected] 

Seerat Khan
[email protected]

January 16, 2024 - Comments Off on Digital Rights Foundation’s Conference on Countering Digital Threats and Building Resilience of Communities

Digital Rights Foundation’s Conference on Countering Digital Threats and Building Resilience of Communities

December 15, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) held a conference titled, ‘Countering Digital Threats and Building Resilience of Communities’ on Friday, 15th December 2023 in Islamabad. DRF’s conference addressed the lack of discourse relating to online freedoms in the country particularly with the rise of hate speech and disinformation against vulnerable and at-risk communities in Pakistan. The conference brought together experts from across the country with two panels that highlighted DRF’s engagements and redressal mechanisms available in the country for at-risk communities in Pakistan.

The event started off with welcome remarks by Seerat Khan Programs Lead at DRF in which she highlighted the particular vulnerabilities that religious minorities face in the country, especially with respect to rising hate speech and disinformation. Nighat Dad, Executive Director at Digital Rights Foundation also noted that “With the upcoming elections we see how harmful content pertaining to religious minorities in the country is increasing, particularly (the elements of) disinformation and hate speech. The rise in hate speech and disinformation will be even more rapid with the use of AI and generative AI which is quite concerning. The Election Commission and government institutions need to address this and include hate speech in the code of conduct for political parties that the Commission is developing. Social media platforms also need to do more to address how hate speech and disinformation spread and impact they have on at-risk communities in countries like Pakistan.”

In 2021, DRF conducted a research on "Religious Minorities in Online Spaces (2021)," addressing communities' vulnerabilities to attacks, disinformation campaigns, harassment, and hate speech. The research mapped the experiences of religious minorities in online spaces and through surveys and interviews, we found a majority of respondents for the aforementioned research experienced online negativity, including backlash or threats on the basis of religious affiliation and/or a combination of factors.

The first panel of the conference, ‘Navigating Digital Boundaries: Combating Online Hate Speech and Disinformation’ was a conversation about the challenges posed by online hate speech and disinformation targeting at-risk communities. The panel was moderated by Senior Program Manager Zainab Durrani and included NCHR Secretary Mr. Kamran Rajar, Dr. Shoaib Suddle, One Man Commission for Minorities, Academic Dr. Ayra Patras, Journalist Sajjad Azhar and Director of Bolo Bhi, Usama Khilji. The panelists shed light on how online hate speech and disinformation manifest online and how to combat these as a community together.

Dr. Ayra Patras said,”When religious minority communities are ostracized in real life then you see the replication of this behavior online as well. We see more hate speech and there are no recompense mechanisms in place that actually work.” She added,”The social discrimination faced by these communities germinates into social exclusion and the consequences are far-reaching and become entrenched in real life.

The second panel of the event was on ‘Bridging the Digital Divide: Ensuring Equal Access for All’ which was moderated by Programs Lead Seerat Khan. The panel was joined by NCHR Member Minorities Manzoor Masih, Former Senator Farahtullah Baber, Community Leader and Activist Sunil Gulzar Khan and Cyber Harassment Helpline Manager Hyra Basit. The panel addressed mechanisms needed to ensure safe spaces for at-risk communities, particularly in light of the upcoming elections and the need for community building and resilience.

Senator Farhatullah Babar said,”The discussion around digital divide is very timely in light of  the upcoming elections. In Pakistan, media has played a great role in elections and online disinformation is a very real issue.” He added,”It is very important to considers all actors complicit in the online disinformation campaign and more than most, its the state is complicit”. He advocated for the Election Commission of Pakistan to develop a code of conduct for media house that is focused on combating disinformation on social media.

Digital Rights Foundation is a registered research-based NGO in Pakistan. Founded in 2012, DRF focuses on ICTs to support human rights, inclusiveness, democratic processes, and digital governance. DRF works on issues of online free speech, privacy, data protection and online violence against women.
For more information log on:


Nighat Dad 
[email protected]

Seerat Khan
[email protected]

Anam Baloch
[email protected]

January 11, 2024 - Comments Off on December 2023 Newsletter: DRF holds Countering Digital Threats and Building Resilience of Communities Conference

December 2023 Newsletter: DRF holds Countering Digital Threats and Building Resilience of Communities Conference

Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) held a conference ‘Countering Digital Threats and Building Resilience of Communities’ on 15th December 2023 in Islamabad. The conference brought together experts from across the country to discuss digital safety, online religious freedoms and building a safer Hamara Internet and countering hate speech and disinformation for greater access to the internet for all.

