All Posts in

October 3, 2018 - Comments Off on September 2018- Digital Rights Foundation at the UN General Assembly

September 2018- Digital Rights Foundation at the UN General Assembly


DRF's cyber harassment helpline is selected as one of the innovative solutions addressing SDGs. We were invited to present cyber harassment helpline as one of their Top Ten Entrepreneur contenders.

The Summit, which was held during UN General Assembly meeting at the UN's SDG Media Zone on the 25th of September, provided Ms. Dad with the opportunity to highlight the need for protection of individuals, particularly women, against cyberbullying, discrimination, and intimidation. She also went on to say that "Online human rights must be recognized and upheld like offline human rights”. For the full speech, click here.

DRF gets featured on Forbes Top 10 Entrepreneurs at UN General Assembly

The article featured in Forbes had the following to say about the Summit:
'Last week, while countless world leaders made empty speeches to the UN General Assembly, a group of real change makers were nearby pitching their innovative technologies and programs, and challenging the world to scale actual solutions to our greatest challenges.'
Click here for the full article.


Privacy International’s SIDA Partner Meeting 11th – 12th September

DRF attended Privacy International’s annual SIDA Project Partner Meeting in London on 11th and 12th September. In total, 6 organisations, from Pakistan, Argentina, Colombia, Indonesia, Kenya and the Philippines presented on their work on digital security and privacy. Sana Farrukh, Research Associate DRF presented DRF’s report on the Safe Cities Project while participating in a session on ID and Biometrics. Additionally, DRF benefitted from guidance and trainings on risk assessment, data privacy practices, counter-terrorism and data security, artificial intelligence, data protection and human rights, and campaigning and advocacy.


Gender and Privacy: Countering the Patriarchal Gaze 13th – 14th September

DRF attended Privacy International’s Workshop on Gender and Privacy in London on the 13th and 14th of September.  This meeting connected partners from the Privacy International Network as well as external experts from around the world. Nighat Dad, Executive Director DRF, served on a panel titled ‘Staying safe in the era of techno-patriarchy 2.0.’, with Sana Farrukh, Research Associate DRF, assisting from a litigator’s standpoint. Other sessions included ‘Rethinking consent in the digital age’ and ‘Testimonies of abuse: documenting the targeting of communities at risk.’

DRF at Pakistan School of Internet Governance, Karachi

Nighat Dad has been associated as a faculty member with Pakistan School of Internet Governance since its inauguration in 2015. On September 5th 2018, Ms. Dad spoke to the Karachi class 2018 about internet law and policies and the gendered lens of the internet at the event.  

“Online Safe Spaces for Journalists” at Karakoram International University, Gilgit

DRF held a session at Karakoram International University with the students of Media and Communication department on September 3rd 2018. Around 97 students attended the awareness raising session where they were encouraged to keep themselves secure online. In the second half of the session they were given digital security training and were also provided with CDs, which included security toolkits and a guidebook on digital security.


Workshop for Lawyers on Digital Rights in Gilgit




On September 4th 2018, DRF conducted a workshop which was held for Lawyers in Gilgit, focusing on creating awareness regarding digital rights and the legal landscape that governs digital platforms. Around 25 lawyers participated in the session. The participants were also given specifically designed toolkits, to guide them on how they can make online spaces safe for themselves by adopting various tools and resources available to them.


Workshop on investigative reporting, ethical journalism and digital rights for journalists in Gilgit

On September 5th 2018, DRF conducted a workshop for journalists from across the Gilgit Baltistan area. This workshop held a discussion on whether the existing media ethics are suitable for the evolving digital media landscape or new and different standards are needed. The sessions also focused on actions needed to tackle the spread of fake news and disinformation online, particularly as digital misinformation is extremely potent in Pakistan, owing to a large segment of the population lacking digital literacy. Another session was aimed at creating awareness about the legal landscape that governs digital platforms for freedom of media and journalists. The participants were also given hands-on training and specifically designed toolkits to guide them on how they can make online spaces safe for themselves by adopting various tools and resources available to them.


DRF at Connected Communities event, Glasgow

Nighat Dad spoke at an event titled ‘Connecting or Excluding? New Technologies and Connected Communities’. She explored how digital technologies can enable new forms of co-creation and co-research with communities and can help in building new communities of learning, shared knowledge and creativity. It was a two-day event that took place on 26th and 27th September 2018, which included a range of activities including talks, presentations, workshops, performances, networking and exhibition elements.


Hamara Internet ‘Our Right To Safe Online Spaces’ Session in Peshawar

DRF with the help of our partners Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung für die Freiheit (FNF), conducted the session Hamara Internet ‘Our Right to Safe Online Spaces’ focusing on data protection and privacy in Peshawar. The session was attended by students and professors of Islamia University and a much needed debate around privacy laws in Pakistan and gendered privacy took place.


Hamara Internet ‘Our Right To Safe Online Spaces’ Session in Bahria University, Islamabad

DRF, along with our partner's support FNF, conducted a session with students from Bahria University on data protection and privacy. Law students from Bahria University enthusiastically participated in the session and shared how vital it is for cyber crime to be differentiated from data protection in Pakistan. A much needed debate around the need for a data protection law in Pakistan and cyber harassment also took place.

Panel discussion at “Conference on Violence Against Women”

DRF participated in a panel discussion titled “Existing Protection Mechanisms – Role of Private and State-Run Institutes + Role of Technological Advancement in Supplementing Access to Justice” at the Conference on Violence Against Women organised by LEARN on September 15. The panel was moderated by Angbeen Mirza and attended by representatives from PSCW, Courting the Law, Dastak and the SMU initiative.


DRF at IPDC Talks 2018 organized by UNESCO Islamabad


Jannat Fazal from DRF attended UNESCO Islamabad’s International Day for Universal Access to Information celebration as a guest speaker on 27th September, 2018. The program included IPDC talks where speakers from civil society, government and media delivered talks, followed by panel discussions. She highlighted the role of duty- bearers in promoting the right of access to information. She focused on Open Government Partnership (OGP) and the windows of opportunity to improve effectiveness of access to information initiatives.


DRF Train-the-Trainer Training in Islamabad


DRF’s team conducted a train-the-trainer training in collaboration with Facebook on the 13th of September, 2018 where Facebook’s safety modules were discussed with and communicated to  50 Computer Science teachers from federal schools and colleges in order to enable them to deliver online safety and security sessions to their students.


DRF at #EmpoderaxlosODS in Malaga, Spain

On September 28th 2018, Nighat Dad spoke at the #EmpoderaxlosODS In Malaga, Spain about women reclaiming online spaces and how they can use the internet to express and empower themselves. The talk focused on DRF’s journey from the beginning and how women are more vulnerable over the internet and how they need to take extra precautions to protect themselves. Ms. Dad talked about the Cyber Harassment Helpline and three main services it provides with legal aid, psychological help and digital security assistance.


Workplace Harassment Conviction

The DRFs Helpline team assisted the progress of a case that fell under the Workplace Harassment Act, which was filed by a woman facing serious harassment and intimidation at the hands of a colleague in her hometown of Chakwal. The case was filed with the Provincial Ombudsperson’s Office in Lahore under s. 2 (h) of the Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 2010 and the decision was read out on the 4th of September, 2018 which held that the accused was guilty of causing harassment to the complainant under the relevant section of the Act and was awarded the penalty of compulsory retirement under s. 4(4)(ii)(b)


Members of Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights continued to pen articles and blogs


Members of DRF's Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights continued to share articles and blogs on digital rights issues which can be found on the Hamara Internet website here. The Network advocates for women and other minority groups to have safe access to online platforms, where they can exercise their constitutional right of free speech without facing constant threats. The Network members pen articles to document these threats, bring forward issues in the implementation of legislation to prevent and protect women journalists from gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment both online and offline, and also advocate their access to effective remedies.


October 3, 2018 - Comments Off on Press Release: DRF at RSF’s launch on groundbreaking global Information and Democracy Commission, 70 years after the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Press Release: DRF at RSF’s launch on groundbreaking global Information and Democracy Commission, 70 years after the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights


Digital Rights Foundation

11 September 2018

Paris: Seventy years after the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Paris, the Paris-based international NGO, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), announces the formation of a panel of 25 prominent figures with the aim of drafting an International Declaration on Information and Democracy.

Co-chaired by Nobel peace laureate, Shirin Ebadi, and RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire, the “Information and Democracy Commission” includes Nobel economics laureates Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, Peruvian novelist and Nobel literature laureate Mario Vargas Llosa and Nigerian human rights lawyer Hauwa Ibrahim, a recipient of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize.

A panel has been formed with 25 members from 18 countries, which includes Nighat Dad, the founder of Pakistan’s Digital Rights Foundation. Ms. Dad is honoured to be part of this prestigious Committee and will be focusing on digital rights and human rights in online spaces. She will be highlighting the spike in fake news and the pivotal role played by social media companies and governments when dealing with fake news. Ms. Dad notes that, “I hope to represent a South Asian perspective that is both part of a global, multi-stakeholder initiative and speak to the particularities of experience and identities of all. Through this platform I hope to focus on the digital rights discourse across the globe and right the to free speech and expression for all. ”

This initiative’s ultimate goal is an international commitment by governments, private-sector companies and civil society representatives. The panel is envisioned to facilitate a groundbreaking political process which is to be launched at the initiative of the leaders of several democratic countries on the basis of the Declaration, and that this will lead to an “International Pledge on Information and Democracy.”

Letters have already been sent to leaders in all continents of the world, and RSF hopes that they will commit as early as mid-November, when dozens of heads of state and government meet in Paris for the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War (11 November), for the Paris Peace Forum (11-13 November) and the Internet Governance Forum (12-14 November).

The Commission is meeting for the first time on the 11th and 12th September 2018 in Paris and has set itself the goal of completing its work within two months. RSF, which is acting as its general secretariat, initiated a discussion several months ago that is intended to contribute to the Commission’s own debates. International consultations with a wide range of stakeholders have also been launched.

Digital Rights Foundation is a registered research-based advocacy non-governmental organization in Pakistan. Founded by Nighat Dad 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.


Contact Person

Seerat Khan

Advocacy and Outreach Manager

September 12, 2018 - Comments Off on August 2018 – A study on the Punjab Safe Cities Authority (PSCA)

August 2018 – A study on the Punjab Safe Cities Authority (PSCA)




Digital Rights Foundation’s research titled “Punjab Government’s Safe Cities Project: Safer City or Over Policing?” was launched which looked at the privacy rights implications of the Punjab Safe Cities Authorities and digital urban policing in general.

The study can be found here.

Guidebook on Ethical Journalism on Digital Platforms

Digital Rights Foundation published a “Guidebook on Ethical Journalism on Digital Platforms”. New digital forms of media are more interactive, immediate and always on, and the media landscape is evolving at a furious pace. This has led to professional journalists sharing the same online space with tweeters, bloggers and social media users.

The Guidebook looks at the question of whether the existing media ethics are suitable for this evolving digital media landscape or new and different standards are needed. It discusses how the growing use of digital platforms for the creation and dissemination of news and information and spread of hoaxes, rumors and disinformation through this medium has led to demands for consistent ethical standards for online spaces. The Guidebook can be found here.

DRF organized a workshop on ‘Ethical Journalism & Digital Rights for Journalists’

On August 1, 2018, DRF organized a workshop for journalists on ethical journalism and digital rights in Lahore. The aim of the workshop was to discuss whether the existing media ethics are suitable for the evolving digital media landscape or new and different standards are needed. The session also aimed to highlight what are digital rights and to create awareness about the legal landscape that governs digital platforms for freedom of media and journalists.

Around 33 journalists from print and media joined the session and actively participated in the workshop. They gave great recommendations on how to tackle fake news and disinformation online, considering how most of the population in Pakistan lacks digital literacy and is vulnerable to all kinds of online and digital propaganda.

The workshop was concluded by a digital training by DRF’s digital security trainers on how journalists can make online spaces safe for themselves by adopting various tools and resources available to them. The participants were eager to join such sessions in the future as they had very little knowledge about digital rights and the ways journalists can protect themselves online.


Consultation at Punjab Commission on the Status of Women

Digital Rights Foundation took part in PCSW’s consultation between civil society and law enforcement agencies held on August 2, 2018. Our members raised their concerns regarding online harassment and the gaps in government service delivery to address the issue.

Recommendations for the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018

DRF, along with Privacy International, submitted its recommendations and suggestions for the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018. The recommendations highlight the need for data privacy with reference to government institutions and sensitive data.

Our recommendations can be found here.

Nighat Dad as a Guest Speaker at Training organized by UNCRC

Nighat Dad spoke as a guest speaker at a workshop on August 17, representing Digital Rights Foundation, organized by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to talk about digital rights and security. She pointed out the intersection between child’s rights advocacy and digital rights.


Participation in APrIGF panel on “Internet Platforms and Online Abuse and Violence against Women”

Shmyla Khan from DRF virtually participated in the Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF) panel titled “Internet Platforms and Online Abuse and Violence against Women”. She highlighted issues of content moderation with reference to online harassment laws and experiences of Pakistani women.

Nighat Dad spoke about digital rights live on Subah Say Agay on Hum News  

On 21st August, DRF’s Executive Director, Ms. Dad spoke live about digital rights on Amber Rahim Shamsi’s show on Hum News. She talked about the importance of social media platforms and how they ensure fundamental rights and access to information. She also added that banning social media platforms in this digital age would not be a very wise move as mass censorship goes against democratic values.

For the complete interview click here.

Nighat Dad as a panelist at the launch of the ‘TRANSition’ project

CSC Empowerment & Inclusion Programme along with its partners - The Gender Guardian and Go Green Welfare Society, launched their ‘TRANSition’ project on 17th August. Nighat Dad was part of a panel discussion on ‘Policy level changes for acceptance of Transgenders’, to create awareness on the vulnerability of transgenders in our society and to highlight the efforts made on an institutional level. The keys of motorbikes were also distributed by the panelists to ten of the transgenders, to make mobility easier for them. Click here for more details.


State v Sarmad Liaqat


In continuing its project of ‘Mapping PECA’, a new designated section that has been created to overview the judicial development of the Act, DRF’s legal team has prepared another report on a recent judgement that has come from the court of Special Magistrate Aamir Raza Baitu and which looks into convictions under s.20(1), 21 and 24 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016. It is available for your perusal here.

Network of women journalists continue to share articles and blogs

Members of DRF's Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights continued to share articles and blogs on digital rights issues which can be found on the Hamara Internet website here. This is part of DRF's initiative to record women journalists' voices, particularly relating to digital rights and security issues.

In August was the month preceding the General Elections of Pakistan, Network members wrote extensively on the issues related to cyber bullying of journalists, social media and middle class elitism, and censorship policies.

August 15, 2018 - Comments Off on State Vs Sarmad Liaquat

State Vs Sarmad Liaquat

The most recent judgement under Pakistan’s nascent cyber crimes statute, the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 (PECA), was delivered on the 10th of July, 2018 in the court of Judicial Magistrate Muhammad Aamir Raza Baitu (Lahore) against the accused, Sarmad Liaqat.


The Accusations


The challan form lists the relevant laws as Ss. 20 (1), 21 and 24 of PECA, to be read with Ss. 109 and 420 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). The same form lists brief facts of the case which are as follows:

Consequent upon inquiry No. 35/2017 dated 26/01/2017 initiated on the complaint of Mr. Qaisar Raza S/o Riaz Hussain, one Noman Ali illegally captured an offensive video of the complainant’s wife by affixing a camera in the window of their bathroom. This video was further sent  to a Mr. Sarmad Liaqat who blackmailed the complainant and his family via SMS and calls. On 22/02/2017, a NR3C team conducted a raid on the accused’s house, who was visiting the country from Saudi Arabia. A mobile phone and SIM were recovered and taken into possession by the FIA as per seizure memo which helped establish that harassing, threatening and blackmailing messages along with offensive data captured was sent through Whatsapp. During physical remand the accused disclosed that the pictures were captured by his relative Noman Ali and sent to him while he was in Saudi Arabia from where he sent the alleged blacking material to the complainant’s family. Efforts to arrest the second accused, Noman Ali, were not successful as he has absconded and was not recovered at the time of the judgment.


The Judgment


The judgement given by the Magistrate states that the prosecution established its case beyond a reasonable doubt and that penal provisions  Ss. 21 (offences against the modesty of natural person and minor) and 24 (cyberstalking) of PECA are applicable against the accused as has been proven through deposition of prosecution witnesses as well as documentary evidence. Interestingly, the evidence u/s 20 (1) of PECA i.e offences against the dignity of a person, read with s.109 of the PPC however, could not be established by the prosecution and are not applicable.


The quantum of punishment was set out as follows:

  1. i)             Under s.21 of PECA 2016, the convicted is sentenced with an imprisonment for 3 years
  2. ii)            Under s.24 of PECA 2016, the convicted is sentenced with an imprisonment

Benefit of s.382-B of the Cr. P.C is given to the convict whereby the sentences shall run concurrently.




Digital Rights Foundation welcomes that PECA is being employed to prosecute cases of online harassment and protect female complainants, however it is important to also critically analyze these judgments and access whether they constitute good law.

In this case, we noticed a myriad of discrepancies regarding  who the accused was, specifically how many people were considered complicit in the crimes and were booked under the relevant sections. Whether this confusion arose as a result of multiple typographical errors, a general lack of competency on the clerical level or genuine confusion on part of the FIA--it cannot be determined.

Furthermore, there was no mention of the age of the accused. This fact  is relevant as it determines the method and venue of the trial i.e under the full force of the law or, if he is a minor and below 18 years of age, as a juvenile offender (if so proven). No corresponding documentation such as his CNIC, birth certificate or family tree was attached, thus his age which was put down as 24 by his lawyer, which could not be confirmed. This remains a worrying element not just here but in all cases tried against defendants who lack resources to afford competent lawyers or unaware of the inner workings of the courts. The legal counsel in this case was not able to put forth the best possible defence, thus impeding the access to justice.

These were the noteworthy details in this, the latest PECA case to have been adjudicated and they serve to highlight the effort being put in to regulate the usage of all things internet and also the issues we have to overcome in order to ensure the efficacy of the justice system, including the quality and content of the judgements that are being produced by our esteemed judiciary which require more depth in terms of the ratio they employ and analysis of the facts of the case.


The full judgement can be read here.


This post has been authored by Zainab Durrani.

Zainab tweets at @ZainabKDurrani

September 7, 2017 - Comments Off on Is the collection of student data by LEAs permitted by law?

Is the collection of student data by LEAs permitted by law?

In the wake of an attack on the leader of the Opposition in the Sindh Assembly, allegedly carried out by a Karachi University student, concerns of student militancy over the years continue to grow. In this context, the aim of the collection of private student data by law enforcement agencies (LEAs) is to ostensibly track and curb potential involvement in terrorism.

The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), passed in 2016, does provide a mechanism whereby an authorized officer may by notice, require universities to provide or preserve the specified data for up to 90 days and only bring to the notice of the court within twenty four hours after the acquisition of the data. The court may issue a warrant for disclosure, furthermore, if the court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for the purpose of preventing crime.

It is unclear, therefore, as to which provisions law enforcement agencies (LEAs) will be relying on in order to legitimise such large-scale data collection. Simultaneously, there are no direct data protection laws in Pakistan that would challenge this invasion of privacy. Further to this, the security agencies that the LEAs will be working alongside have yet to finalise or even develop an effective mechanism in regards to data collection and with respect to privacy.

The PECA provisions listed above, furthermore, are only strictly applicable in relation to ‘ongoing’ criminal proceedings or investigation and cannot be used as a tool to profile or surveil all university students under the guise of national security. As a nation with security state characteristics, Pakistan has troubling precedent in regards to overriding fundamental human rights in the name of security, and which we could see happening here.

There are similarities that could also be drawn between student data collection and the compulsory SIM registration policy by NADRA, which were promoted and created as a means of cracking down on potential terrorists. It is likely that a similar policy would be adopted by the security agencies, using much the same justification.

Putting private data of university students under intense scrutiny could exacerbate an already stressful atmosphere - students are required to provide “character” certificates when being admitted, and there is an increase in CCTV monitoring at entrances and exits of several campuses across Pakistan. Such mass surveillance of students must be condemned, as this would harbour distrust and anxiety in students. Rather than make them feel safer, mass surveillance would actually increase feelings of insecurity, as they would feel unable to express their views freely.

Data collection and other aforementioned anti-terrorism actions by the state have thus far generally failed to garner support, even within parts of the government. Senator Raza Rabbani echoed concerns similar to ours in a letter (which can be found at the end of this post) addressed to the Vice Chancellor of Karachi University:

the police and the intelligence agencies are the hard face of the state, an interaction with them will further consolidate the anxiety and fear in the minds of the students.

Senator Rabbani stressed that while immediate steps must be taken to address the issue of extremism - proposing a total review of the university curriculum, as well as the implementation of the Senate of Pakistan’s Resolution on restoring student unions - “diverse literary and academic activity” could play in building an effective counter-paradigm. From this it can be inferred that the Senate of Pakistan recognises free speech as a fundamental right that can be a far greater bulwark against terrorism than mass surveillance. This recognition could aid in the development of a major shift in Pakistan’s human rights history.

What is needed is a robust data protection legal regime that prohibits the retention of data by third parties to be later provided to the government. It should explicitly state the exceptions and should specify which information should and should not be disclosed to the government, if the need arises. It should impose a duty on organizations including universities to take specific measures to protect the student’s personal data and penalize them for non-compliance. Further, for less serious cases, there should be a non-mandatory mechanism whereby the university should decide if it would be necessary and proportionate to disclose information to LEAs.



May 26, 2017 - Comments Off on DRF Launches New Report on Online Violence Against Women in Pakistan

DRF Launches New Report on Online Violence Against Women in Pakistan

Digital Rights Foundation marked the soft-launch of Pakistan’s first quantitative research study on online violence titled, “Measuring Pakistani Women’s Experiences of Online Violence”. The research is part of Digital Rights Foundation’s ongoing project “Hamara Internet” that aims at raising awareness, training women how to safely use digital spaces, and teaching them how to fight online abuse and tech-related violence.

The research study “Measuring Pakistani Women’s Experiences of Online Violence” compiles the data collected from close to 1400 women during the 17 sessions that had been conducted in Punjab, Sindh, KhyberPakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, and Gilgit, to create the first ever set of data around online violence in Pakistan. The study maps different aspects of online violence against women, along with a look at how women use digital tools on the whole. The data collected from the students studying in public and private universities quantified women’s habits online, experiences with harassment, and knowledge of protection measures. The research fills the gap in existing data on online harassment among women in Pakistan.

Research Cover

According to the findings of the research, 79% of the respondents use technological devices regularly, 48% of them own smartphones whereas the majority of 67% use Facebook regularly. The study also marks that 72% of the women were not aware of the laws relating to online violence in Pakistan.

The research also finds that 25% of the respondents were aware of the terms and conditions of social media, whereas 51% said that they don’t understand the terms and conditions completely. Considering that only the fourth of the total number of women surveyed knew and understood the said terms, the situation becomes alarming as a large number of women have joined the social media services without knowing what they’re signing up for. If women do not understand these systems to begin with, they effectively forgo whatever means of protection they could have used that are available at their disposal.


When asked about how much information of them exists online, most of the respondents - 35% - agreed that very little information about them exists online while 6% committed that a lot about themis available on the internet. This adds to the already established belief that women prefer anonymity online owing to fear of their own security online and offline. Women were also hesitant to put their information online because of the fear of getting harassed that was established by the responses of 50% women who agreed that they’re mostly prone to online sexual harassment on social media than any other medium.


The report reiterates that 40% of the respondents have been harassed or stalked online at some point. However according to the survey, 70% of the women are afraid of putting up their own photos online because they are afraid of them being misused.


When asked if they’d share their photos and posts with others online, most of the respondents - 37% - disagreed and 29% strongly disagreed. Whereas only 3% said that they’d definitely share their posts and pictures online.


Online sexual harassment is multifaceted and every person takes it differently and their experiences vary from each other. For this matter, we asked the participants if they’d report online violence to the law enforcing agencies (LEAs). 39% of the participants said it would tarnish their reputation, and 33% said that it’d cause danger to them.

The study also highlighted some positive factors. Like when asked if women who are harassed online should stop using social media, 45% strongly disagreed. 28% strongly disagreed and 30% disagreed with the statement that women who are harassed online are at fault.


The objective of the survey was to fill the gap in existing data on online harassment against women and to analyse gendered access to technology. The report also aimed at exploring the experiences of women online and also initiate politicized and informed discussion about gender empowerment within the virtual space. This report will also be used as an advocacy tool for gendered digital rights.

May 3, 2017 - Comments Off on A Glimpse into the Month of April ’17 at Digital Rights Foundation

A Glimpse into the Month of April ’17 at Digital Rights Foundation

A legislation called Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), which was enacted in the name of securing people of Pakistan struggles to solve issues pertaining to digital spaces. A lot of times, people don't know who to turn to if they encounter any unpleasant incident online. This problem amplifies when citizens don't know their constitutional rights. Digital Rights Foundation was engaged in the series of sessions and events throughout the month of April to talk to people from different backgrounds about their digital rights and aimed at empowering them with the information needed to raise their voices against injustice and to demand their rights as the citizens of Pakistan.

DRF Spoke to 70 journalists from Across Pakistan on Digital Rights and Online Safety


DRF spoke to 70 journalists from across  Pakistan on digital rights and online safety at National Media Conference 2017 organised on April 20th - 21st, 2017 by College of Excellence in Journalism (CEJ) at IBA, Karachi. DRF conducted six sessions with the participants who were all journalists from different media groups across Pakistan. The sessions aimed at creating awareness about digital rights and privacy among the journalists who face serious level of threats due to the nature of their work. The participants were also briefed about the lack of data protection and transparency among the service providers, including telecom companies and ISPs, in Pakistan and across the world, and what it means for the users in the absence of data protection laws in Pakistan.

When asked if they read the privacy policies of any service before signing up for it, the main concern of most of the participants and the reason for them to not bother reading the policies was the complicated legal language used in those guidelines that according to them, even if they attempt to read, they won’t understand it.

Facebook Released its Latest Government Requests Report and its Worrying for Pakistan


Facebook, as part of its ongoing public objective to provide transparency, released its bi-annual Government Requests Report (GRR) for the months of July - December 2016. According to the report, the Government of Pakistan made 1,002 total requests related to 1,431 user accounts, compared to 35 total requests related to 47 user accounts according to the first ever GRR report published in 2013. More on Facebook's GRR report for Pakistan here.

France's "Right to be Forgotten" Law Challenged by Worldwide NGO Collective


Doughty Street Chambers joined hands with 18 NGOs including Digital Rights Foundation to file legal submissions before France’s highest court, the Council of State, raising serious concerns about a ruling of France’s data protection authority, la Commission nationale informatique et libertés (“CNIL”), on the “right to be forgotten". Although justified as necessary for the protection of minors and to allow victims of cyber harassment to remove content posted about them online, "Right to be Forgotten" laws have come under fire for being vaguely defined. Read more.

Nighat Dad speaks at Afghanistan's first Internet Governance Forum

Afghan IGF

National IT Professional Association of Afghanistan (NITPAA) organised Afghanistan’s first Afghan School on Internet Governance on April 26 - 27, 2017 where Nighat Dad spoke to the participants. Her talk featured how human rights should be incorporated in internet governance. She also specified the digital rights that should be protected for all the citizens. She highlighted that internet is an open platform and its governance should involve every stakeholder, state and non-state.

Panel Discussion: "Freedom to Information in the Digital Age" at LUMS


The panel discussion brought together Mukhtar Ahmad Ali (Commissioner for the Punjab Information Commission), Anoosha Shaigan (Courting the Law) and Shmyla from DRF.

The panelists discussed the role of novel and unprecedented ways through digital technologies can be used to enhance the right to information. The panelists discussed the advantages and shortcomings of the the Right to Information legislation in different provinces and the need for a robust one at the federal level.

The question and answer session discussed the role of open government and the need for whistle-blower protection in Pakistan. Students were encouraged to exercise their right to information in their practice and activism to hold the state accountable.

Panel Discussion: ‘The Role of Social Media in Raising Tax Awareness’


Nighat Dad was invited to speak at a discussion led by the Punjab Revenue Authority on the 7th of April at LUMS. The panel included Industries Secretary Mujtaba Piracha, Bramerz Chief Executive Badar Khushnood, Netsol Executive Anam Naseem, Feryal Gauhar, and two members of the LUMS student body, and the concluding remarks were given by Punjab Minister for Finance Dr. Ayesha Ghaus.

Nighat Dad speaks at LUMS

Internet Rights are Human Rights: Nighat Dad spoke to the students at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) on “Internet Rights are Human Rights” on April 28th where she talked about why digital rights in the technological age matter, and how they can demand their rights under the constitution of Pakistan. She also mentioned how when digital rights are violated, people’s freedom to access the online media suffers. She also added the gendered perspective to her talk and emphasized that marginalised groups use the online platform to learn and earn, which they often are barred to do in the real world due to various societal and political reasons.

Nighat Lums April 29

Lecture with the Cyber Law class: Nighat spoke to the students of the cyber law class on online harassment on April 17th. She talked about how online harassment has become a serious issue, and that the online threats are often translated into offline consequences. She also talked about the recently passed Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) and briefed the students how it criminalizes cyber crimes and protects the rights of the citizens in the offline spaces. She also points out the problematic sections in the law and emphasized that it criminalizes some harmless criticism too.

Workshop for the Female Students of Journalism and Mass Comm at University of Sargodha

Digital Rights Foundation conducted an awareness raising workshop for female journalism and mass communication students at the University of Sargodha, Sargodha on April 6, 2017.  The one day workshop focused on the threats female journalists face during the course of their work and throughout the interactive session, different tools and strategies were focused upon to help the students safeguard their privacy and security in the course of their journalistic work in the future.

His Name was Mashal: DRF and DSA organised Open Mic in Remembrance of Mashal Khan

Digital Rights Foundation and Democratic Students Alliance (DSA) organised an open mic in remembrance of Mashal Khan who was lynched to death over alleged online blasphemy. The open mic titled "His Name was Mashal" gathered people to discuss the legacy of Mashal Khan, and all that he believed in - freedom of speech and freedom of thought. The videos from the event can be found here and here.

On the 13th of April, Mashal Khan a, student of journalism was lynched at the Abdul Wali Khan University (AWKU) in Mardan. Mashal was shot and beaten to death by a mob of students over alleged blasphemy within the university. Investigations regarding the case are still going on and so far 7 have confessed of their involvement in the murder and 41 people are suspects and under custody. Political turmoil and tensions are at an all time high since political parties are insisting to release the people involved in the murder. AWKU has also set up an inquiring committee to probe into the matter of blasphemous activities carried on by students from the Department of Journalism and furthermore rusticated two of the victims from the university until further notice. On the 28th of December Mashal Khan uploaded statuses about fake profiles being made in his name on social media websites to malign him which has stirred controversy among people and disclaimers about profiles are being posted online. The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has gone through Mashal’s profiles and has so far found no blasphemous content on his profile.

DRF’s Guide on “What to do in Case of a Fake profile?”


Digital Rights Foundation compiled some essential guidelines to follow in case of a fake profile on social media. The detailed infographic describes the reporting mechanisms present to report fake profiles on various social media websites. Details about how to report to the FIA and how to reach out to the Cyber Harassment Helpline [0800-39393] which is the first of its kind in Pakistan were also shared in it. Fake profiles can involve impersonation, spamming, and non-consensual usage of private information and pictures, to name a few. In light of recent events it is important to always be vigilant, and to take proper measures to protect yourself online. The infographic can be accessed here.

May 1, 2017 - Comments Off on DRF and Girls@Dhabas Condemn the Cyber Harassment of Amar Sindhu and Arfana Mallah

DRF and Girls@Dhabas Condemn the Cyber Harassment of Amar Sindhu and Arfana Mallah

Zara zor se Bolo: Azadi!

We, the Digital Rights Foundation and Girls at Dhabas, strongly condemn the cyber-harassment, abuse and intimidation that well-known professors and activists of Pakistan Arfana Mallah and Amar Sindhu have been subjected to over the past four months.

Amar Sindhu is a Sindhi poet and a professor of philosophy at Jamshoro University, while Arfana Mallah is a professor of chemistry at Jamshoro University and the head of its teachers’ union. Both are the leading lights behind the Khanabadosh Writers Cafe in Hyderabad, which has helped to revive cultural life in the city along progressive lines. As longstanding members of the Women Action Forum, both Professor Amar Sindhu and Professor Arfana Mallah have ceaselessly struggled for gender, human rights, and political justice in Sindh and the country at large.

While the paths of feminists are never easy in a deeply patriarchal context, the threats and intimidation tactics against them have amplified in the past few months and have frighteningly evolved into concerted efforts to slander and undermine their individual credibility in online and offline spaces. The abuse that they have suffered has included:

  • threats of acid attack, burning, and other forms of physical violence
  • propaganda that they are “anti-national” and an “agent”
  • character assassination on social media with repeated declarations that they are “randi”, “be ghairat”, “bad kirdar” and “fahash”
  • professional maligning through false claims that they are incompetent teachers and shirking their teaching responsibilities
  • shaming them because of the sari as an occasional choice of dress
  • shaming them as being “over-emotional” and “pseudo”
  • demeaning them through classic, misogynist slurs used against courageous and gutsy feminists: that they are “unhappy, single women” who are “half-crazy”

In light of Mashal Khan’s chilling murder, the present pressure cooker conditions engulfing Amar and Arfana are alarming and deserve immediate attention. The Jamshoro campus represents a volatile situation that has escalated, and isolated the two activists. We are concerned that the intense, targeted social media invective against them is designed to prepare groundwork for actual physical assault at the remotest opportunity.

What is even more horrific and noteworthy about the whole situation is that the slander campaign against them is being led by so-called progressive men, who pride themselves on being intellectuals, academics, human rights defenders, nationalists and secular leftists. Have the harassers been paid to engage in this intimidation campaign, or are they just revealing the misogyny and toxic masculinity that often lies beneath the progressive veneer? Many of these bro-gressives hide behind their progressive facade, while unleashing the worst forms of misogyny against women who speak up. On some occasions, Amar Sindhu has received vitriolic, abusive lashing on social media simply for stating her opinion on current political trends in Sindh.

If a man expresses a political opinion, it is considered his opinion and nothing more. If a woman expresses a political opinion e.g. on PTI as happened to be the case, she faces a social media lynch mob. The intention is to put the woman in her place, silence her political speech, and marginalize her from public discourse. We wish to note here that in 2004, Amar Sindhu and three other women were accused of blasphemy in a case of systematic victimization by the then secretary of the Sindhi Adabi Board. They were cleared eventually through an independent investigation - the first of its kind that was undertaken in Sindh. Shockingly, Amar Sindhu also suffered bullet injuries in 2010 when she was participating in the teachers’ movement against the VC of Sindh University ( For their principled stance, both Dr. Arfana and Dr. Amar were fired along with five other faculty members, but eventually restored after much struggle.

It is when women dare to leave the domestic spaces and roles that patriarchal society has chosen for them, and participate as equal human beings in the social, institutional, and political life of society that the most amount of violence is directed at them. Instead of valuing women’s voices and roles in social and institutional settings, progressive men and regressive men work together - often with the support of other patriarchal women - to ensure that women’s tongues are silenced, their rights denied, they are bullied with written and legal threats, and their professional and social status decimated.

We would thus like to situate Amar and Arfana’s case in the larger context of harassment against women, particularly in academia and activist circles in Pakistan where there has recently been an increased backlash against women who speak up. Whether it is the case of misogynists acting against the Digital Rights Foundation, the case of harassment in public universities like Karachi University, or cases in private universities like LUMS or Habib, the repercussions of dissent and calling out abusive men is unflinching retaliation. This is met with outright support, victim-shaming, apologetic attitude, conditionalities for solidarity, bystander behaviour, avoidance, or silence by an even larger community of men who consider themselves progressive.

 We find such hypocrisy pathetic and deeply disturbing: the men who might praise Faiz and recite “bol” shudder in their shoes when courageous women - after systematic trauma - find the strength to actually speak.

We, in Karachi and Lahore and Islamabad, are inspired by the work and warmth of these two powerful feminists, academics and activists. We stand in firm solidarity with them, we openly declare how much we love and adore them, and how grateful we are for their true patriotism. Against worsening odds, it is the sustained struggle of veteran feminists in reclaiming public, political and institutional spaces that enables us younger feminists to do our work in the world. Together, we strive for and realize a better Pakistan.

Towards this goal, we demand civil society members of Sindh to call out so-called progressive men who engage in maligning, abusing, and victmizing Arfana Mallah and Amar Sindhu, and we urge institutions all over Pakistan to strengthen and safeguard the rights of women.

April 29, 2017 - Comments Off on Facebook Releases Government Transparency Report and it’s Worrying

Facebook Releases Government Transparency Report and it’s Worrying

Facebook recently released its annual Government Request Reports (GRR) for the period covering July 2016 - December 2016, as part of its ongoing public objective to provide transparency. GRRs are released by Facebook every six months, and lists the number of requests for content removal, restriction, user data, and any other requests made by governments worldwide. The GRRs also list if requests have been made - and acceded to by the company - according to specific regional or national legislation.  DRF has written about Facebook’s Government Request Reports, and requests made on the grounds of violating Pakistan’s blasphemy law, in the past.  

The July - December 2016 GRR for Pakistan indicates that 1,002 total requests were made by the government; 1,431 requests related to users/accounts were made, with 67.56% of the requests resulting in “Some Data” being “Produced”.


As DRF wrote in 2015,

In the wake of Snowden, it has become important for large tech corporations to be transparent about their interactions with governments ie requests to either access or remove data from particular social media or websites. Facebook and Google have in recent years released transparency reports that announce the number of data removal/access requests by governments.

The Snowden leaks were in 2013. Since then, however, the number of requests by the government of Pakistan has shown to have increased dramatically - from 35 total requests and data requests for 47 users/accounts in January - June 2013, to 1,002 and 1,431 respectively in 2016.

The ongoing rise in requests continues a troubling trend, and should give netizens cause for concern. As we have seen over the past couple of years, the government of Pakistan continues to attempt to control what its citizens can read, see, hear and talk about online, to close off what is otherwise an open platform. Given the accelerated discourse and action by the government in regards to blasphemy and national security, one can only expect these figures to rise even higher in 2017.

The GRR also mentions the number of requests to preserve the user data until the legal procedures are over. According to the GRR, Facebook received 442 preservation requests related to 677 users/accounts. However, 6 requests were made to restrict content to be accessed by Pakistani users. The report mentions that,Based on legal requests from the Pakistan Telecom Authority and Federal Investigation Agency, we restricted access to items that were alleged to violate local laws prohibiting blasphemy and condemnation of the country's independence.” Content Restriction Requests have been decreased from 25 since January - June 2016.

The GRR also points out that Facebook services in Pakistan were disrupted due to the internet shutdown coincided with the observance of Chehlum in November 2016.

In the light of the content removal on and by Facebook, either requested by the Government of Pakistan or as per the site’s Community Guidelines, this report raises certain questions:

What legislation is the government used to request content take-downs and access to user data? When content is being flagged under “Condemnation of the country’s independence”, what is this content, and how is it being defined as such?

In March 2017, Facebook agreed to send a delegation to Pakistan to examine the viability of controlling blasphemous content as per the request of the government. According to a statement by the Interior Ministry:

“The administration of Facebook has agreed to send its delegation to Pakistan to address the concerns of the government. The Facebook in a letter has informed the government that it was ready to solve the matter through dialogue and consultation and was aware of the stance of Pakistan on the blasphemous content. The Facebook has also appointed a focal person for coordination with the PTA (Pakistan Telecommunication Authority)”.

This development was made public just a week after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) suggested the blasphemous content and hate material to be blocked on social media. The court, in the same hearing, noted that; “This matter requires immediate attention otherwise patience of the followers of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) may run out.” On March 27, the Interior Ministry informed the IHC of the successful blocking of 85% of blasphemous content by Facebook.

This is not the first time that the government of Pakistan has requested that material be taken down or have access blocked to content online in its entirety in an attempt to restrict or control questionable material. In May 2010, Facebook was blocked in Pakistan in response to public outrage concerning “Draw Muhammad (PBUH) Day.” The ban, however, was lifted after two weeks after the blasphemous content was restricted to be accessed in Pakistan by the company. YouTube was banned for almost 3 years - from September 2012 to January 2016 - after the blasphemous video “Innocence of Muslims” was uploaded on the largest video sharing site. These websites were blocked on the orders of the court over charges of sacrilegious material.

It is important to note that after the passage of Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 (PECA), the authorities have been granted sweeping powers over the online content, and the rise in the content requests to Facebook is just one example of it.

Author: Hija Kamran

April 23, 2017 - Comments Off on France’s ‘Right to be Forgotten’ Law Challenged by Worldwide NGO Collective

France’s ‘Right to be Forgotten’ Law Challenged by Worldwide NGO Collective

On April 19th, 2017, a worldwide consortium of NGOs filed legal submissions against the "Right to be Forgotten" ruling by France's data protection authority, la Commission nationale informatique et libertés (“CNIL”). "Right to be Forgotten" permits individuals or the government to order data repositories and Internet service providers to destroy any and all parts of an individual's digital trail.

Although justified as necessary for the protection of minors and to allow victims of cyber harassment to remove content posted about them online, "Right to be Forgotten" laws have come under fire for being vaguely defined. In particular, CNIL's ruling crossing its own jurisdiction--applying not only to Google France but the search engine's worldwide database of links and across all its services. In an ironic twist, "Right to be Forgotten" laws have also been invoked to order Google to remove news about Right to be Forgotten laws. This gives a glimpse into how this law facilitates censorship, and why the lack of limits on its applicability put Internet users around the world at risk.

"Right to be Forgotten" deals a severe blow to the Right to Information: you cannot demand information that no longer exists. Besides gagging free speech, it also leaves with the problem of transparency. The Internet plays a vital role in strengthening democracies and increasing public officials' transparency & accountability to their own people; how will this be impacted when politicians and other public officials can demand removal of any content that shows them in a negative light? What is the legal status of political criticism, whistleblowing, and investigative journalism--permitted unless the person under investigation decides otherwise? The democratic process depends upon the ability of people to make an informed choice which is not possible without unfettered access to information.

Another important aspect to consider is the potential impact on legal proceedings in criminal cases: as digital evidence becomes increasingly accepted in court, how will human rights violators be charged when they can erase all evidence of their crimes at the click of a button?

"Right to Be Forgotten" laws as currently defined do not offer sufficient protection against such abuse, and CNIL sets a troubling precedent of applying domestic laws globally. Following this, it is entirely possible for governments to impose censorship across borders. Digital Rights Foundation is committed to fighting for an individual's autonomy over their digital lives, balanced with the best interests of digital communities as a whole. The Internet does not fall under the sole authority of any individual, organization, or country. The ability to shape how and what information appears on it is an immense power. Consolidating it into the hands of a sole entity, particularly without vital safeguards against misuse, is a threat to all.


April 19, 2017

Digital Rights Foundation and 17 other expert non-governmental organisations from across the world have filed legal submissions before France’s highest court, the Council of State (Conseil d’État), raising serious concerns about a ruling of France’s data protection authority, la Commission nationale informatique et libertés (“CNIL”), on the “right to be forgotten".

In 2014, CNIL ordered Google to remove 21 links from the results of an internet search on the name of a French citizen who claims a “right to be forgotten.”  Google initially removed the links from its French search site ( and other European search sites (such as, but CNIL demanded it go further.  Google then blocked the links from results returned to European users, even when using Google’s non-European sites, including CNIL however demands that when it orders content to be “forgotten” from search results, this decision must be given effect worldwide, meaning that the results must be made unavailable to all users internationally, regardless of where they are accessing internet search engines.  CNIL has also imposed a huge fine on Google, of €100,000.

The 18 NGOs who have filed legal submissions with the Council of State have grave concerns about CNIL’s approach and its implications for human rights worldwide.  They all specialise in the defence of human rights, the protection of online freedom of expression, and in increasing access to information technology around the world.  The NGOs, and the many people across the world whose rights they protect, rely on freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas and information online in order to carry out their important work in protecting human rights internationally. CNIL has unilaterally imposed draconian restrictions on free expression upon all organisations and individuals who use the internet around the world, even imposing a “right to be forgotten” upon countries which do not recognise this principle.  The CNIL ruling causes particularly serious damage to human rights protection in the developing world.

The legal submissions were drafted by freedom of expression experts Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Jude Bunting, barristers at Doughty Street Chambers, London, and avocat Thomas Haas, Paris, who acts for the NGOs and filed the submissions with the Council of State.  The NGOs were also assisted by Jennifer Robinson, a pupil barrister with expertise in media law.  A press release from the 18 NGOs is available here.

The importance of the CNIL ruling in 2014, and of the upcoming appeal before the Council of State, has been highlighted by Associate Tenant Nani Jansen Reventlow, an expert on freedom of expression who is currently a Fellow at the Berkman Centre, Harvard University.  She has recently written about the case in the Washington Post: ‘A French court case against Google could threaten global speech rights’ (available here) and for the Council on Foreign Relations Net Politics blog: 'The French court case that threatens to bring the "Right to be Forgotten" everywhere' (available here).

The decision of the Council of State on Google’s appeal is expected later this year.