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March 20, 2024 - Comments Off on Digital rights foundation public comment on oversight board case: politician’s comments on demographic changes

Digital rights foundation public comment on oversight board case: politician’s comments on demographic changes

Submission Author: Abdullah b. Tariq
Submission Date(s): 12 December 2023

The case is about a French politician, Zemmour, providing a commentary on French demographic changes. The post was shared on Eric Zemmour’s Facebook page by his administrator, in which during an interview Zemmour passed remarks on demographic changes and shift in power balance in Europe, further going on to say that this change in demography has led to Africa colonizing Europe. Zemmour in the past has crossed paths with the European justice system, where he was criticized for “inciting discrimination and religious hatred” in France. On a careful analysis of the current political discourse in Europe and the case's contents, we conclude that the case violates Meta’s hate speech policy under the TIER 3 categorization. The comment not only talks about the immigration policies but also about a broader generalization of Africans in Europe. The post echoes “The Great Replacement”(Le Grand Remplacement) theory. The idea propagated by French author Renaud Camus, promotes violence and hatred by framing the presence of non-white populations, particularly from Muslim-majority countries, as a threat to the ethnic French and white European populations. While Camus publicly condemns white nationalist violence, scholars argue that “implicit calls to violence” are present in his depiction of non-white migrants “as an existential threat”. The theory has been linked to several far-right terrorist acts, including the Christchurch mosque shootings and the El Paso shooting. The theory found support in Europe and has grown popular among anti-migrant and white nationalist movements, with its broader appeal attributed to simple catch-all slogans.  More so than a commentary on immigration policies, the post furthers an existing civil division. Thus, it would be fair to categorize the post's contents in TIER 3 of hate speech. Moreover, the post also includes traces of misinformation and misleading content, which also falls under Meta’s content moderation policy on misinformation.

When provided with contextual information, the statement in question befits the broader conspiracy dialogue in France regarding the Great Replacement. Zemmour has vigorously defended “The Great Replacement”(Le Grand Remplacement) conspiracy. The concept, echoed by the far-right groups in Europe, elucidates that the white population of Europe is being demographically replaced. The sentence “...there are four Africans for one European and Africa colonizes Europe…” tries to induce the elements of segregation and dissent against the wider African diaspora within Europe. Moreover, this ideology has previously been used as the justification by white supremacists to carry out mass shootings in the US and New Zealand – bringing attention to the global relevance and repercussions of such a narrative. Not to mention, that the argument used to infer this claim is equally misleading. Using the correlation of demographics to infer the causation of colonization is a misleading argument and fuels conspiracy amongst the general populace. Additionally, using the term colonization induces a power hierarchy among the demographic segments, which does not exist in the context the Politician is framing it.

Zemmour’s comment, although generally highlighting the demographic analysis of two separate periods of two separate continents, the addition of “...Africa colonizes Europe…” creates a false correlation between demography and colonization. In that context, Zemmour is using false information to target a race and nationality – which goes directly against Meta’s policy against misinformation and hate speech on its platform. Such misinformation poses a danger to European democracies, as intimidation and manipulative narratives further jeopardize the broader political discourse on immigration policies and democratic elections in Europe. 

Such conspiracies not only otherize a whole population segment but also induce hate and fear among the white European population. The statement “...Africa colonizes Europe…” serves as an identifier where Zemmour insinuates that African immigrants living in Europe are the colonizers. Creating a distinction of European citizens from European Citizens of African descent is highly exclusionary and discriminatory based on race and nationality. Moreover, such extreme claims about reverse colonization because of demographic changes take attention away from arguments that are of legitimate concern for most of Europe in current times. Commentary and criticism of immigration policies are healthy discussion topics that should not be restricted in our digital spaces. However, developing well-informed policies becomes a target of manipulated truth when this discourse enters the realm of conspiracies and misinformation. In that instance, it is equally essential to ensure that the wider population, especially protected groups, is kept safe in offline and online spaces. Meta needs to ensure, especially through election periods, that the bogus and conspiratorial claims are identified and marked on their platforms. Until the platform figures out a way to efficiently and effectively include detailed contextual embeddings within their algorithms, there needs to be increased human review of such reports. There are limited laws against the involvement of AI in online political discourses; therefore, as a multi-billion-user company, the responsibility falls on Meta to do its part in ensuring the minimal impact of such automated models on human discourse development.

Zemmour’s comment on demographic changes can not be viewed in isolation, considering his influence on the political discourse in France. The claim of a shift in power and explicit mention of the word “Africans'' targets and alienates the non-white population of Europe. The contextual underpinnings of general anti-migrant discourse in Europe and a lack of non-white voices hint towards the more significant issue of discrimination against groups falling within the protected characteristics. In such an environment, Meta must ensure their platform does not feed into discriminatory practices. Politicians worldwide have massive followings in online spaces and utilize these platforms to address a more comprehensive voting class. However, their followers are primarily the members of society who are already in alignment with the politicians’ political ideologies – as made evident through the response to Eric Zemmour’s post. This creates an echo chamber within the platform where the ideologies propagate and expand without much resistance. A lack of accountability in such situations could birth hostile and harmful narratives. Therefore, it is paramount that Meta ensures much more careful monitoring of what is being propagated in these echo chambers. Although identifying and removing hateful content online is essential, it is equally, if not more important, to evaluate the impact of such content. There should be higher sensitivity in the content moderation policies when evaluating content with a higher influence on the general public. 

The case’s contextual review shows how the post discriminates against a protected group through misleading, fear-mongering narratives and exclusion. The alienation of a non-white demographic segment through Zemmour’s comments exacerbates the ongoing discourse around migration laws. In such situations, Meta needs to ensure that it can identify and differentiate between political commentary and targeting of specific segments of the society (“Africans”) through misinformation and hate speech. Meta in its hate speech policy allows for “commentary and criticism of immigration policies”; however, this exception does not apply to this case. Conspiracy theories and discriminatory speech falls under the the categorization of hate speech; thus a spade should be called a spade and dealt as such. Providing safe spaces for conspiracies and hateful narratives to grow under the guise of political commentary could have a detrimental impact on the democratic values of European people, as well as discriminate and further create a divide among the civilian population. Thus, a more rigorous understanding of the context within different echo chambers and political spheres should be developed by the reviewers of such claims. On such a basis, TIER 3 of Meta’s hate speech policy should take into account the repercussions of specific comments on immigration policies and how they promote segregation and exclusion of protected groups.

March 15, 2024 - Comments Off on February 2024 Newsletter: Nighat Dad at the Munich Security Conference

February 2024 Newsletter: Nighat Dad at the Munich Security Conference

Nighat Dad shared her insights at the Munich Security Conference (MSC) alongside Google CEO Sundar Pichai and former President of Estonia Kersti Kaljulaid, moderated by Ian Bremmer, delving into the crucial intersection of geopolitics, AI, and electoral integrity.

She highlighted AI's broader societal impact, including inclusivity and human rights, beyond mere technology. While Western regulations are crucial, they may not address global challenges adequately. The Global South's voice gained recognition through the UN's High-Level Panel on AI. Nighat urged platforms to increase resources for human rights and transparency. Empowering researchers and reassessing governance are essential for fair AI. She emphasized integrating human rights into AI security discussions and promoting transparency. Finally, she called for civil society involvement and anchored regulations in human rights for effective AI ethics.

Policy Initiatives:

DRF Election Desk

Digital Rights Foundation launched its Election Desk. It is a mapping project to document instances of network shutdowns and infringements on free speech via the targeted closure of specific social media sites and access to the internet overall. It consolidated all the latest resources and showcased the legal analysis of different parties’ manifestos in relation to digital rights. This endeavor seeks to uphold democratic values and ensure a transparent and open dialogue during such critical events.

For more:

Legal Framework for Financing Election Campaigns in Pakistan

In Pakistan, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is responsible for overseeing election processes, including campaign financing. The legal framework for campaign financing is primarily governed by the Election Act of 2017. This Act sets limits on election campaign expenditures by candidates. It requires candidates to keep detailed accounts of their campaign expenses and submit these accounts to the ECP.

Important note: Section 132 does not explicitly differentiate between offline and online election activities, and the provision can be broadly interpreted to cover both offline and online campaign financing.

Accountability around Political Ads on social media platforms of Pakistani Political Actors leading to elections

The regulation of online and social media campaign financing is a relatively new and evolving area. While entities like Meta have implemented their own policies for political advertising, including background checks and transparency requirements in various countries, the ECP's policies do not explicitly address the specifics of online campaign financing or the regulation of political ads on social media networks.

Meta has made their ad library public and you can view the spending for political ads on DRF’s Election Desk website:

What to do on polling day?

DRF Election Desk brought people a guideline on what to do on election day - especially for first time voters the day before Pakistan’s General Elections.

  1. Check your polling station
  2. Go early
  3. Bring your original CNIC
  4. Main order and queue



Difference between our Cyber Harassment Helpline and WhatsApp Disinformation Tipline

DRF’s Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights (NWJDR) condemned the use of TFGBV and Gen AI to attack and silence women journalists

More than 60 journalists signed Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights (NWDJR)'s statement condemning the use of technology-facilitated gender-based violence (TFGBV) and Generative AI to attack and silence women journalists.

Read the full statement here:

WhatsApp Hacking Awareness Video

DRF has observed a spike in WhatsApp accounts getting hacked.  We shared an instructional video on how to avoid it.

You can watch it here:

Press Coverage:

How the Digital Rights Foundation Fights for Privacy and Better Internet Governance

Nighat Dad talked to XMTP and her insights offered an essential perspective on the role open and decentralized protocols play in countering the prevalent centralized models of data collection and ownership.

Read more:

Important Analysis of Nighat Dad on Legality of the Decision in Iddat Case

Nighat Dad spoke to Dawn News as a member of WAF (Women Action Forum) about the Iddat case and provided critical legal analysis.

More here:

Nighat spoke to DW Urdu about Pakistan’s General Elections and Internet shutdown

Nighat Dad spoke to DW Urdu and talked about how the use of the internet is also done to obtain information, so the shutdown of mobile and internet services on the day of general elections in Pakistan is a violation of the democratic and fundamental rights of citizens.

Watch here:

In this opinion piece, Nighat Dad discusses the prevalence of internet shutdowns during election cycles in Pakistan, highlighting their detrimental impact on society and the economy. She emphasizes how shutdowns hinder access to crucial information, disrupt economic activities, and impede democratic processes. Additionally, Nighat argues that internet shutdowns exacerbate tensions, restrict freedom of expression, and undermine trust in the democratic system. She calls for the government to refrain from shutting down the internet during elections, stressing the importance of maintaining an open and free internet for democratic participation and accountability.

More here:

Digital Campaigns

DRF’s Executive Director, Nighat Dad, penned an opinion piece where she talks about the lack of regulation and oversight by Election Commission of Pakistan on online political advertising.

Read here:

Data Privacy: Elections and Beyond

Zainab Durrani discusses the impact of technology on Pakistan's 2024 elections, highlighting concerns about deepfake disinformation and the use of voter data. She points out the lack of a national data protection framework, raising questions about the source and misuse of voter contact information. Durrani emphasizes the vulnerability of citizen data held by entities like NADRA and telecom providers, with documented breaches compromising privacy. She calls for amendments to proposed data protection laws and stresses the need for accountability in political campaigning practices. Additionally, she criticizes outdated election laws for failing to address digital campaigning methods, underscoring the importance of protecting privacy in democratic governance.

Read here:

DRF in the Press
The Friday Times Pakistan's Network Of Women Journalists For Digital Rights Demand Accountability And Support For Domestic
Medium Chapter I — How to prevent sexting abuse on WhatsApp in Pakistan?
Deccan Herald Feminists, women lawyers lash out at Pakistan judge for hurting woman's dignity in marriage case verdict
Ifex What’s new and old in 2024: Repressive laws, attacks, and election disinformation in Asia
The Current The ever-looming threat of disinformation in Pakistan
France24 Pakistan suspends mobile service for election day
Samaa TV HRCP demands immediate restoration of internet, mobile services across country
Barron's Pakistan Counts Ballots With Khan In Jail, Vote Marred By Mobile Outage NWJDR Condemns Online Attacks On Women Journalists In Pakistan
The Friday Times Technology-facilitated Gender-based Violence And Generative AI Used To Abuse Women Journalists
Dawn Online attacks on women journalists condemned
IFEX Pakistan Press Foundation condemns smear campaign against journalists in post-election turmoil
ERR Kaljulaid in Munich: EU's AI legal act best for global governance, minus fines Speculation Abounds As X Suspension In Pakistan Enters Third Day
Dawn X faces disruption for third consecutive day
Express Tribune X becomes govt's first target
Global Village Space X faces a nationwide shutdown amid political turmoil - Global Village Space
The News International X access restricted in Pakistan for seventh day
The News International X shutdown enters 7th day in Pakistan
Geo News X shutdown enters 8th day in Pakistan with VPN services also restricted
Times of India Social media platform 'X' shutdown continues for eighth day ..
Arab News Rights activists say free speech ‘critically under threat’ in Pakistan as X disruption enters eighth day
Bolly Inside Social Media Platform X Shutdown Continues for Eighth Day in Pakistan, Users Face Blackout
ANI Pakistan: Social media platform 'X' shutdown continues for eighth day Civil Society Condemns Ichhra Incident
KTN News HD Violence in the Digital World | Insight with Najia Mir


Global Symposium Technology Facilitated Gender Based Violence

DRF actively participated in this year’s virtual Global Symposium hosted by the UNFPA. On Day 1, Nighat Dad set the scene during Panel 1.1 ‘Now and the Future’, where she spoke about the regulatory gaps and challenges in addressing the intersection of artificial intelligence and online abuse, the lack of effective legal responses to the rise in the TFGBV, and the role that social media and tech platforms need to play in combating TFGBV. On Day 2, Hyra Basit was on the panel entitled ‘Responding to TFGBV’ where she highlighted the Cyber Harassment’s journey, its successes, and challenges.

Watch the entire panel here:

Striking the Right Balance: Moderating Online Content During 2024 Elections

The session explored important topics like misinformation, foreign interference, targeted advertising, and the role of algorithms in shaping user attitudes and behaviors. Nighat shared her insight about how with social media's influence on public opinion and elections worldwide, it is crucial to understand how to effectively manage these platforms for fairness and transparency in electoral processes.

Nighat Dad speaking at MobilinkHer Event

DRF’s Executive Director, Nighat Dad, shared her thoughts on #MobilinkHER - during Mobilink Bank's flagship women returnship program launch. She talked about the importance of creating a supportive & inclusive work environment that enables women to foster holistic economic development and bolster Pakistan’s economy.

APAC regional conversation and consultation

DRF briefed the Global Coalition for Tech Justice partners regarding the elections held on 8th February and around the findings of DRF’s election desk cell on the 21st of February. The consultation was DRF’s attempt to share best practices with partners around monitoring content on platforms in this election year of 2024.

Navigating Online Harms and Gendered Disinformation in Pakistan

DRF conducted a session at LUMS with the Saida Waheed Gender Initiative (SWGI) on  Navigating Online Harms and Gendered Disinformation in Pakistan. The session was facilitated by Seerat Khan and Danish Umar. DRF’s team went over the proliferation of gendered disinformation and how it contributes to the exacerbation of gender-based violence. The team also shared ways in which students can protect themselves online. and spot generative AI content.


Source Verification and Fact-checking workshop for Journalists during Elections held in Islamabad

DRF conducted a session on source verification and fact-checking in Islamabad with Meta's support, keeping in mind the upcoming general elections. The one day workshop addressed the emergence of disinformation and misinformation during elections and how to tackle and report dis/misinformation during this time and was attended by 31 journalists from Islamabad and adjacent areas.

Digital Literacy sessions in schools

This month DRF held four schools in Lahore with their Digital Citizens program. 735 students (females and males) and 44 teachers were informed about ways of staying safe in online spaces and reporting mechanisms in case of harassment or bullying. The participants were given gift bags with online safety resources and stationary.

Session:  Introducing all feminist Helplines

Anmol and Hyra participated in an online session on 29 Feb 2024, focused on introducing all the feminist helplines within their community. The session provided a platform for various helplines to present their work, emphasizing their roles in addressing gender-based violence. We have discussed and delved into the specifics of how helplines operate, including the processes involved in providing support and assistance to individuals facing gender-based violence. The session aimed to foster collaboration and mutual understanding among the different helplines, ultimately enhancing their collective efforts in combating gender-based violence within the community.

DRF Updates:

Cyber Harassment Helpline

The Cyber Harassment Helpline received 236, with 118 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 Sunday.

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.