Press Coverage:

We News
Pak Profile
Jehan Pakistan
Express Tribune
Pak Observer
The Friday Times
Minute Mirror
The Destination
The Spokesman
Islamabad Post
DRF’s Legal Team wins case against ARY in favor of Journalist Asma Shirazi

We laud the recent decision of the Islamabad High Court by Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani in "Civil Miscellaneous Appeal No. 16 of 2023, Asma Shirazi versus Council of Complaints through Secretary" in support of Asma Shirazi, a senior female journalist in Pakistan. Represented by the all-women legal team from DRF, which included Nighat Dad, Irum Shujah, Aqsa Javed, Shafia Imran Lati, and Minahil Farooq, this legal victory against the state-owned media watchdog's complaint body marks a significant milestone. It signifies a crucial step in holding accountable those responsible for spreading disinformation, especially when their targets are women journalists. This verdict represents a noteworthy moment in Pakistan's legal landscape. We appreciate the established precedent that now empowers journalists to raise their voices against entities and individuals attempting to tarnish their credibility and work.

Read the judgement here:

Nighat Dad at UNSG AI High Level Advisory Board meeting

Nighat Dad attended the UNSG AI High Level Advisory Board meeting where she worked on setting a robust foundation for a report on AI harms, opportunities and AI governance. This report poised to shape how AI intertwines with our societal fabric. Nighat worked with Antonio Guterres, UN General Secretary, who amidst the Security Council meeting, spent number of hours to engage in discussions about AI governance with the members of the High-Level Advisory Body on AI.

Policy Initiatives:

High-Level Advisory Body on AI | Interim Report: Governing AI for Humanity

The United Nations' High-Level Advisory Body on AI launched its "Interim Report: Governing AI for Humanity" discusses the global governance deficit in AI and makes preliminary recommendations. The report emphasizes the importance of inclusive, public-interest-focused governance, integrating AI with data governance, and basing AI governance on the UN Charter, International Human Rights Law, and the Sustainable Development Goals. It outlines the institutional functions required for international AI governance, such as conducting regular assessments of AI's future directions, developing standards, and promoting international collaboration. The report advocates for a balanced approach in which AI benefits humanity while mitigating risks.

Read the entire report here:

#16DaysofActivism Campaign
  • Digital Art Competition: DRF’s program team held a digital art exhibition of feminist digital art in Pakistan with 6 digital artists on the topic ‘AI and Generative AI’s Impact on Technology- Facilitated Gender-based Violence in South Asia.’
  • Digital Art Competition Winners Live Chat:

  • Link to video:
  • Countering Digital Threats Toolkit Launch | X Space
  • DRF’s legal team discussed our “Countering Digital Threats” toolkit. They shared information on cybercrimes, relevant laws, and steps on how to keep yourself safe online. It is a go-to manual for a secure online world.

    Link to space:

  • 75th Anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Saanjhi Kahaniyan

DRF's communications team wrote & co-directed 'Saanjhi Kahaniyan: Diverse Experiences of Individuals Online', a theater play about DRF's Cyber Harassment Helpline cases. The play depicted vulnerable people's online experiences.

Watch the play here:

Press Coverage:

Nighat Dad speaks to Hum News about AI

DRF's Executive Director Nighat Dad talked to Hum News about how AI has the potential to change the world, but we must take into account the dire consequences of misusing AI and Generative AI & find ways to govern it globally. This is what she as a member of UN's AI Advisory Body focus on.

Unmasking the Epidemic of Womens Abuse | Daily Times

The article discusses the severe issue of women's abuse in Balochistan, Pakistan, particularly focusing on teenage girls facing cyberbullying. It highlights the situation in cities like Quetta and Turbat, where young girls preparing for medical college admission tests are subjected to cyberbullying. The Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) is mentioned in reference to its 2018 report, which revealed that 72% of Pakistani women subjected to cyberbullying experienced various forms of online persecution, impacting their education and well-being. The article calls for comprehensive strategies to address these issues, including educational reforms and legal measures.


Nighat Dad at the 75th Anniversary of Genocide Convention - Human Rights Council

DRF's Executive Director Nighat Dad spoke on the 75th Anniversary of Genocide Convention - Human Rights Council addressing the role of social media platforms in response to content that incites violence and discrimination.

Watch it here:

Nighat Dad speaks at Human Rights 75 – High-level Event by UN

Nighat Dad spoke at the UN 75 High-level Event "The Future of Human Rights and Digital Technologies," and said that now that we're talking about emerging tech and how governments will make frameworks and policies, we should take a pause and actually think about what we've done in the past 15 years, and whether we're not making the same mistakes as before. Are we thinking about the existing international human rights frameworks and CSO interventions? That, I believe, should be our starting point.

Watch it here:

One Day Self-care Wellbeing Workshop

DRF in collaboration with Dr. Nabiha Chaudhary held a one-day participatory workshop with women human rights defenders on 12th December 2023. The workshop addressed the specific needs of woman human rights defenders relating to self-care and well-being and also addressed burnout that individuals face in the field.

Source Verification and Fact-Checking Workshop During Elections

DRF in collaboration with Meta held a one-day workshop on source verification and fact-checking workshop in times of elections in Lahore with 30 journalists. The workshop addressed election-specific disinformation, misinformation and hate speech and presented tools to participants for verifying the authenticity of the news.

Capacity Building Workshop in Lahore

DRF is organizing a series of three in-person capacity building workshops on navigating technology-facilitated online harms during the upcoming elections Pakistan. Through our series of workshops, we aim to build the capacity of social media users on different forms and nature of technology-facilitated online harms and the best practices to ensure that the digital spaces are accessible and their participation is safe in the charged political environment during the elections. The first was held on 12th December in Lahore with 36 participants from diverse religious backgrounds. They shared their experiences of online spaces and how it has impacted their lives in the real world.

IFEX Generative AI Cafecito

DRF attended the session “Hey, ChatGPT? We have Questions!” - IFEX’s virtual Cafecito on the implications of Generative AI for our work and our world on 5th December. The event focused on the adoption of generative AI and the human rights implications due to it. Conversations around the potential impact of generative AI on the work of human rights defenders and civil society also took place in the session in breakout groups. DRF’s programs lead Seerat Khan facilitate a breakout session for the closed event.

DRF Updates:

Cyber Harassment Helpline

The Cyber Harassment Helpline received 159 complaints in total December, with 90 complaints by women. If you’re encountering a problem online, you can reach out to our helpline at 0800-39393, email us at [email protected] or reach out to us on our social media accounts. We’re available for assistance from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday.

IWF Portal

DRF in collaboration with Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) and the Global Fund to End Violence Against Children launched a portal to combat children’s online safety in Pakistan. The new portal allows internet users in Pakistan to anonymously report child sexual abuse material in three different languages- English, Urdu, and Pashto.

Meta along with Revenge Porn Helpline (RPH) has launched a portal to support victims of Non-Consensual Intimate Image Abuse (NCII). NCII is a free portal for reporting cases of sensitive or sexual content existing online. Once you report a case, the necessary steps will be taken to block the images from the platform.



With the upcoming general elections in Pakistan, the Digital Rights Foundation urges political parties to include six key digital rights issues in their manifestos. This is crucial for a robust democracy, enabling citizens to scrutinize the new government effectively. The issues range from funding AI research initiatives and establishing a robust data protection regime, including enacting Data Protection Law, to PECA amendments and law enforcement capacity building. Additionally, it involves parliamentary oversight on the FIA’s Cyber Crime Wing, monitoring the actions of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, conducting human rights impact assessments on tech tools and cyber policies, bridging digital divide across Pakistan and revising existing tech policies that are detrimental to fundamental rights in the digital age.

1. Institute Parliamentary Oversight, Impact Assessment and Human Rights Audits:
    • Ensure effective and robust parliamentary oversight of the FIA under Section 53 of the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016, while ensuring alignment with human rights principles.
    • Convene a multi-stakeholder committee, inclusive of legal experts, human rights advocates, and technology professionals, to amend the problematic and vague sections of PECA.
      • Defamation should be removed as a criminal offense by repealing Section 20 of the ‘Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016’ and Section 499/500 of the Pakistan Penal Code in compliance with General Comment No. 34, Human Rights Committee.
      • Section 37 of the ‘Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016’ should be repealed and ‘Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards), Rules 2021’ should be denotified, and all laws concerning freedom of expression should be amended to remove vague/overbroad criteria for online content moderation.
    • Initiate a comprehensive impact assessment of the Federal Investigation Agency's Cyber Crime Wing, with a focus on evaluating its effectiveness and adherence to human rights standards. Ensure the findings of impact assessments lead to amendments and improvements to the existing structure, capacity, objectives and rules and protocols that aim to safeguard vulnerable groups rather than harm them.
    • Establish and implement effective transparency and accountability measures through mandatory human rights audits, such as through the National Commission on Human Rights, of state agencies and bodies regarding the acquisition of technologies used to regulate digital content, communications and data.
2. Ensure Digital Accessibility and Inclusion:
      • Make a firm commitment to prohibit and prevent arbitrary internet shutdowns that hamper the citizen’s access to the internet, a fundamental right and one essential for the exercise of other human rights. Pay particular attention to the internet shutdown in the ex-FATA area which has lasted more than 7 years since its issuance in June 2016. Despite some progress in 2021 regarding the restoration of the internet in some parts overall access in these regions remain precarious as services are frequently re-suspended on vague security grounds.
      • Ensure the incorporation of digital accessibility standards into national policies, such as the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), to ensure that website content and online services and platforms are accessible for individuals with disabilities and language constraints.
      • Invest in the expansion of reliable and affordable internet infrastructure, prioritizing rural and underserved areas to bridge the digital divide for this demographic and women and girls. Additionally, collaborate with technology providers to ensure the availability of budget-friendly and user-friendly devices, catering specifically to the needs of women and girls.

3. Protect Online Freedoms: Right to Privacy, Assembly and Association & Freedom of Expression

      • Amend the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2023 to align it with the international human rights standards. Initiate transparent and inclusive consultations with relevant stakeholders to make the bill human rights centric as the current bill falls short of ensuring protection of people, their data and rights.  Ensure that the law requires establishing an independent oversight body which has substantive powers to hold private and public bodies accountable for breaches of citizens’ privacy and data security and finally enact data protection law in order to protect personal data of citizens of Pakistan.
      • Ensure Constitutional guarantees including the right to online freedom of assembly and association under Article 16. Make explicit guarantees to stop blocking of digital communications to prevent public gatherings and mobilisation under section 54(3) of the ‘Pakistan Telecommunications Act 1996’. 
      • Implement safeguards to prevent the misuse of cybercrime laws on the freedom of expression of citizens, particularly individuals charged by authorities for online content deemed critical of public figures and institutions.
4. Ensure Ethical use of Artificial Intelligence (AI):
        • Establish a dedicated AI Ethics Committee with inclusive representatives from civil society, academics, businesses, and technical experts to:
          • develop and adhere to clear Ethical Guidelines for the Use of AI by the State, particularly including the use of facial recognition systems and social media surveillance to ensure they are grounded in the human rights principles of legality, necessity, and proportionality.
          • continuously assess and update the guidelines to ensure that the development, design and deployment of AI technology is human rights centric and doesn’t exclude the experiences of marginalized communities.
5. Protect Rights of Businesses and IT Industry
    • Establish a task force comprising industry experts, businesses and policymakers to regularly review and update policies that impact the industry, fostering innovation and growth.
    • Implement inclusive policies and strategies that cater to the needs of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the IT sector, such as providing access to finance, mentorship programs, and regulatory relief. 

Align national laws and regulations with international standards and treaties, such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which ensure that businesses operate responsibly and respect human rights throughout their activities

6. Elevate Digital Literacy and Research on Tech and AI
      • Implement targeted digital literacy programs designed for women, girls and the transgender community aimed at fostering proficiency in fundamental computer literacy, internet navigation, and online safety practices, particularly focusing on the rural and fringe populations..
      • Incorporate comprehensive digital citizenship programs into education curricula, emphasizing responsible online behavior, ethical use of technology and AI, and digital rights awareness for children.
      • Enhance research infrastructure in Pakistan and foster collaboration with foreign research think tanks to expedite research on technology, digital rights, and AI, facilitating informed policies and strategies.
 General comment no. 34, Article 19, Freedoms of opinion and expression, UN. Human Rights Committee (102nd sess.:201:Geneva). Accessed at: