December 24, 2019 - Comments Off on November 2019: Launch of the Freedom on the Net Report

November 2019: Launch of the Freedom on the Net Report

Freedom House released its Freedom on the Net (FoTN) report for the year 2019, titled “The Crisis of Social Media” to reflect the plethora of issues emerging on social media. The report finds an overall decline in global internet freedom for the ninth consecutive year in 2019. Pakistan’s ranking on the report remains “Not Free” for the coverage period, with its score decreasing from 27 to 26. Internet freedom declined during this report’s coverage period due to authorities’ increased blocking of political, social, and cultural websites. The general election environment in July 2018 saw connectivity restrictions and increased disinformation. The report for Pakistan was authored by Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) and evaluated through the methodology developed by Freedom House.

The full report can be accessed here. Pakistan’s country-specific report is available here.

Facebook’s Safety Week

Digital Rights Foundation collaborated with Facebook and other partner organisations including Sahil, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Child Rights Movement and SPARC to plan three events on women’s online safety, child online sexual abuse, and safety of human rights defenders from November 7th till 9th. The events were an opportunity to become familiar with Facebook’s policies, tools, and resources to raise questions to the Facebook team.

Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) Lecture

Representing DRF, Shmyla Khan and Zainab Durrani delivered a lecture on data protection and privacy at the Computer Science Department at LUMS for the course called “Privacy in the Digital Age”. We shared our advocacy regarding the personal data protection bill with the students and had a lively question and answer session.

Safer Communications and Secure Data Convening by IFEX

DRF attended a two day training organized by IFEX in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on the 5th and 6th of November 2019. The training brought together people from all over South and Far-East Asia and allowed for an exchange of ideas and best practises in terms of digital safety and digital training.

Focus Group Discussion with CSOs

As part of the project that we are collaborating on with Privacy International, DRF hosted a focus group discussion with members of the civil society under the theme of ‘How Private Are You?’ where we had a conversation on organizational security and privacy in terms of cyber security and measures that should be implemented to strengthen the existing framework. The discussion also revolved around the organizations sharing their concerns with regards to the topic at hand and our Digital Safety team conducted a session to best address their concerns. 

Two Day Online Safety Training for Human Rights Defenders in Islamabad 

DRF conducted a two day session with human rights defenders from Islamabad and Lahore regarding online safety and digital rights. HRDs discussed in detail on their privacy concerns and what safe practices they need to adopt in order to stay safe in online spaces. The session took place for two days on 30th November and 1st December and had human rights defenders which consisted of activists, lawyers, journalists and civil society.

DRF at IGF’19

The DRF Team was represented at the Internet Governance Forum 2019 in Berlin by an all-female team consisting of Sehar Dad, and Program Managers Maryam Saeed and Zainab Durrani

Nighat Dad spoke on the #MeToo movement to Newsline Magazine.

While social media has been such a great tool in bringing the sexual harassment conversation to light, it is also where people continue to be harassed. We need to focus on creating alternate physical spaces and forums where survivors of sexual harassment can share their stories without fear of backlash, she said.

Eleven organizations from civil society create the Forum on Information & Democracy, a structural response to information disorder

In the context of the Paris Peace Forum, eleven organizations unveiled the newly created Forum on Information & Democracy. This new entity will issue recommendations for standards in order to encourage the regulation and self-regulation  of the space of information and communication. The initiative was welcomed by President Emmanuel Macron during his inaugural speech. He first quoted “the Partnership on Information and Democracy, launched by Reporters Without Borders and supported by governments” to illustrate “the importance of these new forms of cooperation”, “a concrete example of innovations that provide different actors to move forward together".

The first General Assembly of the Forum on I&D was held yesterday at RSF’s headquarters in Paris. Its eleven founding members are NGOs, think tanks, multistakeholder initiatives and research centers: CIGI (Canada), CIVICUS (South Africa), the Digital Rights Foundation (Pakistan), Free Press Unlimited (Netherlands), the Human Rights Centre at UC Berkeley School of Law, University of California (United States), the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (United Kingdom), OBSERVACOM (Uruguay), the Open Government Partnership, the Peace Research Institute Oslo (Norway), Reporters without Borders/RSF (France) and Research ICT Africa (South Africa).

The Forum’s Board of Directors elected the RSF Secretary general, Christophe Deloire as its President. Nighat Dad (executive director of Digital Rights Foundation) and Leon Willems (director of Free Press Unlimited) were elected as Vice-President and Treasurer.

World Forum for Democracy

Session soundbites: “Democracy dies in darkness: do we have the information we need?”

Nighat Dad, Pakistani lawyer, Internet activist and founder of Digital Rights Foundation: “Vulnerable groups and minorities usually don’t find space in the offline world to exercise their right to freedom of speech”.

Moderating ‘content’ in democracies

Shmyla Khan from Digital Rights Foundation writes for The News on Sunday

This past week the social media behemoth, Facebook, released its transparency report for the period January till July 2019. This report, issued on a bi-annual basis, contains information regarding the enforcement of its community standards and policies on intellectual property as well as compliance with legal requests from governments across the world.

Click here to read the full article.

How not to lose private data

R Umaima Ahmed from DRF's Network of Women Journalist for Digital Rights wrote for The News on Sunday on the need for an extensive awareness campaign about how to protect data from fraudsters and intruders.

Click here to read the full article.

2019 Asia 21 Young Leaders Summit

The 2019 Class of Asia 21 Young Leaders including Nighat Dad (Pakistan), Founder & Executive Director, Digital Rights Foundation met on November 15-16 in San Francisco and Silicon Valley at the annual Asia 21 Young Leaders Summit. This summit held in the United States for the first time and it carried the theme “Technology & Humanity: Roadmaps for the Future.” Since the first Asia 21 summit, held in Seoul in 2006, the initiative has connected people from the region and facilitated collaborations in tackling the common challenges of the 21st century.

December 12, 2019 - Comments Off on Digital Rights Foundation conducts its Sixth National Conference on Privacy: #PrivacyIsARight

Digital Rights Foundation conducts its Sixth National Conference on Privacy: #PrivacyIsARight

Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) conducted its “Sixth National Conference on Privacy: #PrivacyIsARight” on December 7, 2019 in Islamabad to discuss issues relating to artificial intelligence, and algorithmic decision-making in the context of privacy rights. The event was supported by one of our key partners, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation.

The keynote address was delivered by former senator Farhatullah Babar. He noted that “the conference was particularly timely given the Prime Minister’s digital Pakistan initiative which currently lacks a perspective on privacy and human rights.” He also said that the University of Balochistan incident demonstrates that the impact of privacy violations is gendered and disproportionately impacts minorities.

The conference featured the Glass Room Exhibit which featured interactive installations such as “The Zuckerberg House”, “The Empire”, “A Data-Day”, “Fake or Real” and “The Real Life of Your Selfie” which were supported by Tactical Tech as part of its global exhibit. This was accompanied by a theatrical performance which dramatised data manipulation of lived experiences and the impact that it has on society. Nighat Dad, the Executive Director of DRF, said that the conference “aimed to contextualise issues of privacy from the perspective of gender, marginalised communities, and interdisciplinary approaches through the use of art and discourse”.

A panel discussion on the topic “The Future of Tech: AI and Algorithms in the Context of the Criminal Justice System & Social Justice” was conducted to tackle the issue of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and algorithmic decision-making from a human rights perspective. The panelists included Dr. Maryam Mustafa, Dr. Muhammad Nadeem, Rahma M Mian and Aleena Alavi. Dr. Maryam Mustafa said that “AI has an intimate relationship with patriarchy and racism. Initial tests of voice and facial recognition software found that women and people of colour found it nearly impossible to use these features as the software could not ‘recognise’ them.” Academic and writer, Rahma Mian, pointed out that “the idea of development should not be more technology; we need to be able to rethink technology and its harmony with development and advancement of society.”

The event also included a vibrant debate on the proposition “This House Believes That (THBT): Sentencing by judges should be delegated to algorithms”. Oves Anwar (RSIL), Mujtaba Hussain (KPITP) and Usama Khilji (BoloBhi) spoke in favour of the motion. A team of Malaika Raza, Aniqa Arshad and Zoya Rehman argued against the proposition. The debaters spoke about the structural problems with the justice system, human bias, reformative justice and biased data sets. Oves Anwer spoke about the inherent biases that humans are socialised into and how technology can be a tool to neutralise structural injustices that manifest themselves in judgments. The opposition team made the argument that technology tends to replicate and exasperate societal exclusions and the use of algorithms in sentencing cannot fix the larger problem of inequality in society. At the end of the debate, the audience voted in favour of the proposition.

For more information log on: https://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/.

#PrivacyisaRight #PrivacyAwarenessWeek

For more information contact:
Zainab Durrani, Project Manager

zainab@digitalrightsfoundation.pk

0324 4538410
Nighat Dad. Executive Director

nighat@digitalrightsfoundation.pk

November 25, 2019 - Comments Off on October 2019: Wiki Gender Gap Editathon in Islamabad

October 2019: Wiki Gender Gap Editathon in Islamabad

DRF, along with the Swedish Embassy, UN Women, and Media Matters for Democracy, hosted a Wiki Gender Gap editathon on October 11 and 12, 2019 in which around 35 volunteers gathered to add content on Wikipedia about Pakistani women and gender-related issues. We were able to post over 50 articles during the two-day Editathon.

Read more about it here.

Two-day Event on Combating Online and Offline Sexual Harassment in Pakistan

DRF conducted a two-day event in Islamabad on October 22 and 23, 2019 on issues of harassment and their legal frameworks. The first day involved a closed-door consultation, “Combating Online and Offline Sexual Harassment in Pakistan: Rethinking Legal Interventions”, with journalists, lawyers, and civil society to draft recommendations regarding the existing laws and procedures.

The Conference on October 23, titled “Combating Online and Offline Harassment in Pakistan”, included a keynote address from Kashmala Tariq, the Federal Ombudsperson for Protection Against Harassment. The first panel, titled “Tackling the criticisms of the Law - Is the legal system a tool for silencing or resistance?”, was moderated by Nighat Dad. The panelists included Syed Fareed Ali (director training at Federal Investigative Agency), Tooba Syed (lecturer at Quaid-e-Azam University, Awami Workers Party, Women Democratic Front), Khawar Mumtaz (Chairperson National Commission on the Status of Women), Tanzeela Mazhar (Journalist), Zoya Rehman (Researcher), Aslam Chohan (Consultant at Punjab Ombudsperson for Protection Against Harassment), Fauzia Viqar (Ex-chairperson of Punjab Commission on the Status of Women) and Nuzhat Shirin (Chairperson, Sindh Commission on the Status of Women). The second panel titled “Reforming the law - A way forward” included Maleeka Bokhari (Member of National Assembly), Kashmala Tariq (Federal Ombudsperson for Protection Against Harassment), Barrister Jannat Ali Kalyar (DRF), Dania Mukhtar (Lawyer), Rukhshanda Naz (KPK Ombudsperson for Protection Against Harassment), and Aisha Sarwari (Co-founder Women’s advancement Hub, Author and Journalist).

The recommendations made at the conference are available in Urdu and English.

Academic Roundtable

DRF held an Academic Roundtable at the HRCP Office in Lahore on Friday the 18th of October, 2019. This event was held in collaboration with our partner organization Privacy International. The theme under discussion was ‘Privacy in the Age of Surveillance Capitalism’. The event began with a keynote speech by noted academic Ammar Ali Jan on the emerging issues of privacy and surveillance in the region, followed by an introduction to the Personal Data Protection Bill 2018 by our Legal Officer Jannat Ali Kalyar and later, a group discussion on related thematic areas was held amongst the students and academics. We rounded up the event with human rights activist and former Director Gender Studies Director at QAU, Dr. Farzana Bari delivering the concluding remarks wherein she laid emphasis on the need for having important conversations like these, which are pertinent to this day and age and the challenges that come with it.

Hearing at the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights regarding Privacy and Harassment

On 25 October 2019, Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), along with members of civil society and student activists, got a chance to brief the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights’ session on the issue of the University of Balochistan in light of privacy, surveillance of campuses and harassment in educational institutes. Along with the acting Vice-Chancellor of the University, student representatives were given a chance to put forward their demands. The Chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) Khawar Mumtaz, academic & activist Arfana Mallah and Shmyla Khan from DRF gave their recommendations to the Committee.

Read our full statement on the hearing here.

Read our statement in solidarity with students at the University of Balochistan here.

Submission to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on new technologies and their impact on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of assemblies, including peaceful protests under res. 38/11

DRF submitted its comments and recommendations to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the right to freedom of assembly in light of new technologies. We highlighted the legal and social context in Pakistan while analyzing emerging technologies.

Read our submission here.

Hamara Internet: Engagement of Lawyers on Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 in Lahore

DRF in collaboration with Friedrich-Naumann Foundation held a session in Lahore with lawyers on the 2nd October 2019. Lawyers in Lahore discussed in detail about the current cyber crime legislation in the country along with the need of a data protection bill. Recommendations were given by lawyers regarding the data protection bill and there was also a much needed conversation around how awareness raising sessions need to take place with students regarding the safe use of the internet.

Hamara Internet: Engagement of Lawyers on Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 in Karachi

DRF in collaboration with Friedrich-Naumann Foundation held a session in Karachi with lawyers on 29th October 2019 at the Movenpick Hotel. Lawyers and law students from Karachi had a discussion on the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 and how the implementation of the law needs to be made better. There was also a conversation around the data protection bill and how lawyers need to adopt online safety practices in their work life.

Two Day Online Safety Training in Karachi with HRDs

DRF conducted a two day session with human rights defenders from karachi regarding online safety and digital rights. HRDs discussed in detail on their privacy concerns and what safe practices they need to adopt in order to stay safe in online spaces. The session took place for two days and had human rights defenders which consisted of activists, lawyers, journalists and civil society.

Algorithms, AI & Civil Liberties - Visiting Program with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom

DRF was part of a delegation from South Asia which took part in the "Privacy as a Human Right - Algorithms, AI & Civil Liberties” visiting program from 28th September to 5th October 2019 in Germany. Our DRF representative took part in high-level meetings with civil society organizations in Germany as well as public officials such as the Data Protection Commissioner in Hamburg and members of the Berlin House of Representatives.

Understanding Cyber Harassment through a Gender Lens  - Training with Sub- Inspectors Federal Investigative Agency

On 3 October 2019 DRF conducted a training session with FIA Sub-Inspectors in FIA Academy, Islamabad with the collaboration of UNWomen  The ubiquitousness of harassment cases was discussed delineating its reasons viz; anonymity of users, gender hierarchy, lack of digital literacy, and victim-blaming. It also highlighted how technology has deepened the gender divide and is being used as a platform for harassment. The aim of the session was to challenge participants’ views regarding harassment and shift attention from victim to perpetrator in order to help them empathize with victims coming to lodge their complaints.The objective was to build an insight into the fears and apprehensions of the victims that need to be addressed while building the victims’ trust in the procedure. Another purpose was that participants challenge their internalized views regarding harassment, understand the impact it can have on their work and, shift the attention from blaming or scrutinizing the victim to calling out the perpetrator and the whole system supplementing it.

Bringing Feminism to Mainstream and Digital Journalism

Digital Rights Foundation collaborated with Media Bethak to conduct workshop on “Brining Feminism to Mainstream and Digital Journalism” on October 30, 2019 at Media Bethak in Karachi. The workshop aimed to create a deeper understanding of sex and gender, busting gender-based stereotypes and the inclusion of these in the media, discussing power dynamics and its intersection with the patriarchal system, and learning guidelines for gender sensitive reporting. It focused on bringing together journalists, activists and students of media to work on reports and stories from a feminist perspective. It was attended by 25 participants who actively engaged in activities and discussions.

November 12, 2019 - Comments Off on Eleven organizations from civil society create the Forum on Information & Democracy, a structural response to information disorder

Eleven organizations from civil society create the Forum on Information & Democracy, a structural response to information disorder

Eleven organizations from civil society create the Forum on Information and Democracy, a new international entity tasked to implement the principles of the International Partnership on information & Democracy, an intergovernmental agreement signed by a coalition of 30 States on the margins of the UN General Assembly last September. It is the continuation of the international process launched by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in September 2018.

In the context of the Paris Peace Forum today, eleven organizations unveiled the newly created Forum on Information & Democracy. This new entity will issue recommendations for standards in order to encourage the regulation and self-regulation  of the space of information and communication. The initiative was welcomed by President Emmanuel Macron during his inaugural speech. He first quoted “the Partnership on Information and Democracy, launched by Reporters Without Borders and supported by governments” to illustrate “the importance of these new forms of cooperation”, “a concrete example of innovations that provide different actors to move forward together".

The association will be based in Paris and will implement the principles from the International Partnership on Information & Democracy, an intergovernmental agreement endorsed by a coalition of 30 States on the margins of the UN General Assembly.

The first General Assembly of the Forum on I&D was held yesterday at RSF’s headquarters in Paris. Its eleven founding members are NGOs, think tanks, multistakeholder initiatives and research centers: CIGI (Canada), CIVICUS (South Africa), the Digital Rights Foundation (Pakistan), Free Press Unlimited (Netherlands), the Human Rights Centre at UC Berkeley School of Law, University of California (United States), the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (United Kingdom), OBSERVACOM (Uruguay), the Open Government Partnership, the Peace Research Institute Oslo (Norway), Reporters without Borders/RSF (France) and Research ICT Africa (South Africa).

The Forum’s Board of Directors elected the RSF Secretary general, Christophe Deloire as its President. Nighat Dad (executive director of Digital Rights Foundation) and Leon Willems (director of Free Press Unlimited) were elected as Vice-President and Treasurer.

In accordance with its bylaws, the Forum will evaluate the means, norms and architectures of the global space of information and communication; investigate respect for the principles of the Declaration and Partnership on Information and Democracy by the corporate entities that shape this space (the online platforms); and, above all, issue recommendations for governments, platforms and the media industry on how the norms that govern this space should evolve. It will encourage self-regulatory mechanisms and promote the social function of journalism.

The Forum’s permanent secretariat will set up working groups tasked with formulating recommendations for regulation and self-regulation in order to address new challenges brought up by technological disruptions and for which existing legislation is not adapted.

During the inauguration of the Forum on Information & Democracy,  the President of Latvia Egils Levits, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Linas Linkevičius, the Chancellor of South Korea’s National Diplomatic Academy, Kim Joon Hyung, and the Council of Europe’s Director of Democratic Governance, Claudia Luciani, recalled the importance of the Partnership. Some founding members,  including the CEO of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, Sasha Havlicek, the Executive Director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo, Henrik Urdal and the Head of the Geneva office of CIVICUS, Susan Wilding explained the importance and the need for this new organization. Christophe Deloire and Shirin Ebadi, the co-chairs of the International Commission on Information and Democracy (see below), and three other members of the Commission, Can Dündar, Hauwa Ibrahim and Nighat Dad, also outlined the overall logic of the initiative and the central place given to civil society.

About the International Initiative on Information and Democracy 

RSF launched this international initiative in September 2018 when it created the International Commission on Information and Democracy consisting of 25 prominent figures of 18 nationalities. This Commission is co-chaired by Christophe Deloire, RSF Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi.

Other members of the Commission include laureates of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, the French jurist Mireille Delmas Marty, Honorary Professor at the Collége de France, journalists Maria Ressa and Can Dündar, and new technology expert Yochai Benkler, co-director of the Berkman Klein Centre at Harvard University.

The Commission drafted the International Declaration on Information and Democracy which received the support of twelve Heads of State and Government in November 2018, including Emmanuel Macron (France), Carlos Alvarado (Costa Rica), Bechir Caid Essebsi (Tunisia), Erna Solberg (Norway) and Justin Trudeau (Canada). It also received the support of the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay, and the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland.

The ensuing Partnership for Information and Democracy was presented at the G7 summit in August 2019, winning the support of G7 members and the leaders of other major democracies also attending the summit.

On the Forum’s founding members

About CIGI

The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) is an independent, non-partisan think tank whose mission is to build bridges from knowledge to power by conducting world-leading research and influencing policy makers to innovate. CIGI is headquartered in Waterloo, Canada and has a global network of partners and researchers based around the world. Our peer-reviewed, evidence-based research focuses on digital governance issues relating to the global economy, international law and global security. In collaboration with strategic partners and support received from the Government of Canada and founder Jim Balsillie, our research covers some of the most important issues of our time such as artificial intelligence, platform governance and multilateral trade.

Press contact :  

Kristy Smith, ksmith@cigionline.org or +1 519 580 5566

About CIVICUS

With headquarters in South Africa, and hubs in New York and Geneva, CIVICUS is a global alliance of civil society organizations and individuals dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society for a more just, inclusive and sustainable world.  The alliance works to protect the fundamental civic freedoms that allow us to speak out, organize and take action. We do this by defending civic freedoms and democratic values; strengthening the power of people; and empowering a more accountable, effective and innovative civil society.  We strive to promote excluded voices, especially from the Global South, and have a growing alliance of more than 8000 members in more over 175 countries.

Press contact :

Deborah Walter : +27 11 833 5959  / deborah.walter@civicus.org / media@civicus.org

About the Digital Rights Foundation

The Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) is a registered research-based advocacy non-governmental organization 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, surveillance and online violence against women. DRF opposes any and all sorts of online censorship and violations of human rights both on-ground and online.

Press contact :

Haider Kaleem : haider@digitalrightsfoundation.pk  / +92-42-35852180
About Free Press Unlimited (FPU)

Free Press Unlimited is a Netherlands-based media development organization that works in more than 30 countries and strives  to ensure that impartial news and information are available to people across the globe, particularly in countries where there is no to little press freedom. By supporting local media professionals and journalists, Free Press Unlimited aims to help people gain access to the information they need to survive and develop.

Press contact :

Marieke Le Poole : lepoole@freepressunlimited.org
About the Human Rights Centre at UC Berkeley School of Law

The Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley, conducts research on war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights. Using evidence-based methods and innovative technologies, we support efforts to hold perpetrators accountable, protect vulnerable populations, and amplify the voices of survivors. We seek to close research gaps in global understanding related to refugees and immigrants, indigenous people, workers, women, survivors of trafficking and sexual violence, and other targeted populations. Our Investigations Lab trains students how to find and verify photographs, videos, and other social media sources to investigate potential international crimes, monitor hate speech, and counter disinformation for major NGOS, legal entities, international bodies, and media. We are working with the United Nations Office of Human Rights to develop and publish the first international protocol on open source investigations.

Press contact : 

Andrea Lampros : alampros@berkeley.edu
About the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD)

The Institute for Strategic Dialogue, launched in 2006, is now the leading global ‘think and do’ tank dedicated to understanding and innovating real-world responses to the rising tide of polarisation, hate and extremism of all forms. ISD combines anthropological research, expertise in international extremist movements and an advanced digital analysis capability that tracks hate, disinformation and extremism online, with policy advisory support and training to governments and cities around the world. ISD also works to empower youth and community influencers internationally through its education, technology and communications programmes, including a range of initiatives run in partnership with MIT, Google, Microsoft and Facebook. At the same time ISD is working with a number of governments to design and mount digital policy and regulatory solutions to the algorithmic amplification of polarisation and extremism online.

Press contact :

Evie Penington : pa@isdglobal.org
About OBSERVACOM

OBSERVACOM (Latin American Observatory for Regulation, Media and Convergence) is a nonprofit, professional and independent regional think tank, specialized in regulation and public policy related to media, telecommunications, Internet and freedom of expression. We approach these issues from a rights perspective and prioritize aspects related to access, diversity and pluralism. OBSERVACOM is composed of experts and researchers committed to the protection and promotion of democracy, cultural diversity, human rights and freedom of expression in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Press contacts :

Bruce Girard : bgirard@comunica.org

João Brant : joaocbrant@gmail.com

About the Open Government Partnership (OGP)

In 2011, government leaders and civil society advocates came together to create a unique partnership—one that combines these powerful forces to promote accountable, responsive and inclusive governance. Seventy-nine countries and a growing number of local governments—representing more than two billion people—along with thousands of civil society organizations are members of the Open Government Partnership (OGP).

Press contact : 

Jose Perez Escotto  : jose.perez@opengovpartnership.org
About PRIO

The Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) conducts research on the conditions for peaceful relations between states, groups and people. Founded in 1959, PRIO is an independent research institution committed to academic excellence and known for its effective synergy of basic and policy-relevant research. PRIO further conducts graduate training and is engaged in the promotion of peace through conflict resolution, dialogue and reconciliation, public information and policymaking activities.

Press contacts : 

Agnete Schjønsby : agnete@prio.org

Indigo Trigg-Hauger  : indtri@prio.org
About Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

Reporters Without Borders, also known under its French name Reporters sans frontières (RSF), is an international non-governmental organization defending freedom, independence and pluralism of journalism. Recognized as a public utility in France, RSF enjoys consultative status with the UN, UNESCO, the Council of Europe and the International Organisation of La Francophonie. Headquartered in Paris, RSF has offices in 14 cities around the world and correspondents in 130 countries.

Press contacts :

Emilie Poirrier / epoirrier@rsf.org / 0033 6 77 92 16 77

Sophie Minodier / sminodier@rsf.org / 0033 6 26 49 38 53
About Research ICT Africa

Research ICT Africa conducts public-interest research on the digital economy and society that responds to national, regional and continental needs. We provide relevant stakeholders with the information and analysis required to develop flexible and adaptive policies and regulation to deal with an increasingly complex and dynamic digital environment. Our network contributes to the gathering and analysis of data and indicators to establish a repository of knowledge for furthering research and digital governance.

Press contact :

Oarabile Mudongo : omudongo@researchictafrica.net

November 06, 2019 - Comments Off on September 2019: DRF’s team retreat

September 2019: DRF’s team retreat

All the work that Human Rights Defenders do across the globe does become really overwhelming at one point hence break and balance becomes necessary. Keeping alive its tradition and position of being a feminist organisation which believes in love and care, DRF team decided to go for a 5 day retreat which included team building sessions and exercises other than visit to different spots in Naran, followed by yoga sessions with the help of trained professionals.

Nighat Dad on the frontline of weaving a feminist canvas

By Annick Cojean for Le Monde

Nighat Dad spoke to one of the leading french newspapers about her struggle and experience as a feminist activist who not only is working on the protection of digital rights, against harassment but is also taking an active part in organising the women’s liberation movement in the country.

Nighat Dad spoke on Neo News about internet shutdowns Jammu-Kashmir

Nighat Dad spoke to Neo News on the recent Netblocks and Operations of tech giants in Pakistan with reference to censorship of reports on human rights violations in Jammu-Kashmir.

https://youtu.be/C9O3Au1bR1Y

Nighat Dad talked to the World Association of Newspapers and News
publishers regarding online abuse and harassment

Nighat Dad’s conversation with the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers on The war online: Abuse and harassment, and what journalists are doing about it

https://blog.wan-ifra.org/2019/09/13/podcast-the-war-online-abuse-and-harassment-and-what-journalists-are-doing-about-it

Nighat Dad’s comments on How the rumour of a baby killer vaccine caused panic in a Pakistani city for TRT World

https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/how-the-rumour-of-a-baby-killer-vaccine-caused-panic-in-a-pakistani-city-29501

Meeting on Collaborations for local media development organizations and journalists on 19th September in Islamabad

DRF participated and moderated a meeting with local media development organisations with the aim of mapping emerging issues in the media landscape. The meeting was a step towards working towards coalition-building and partnerships within civil society groups.

DRF collaborates with UNESCO to mark International Day for the Universal Access to Information in Pakistan on 26th September in Lahore

In partnership with UNESCO Islamabad, DRF commemorated the International Day for the Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) 2019 at ICS, University of Punjab on Thursday, September 26, 2019. The event was organized in partnership with the European Union, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Embassy of Sweden in Pakistan, United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and civil society partner Digital Rights Foundation (DRF). At the event, the Ambassador of Sweden, H.E. Ms. Ingrid Johansson,gave the opening remarks  along with the Ambassador of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, H.E. Mr. Wouter Plomp. Speakers at the event included Mr. Zahid Abdullah, the Federal Information Commissioner; Mr. Mahboob Qadir Shah; the Chief Punjab Information Commissioner; Anoosha Shaigan from Courting the Law; Mr. Nabeel Qadeer and Usama Khilji from Bolo Bhi. UNESCO Representative Pakistan, Ms. Vibeke Jensen gave closing remarks. The Deputy Head of mission at European Union Delegation to Pakistan, Ms. Anne Marchal also attended the event.

Gender & Privacy Session at Kinnaird College for Women

DRF conducted a session with students at Lahore’s Kinnaird College for Women on the 6th of September on the digital right to privacy, its importance and the intersectional relation between gender and privacy.

The audience comprised of a little under 100 gender studies and law students and it made for an interactive session with considerable back and forth on the issues pertaining to young women in the online sphere.

Women Parliamentarians Support Group event by Tabeer & PILDAT

DRF presented its ‘Online Participation of Female Politicians’ study to a working group of women politicians and parliamentarians at an event organized by PILDAT and Tabeer. The study, which was released last year in the aftermath of the Pakistan’s General Elections looked into the experience of female politicians in the online sphere, both in terms of their campaigning and how public perception and trolling affected them.

DRF conducted a session on women’s rights and digital security especially cyber harassment

Jannat Fazal from DRF delivered a session on Women's Rights and Digital Security especially Cyber-Harassment in Lahore on September 5, 2019 organized by Rozan for the Pakistan Forum for Democrating Policing Punjab Chapter.  This session was aimed at building the capacity and to increase awareness regarding digital rights and making the cyber space safer for the forum members.

DRF at NCHR consultation on guidelines to protect human rights defenders

DRF participated in a consultation jointly organized by BLUE VEINS, WISE, PHRDN and NCHR in Lahore on september 3, 2019. The consultation was to discuss the NCHR policy guidelines on the protection of Human Rights Defenders.The policy guidelines advocate for stronger legal recognition and protection of human rights defenders in Pakistan recognizing their important work and role in society.

Climate March: DRF also joined the digital #globalclimatestrike from 20th to 27th September

DRF’s website went on a digital climate strike this year on account of the Global #ClimateStrike. With the ever changing problem of climate change it is important for us to recycle and conserve our planet. DRF shut it’s website off for a day this year as a reminder for everyone to do more and contribute in saving our planet.

DRF at round-table on Protection against harassment of women at workplace act (2010)

Our Legal Officer, Barrister Jannat Ali Kalyar attended a Round-table discussion for the review of Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace act (2010), organized by the National Commission on the Status of Women on the 26th of September. There she raised concerns over the implementation of the Act, the challenges that the complainants face in filing their complaint and the way forward.

DRF at Digital Youth Summit (DYS)


Our Legal Officer, Barrister Jannat Ali Kalyar attended the Digital Youth Summit (DYS) that took place in Peshawar from the 28th to the 29th of September where she spoke on Digital Privacy, Cyber Security and the Future of Citizenship in Pakistan. She also stressed on the need to exercise our right to information to hold private and public bodies in control of our data accountable.

November 05, 2019 - Comments Off on Pakistan ranked as “Not Free” by Freedom House in the 2019 Freedom on the Net Report for eight years in a row

Pakistan ranked as “Not Free” by Freedom House in the 2019 Freedom on the Net Report for eight years in a row

Freedom House released its Freedom on the Net (FoTN) report for the year 2019, titled “The Crisis of Social Media” to reflect the plethora of issues emerging on social media. The report finds an overall decline in global internet freedom for the ninth consecutive year in 2019. It is noted that while “social media at times served as a level playing field for civic discussion, they are now tilting dangerously toward illiberalism, exposing citizens to an unprecedented crackdown on their fundamental freedoms.” The report focuses on developments that occurred between June 2018 till May 2019.

Pakistan’s ranking on the report remains “Not Free” for the coverage period, with its score decreasing from 27 to 26. Internet freedom declined during this report’s coverage period due to authorities’ increased blocking of political, social, and cultural websites. The general election environment in July 2018 saw connectivity restrictions and increased disinformation. Meanwhile, authorities upped their efforts to silence critical journalists and activists using a range of techniques. Users were again sentenced to death on charges of posting blasphemous content online, although their convictions are under appeal. 

The report for Pakistan was authored by Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) and evaluated through the methodology developed by Freedom House. The report methodology assesses 65 countries across the world, based on three broad criteria: obstacles to access; limits on content; and violations of user rights. Nighat Dad, the Executive Director of DRF, stated that “the score this year is the culmination of short-term and regressive policies by successive governments. Years worth of draconian legislation and investment in structures that stymie freedom of expression have led to an environment where the internet in Pakistan is more unsafe and less inclusive.”

Key developments during the coverage period include:
  • Authorities shut down mobile and internet service during protests and in the lead-up to the July 2018 general elections, in both populous cities and less developed regions.
  • Over 800,000 websites hosting political, religious, and social content remain blocked. Voice of America’s websites in Urdu and Pashto were temporary inaccessible during the coverage period, as was the website of the leftist Awami Workers Party.
  • Inauthentic content and automated accounts impacted the online landscape. It emerged, for instance, that bots supporting various political parties surfaced ahead of the July 2018 general elections, while Facebook removed content it claimed to be linked to the Pakistani military’s public relations department.
  • In December 2018, two brothers were sentenced to death for blasphemy, for allegedly sharing “disrespectful material” about the prophet Mohammad on their website in 2011.
  • The government increased social media monitoring, announcing a new system to target extremism, hate speech, and anti-national content. The announcement came a month before the Interior Ministry launched an investigation into journalists and activists supporting murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi on social media.
  • Activists and bloggers faced physical attacks and death threats during the coverage period, while several journalists were booked under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act.
The full report can be accessed here. Pakistan’s country-specific report is available here: https://www.freedomonthenet.org/country/pakistan/freedom-on-the-net/2019.

#FreedomOnTheNet

October 27, 2019 - Comments Off on Hearing at the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights regarding Privacy and Harassment

Hearing at the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights regarding Privacy and Harassment

On 25 October 2019, Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), along with members of civil society and student activists, got a chance to brief the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights’ session on the issue of the University of Balochistan in light of privacy, surveillance of campuses and harassment in educational institutes. Along with the acting Vice-Chancellor of the University, student representatives were given a chance to put forward their demands. The Chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) Khawar Mumtaz, academic & activist Arfana Mallah and Shmyla Khan from DRF gave their recommendations to the Committee.

The facts presented in front of the Committee stated that 92 surveillance cameras had been installed by the university, however, in light of an investigation ordered by the Balochistan High Court, a total of eight unauthorized cameras were found. These cameras were used to record footage of students without their consent and resulted in blackmailing of students at the hands of the administration. The Senators expressed shock and called for accountability of the senior administration of the university, particularly the VC Dr. Iqbal Javed who stepped down after the incident gained national prominence. It was also revealed the University has no harassment committee as per the Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act and the HEC’s Policy Guidelines against Sexual Harassment in Institutions of Higher Learning.

The two student representatives from Quetta highlighted that campuses in Balochistan are highly militarized and controlled spaces. There exists an atmosphere of fear that allows for incidents such as these to remain unreported for years. They demanded that there should be accountability for all involved, to prevent scapegoating of a few individuals instead of addressing the systemic information. They demanded that there should be a ban all arms and ammunition inside university campuses and surveillance cameras should be restricted to the outer gates of campuses. They also stated that a committee for harassment should be set up immediately and given adequate independence and powers. According to the Balochistan Ombudsperson on Workplace Harassment, only one university in the province has a harassment committee in place. The students asked that the ban on student unions should be lifted to allow for organizing on campuses.

Arfana Mallah stated that this issue not confined to one campus or part of the country. There is dearth of women in places of higher education, with women constituting only 20% of the student population and faculty in universities. She demanded that gender audits of educational institutes should be conducted and gender parity should be taken into account when university rankings are conducted. Arfana explained that the CCTV cameras installed under the 2007 HEC directive has resulted in moral policing of students as the camera ends up replicating a patriarchal gaze.

Shmyla from DRF pointed out the need for the protection of the Constitutional right to privacy through a comprehensive personal data protection legislation that shifts the balance of power between the user and data controllers. DRF recommended that cameras from campuses should be removed until HEC develops strong regulation and SOPs for cameras and the data collected. In order to ensure that campuses become critical spaces, it is important to strengthen harassment committees and to closely monitor their progress.

Several senators expressed shock at the state of affairs at universities. Senator Ayesha Raza termed the actions of the university admin as criminal negligence. She also iterated the need for gender parity on committees tasked with addressing harassment. Senator Saif noted that consent-based surveillance should be implemented and stressed the importance of regulation of citizen’s data collected by both private and public bodies.

The Chairperson of the Committee, Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, decided that a two-pronged approach will be tacked in address the matter. Firstly, in the short term, the Committee will closely monitor the investigation of the incident and the next meeting of the Committee will be held inside the University of Balochistan campus. He also noted that the deployment of security forces at campuses should be reviewed across the country. In the long term approach, HEC will be directed to develop a policy framework to ensure fundamental rights at educational institutions. He recommended that gender rankings be made part of annual rankings issued by the HEC. The Chairperson echoed the demand for restoration of student unions. He also highlighted the urgent need for a data protection law in Pakistan. Senator Khokhar promised that the committee will continue to monitor the FIA proceedings into the privacy violations at the University of Balochistan.

We commend the committee for taking up the issue and framing it as an issue of privacy violations and harassment of female bodies. We hope that they will continue to follow up on these promises. 

October 25, 2019 - Comments Off on What is Ransomware And How can you protect Yourself

What is Ransomware And How can you protect Yourself

The DRF’s helpline has noticed a marked increase in complaints regarding ransomware attacks in Pakistan. This increase means that such attacks are becoming more commonplace, and it would be good practice to protect our devices and software against such malicious software.

Ransomware is a term most people talking about these days. It is a malicious software that enters your hard drive and encrypts all your files, rendering them inaccessible, until you get the decryption key. It increases its area to the level where cybercriminals targeted big giants but also hunted civilians and average users as well. On different social sites, a lot of people talked about the message that appeared on their devices while opening up their document, which asked them to pay a ransom in bitcoin or through another medium to get their files back in a readable format.

There are different Ransomware that belonged to separate families, which has further different variants. You need to check which family ransomware belonged to and what is the variant if you faced a ransomware attack. You can check it by looking into the extension of the encrypted file like in “picture.png” where “png” is the file extension.

Some examples of the Ransomware Attacks:

You all are well-aware of the ‘Wannacry Ransomware’ Attack of 2017. This attack was massive and infected entire devices and databases. It affected many businesses, hospitals, and other big networks across the globe. The malware didn’t leave behind banks, and mobile operators either. It affected companies in over 100 countries.

Petya ransomware was also in the news after wanna cry Ransomware, which is specifically targeted a windows-based operating system and encrypt the whole hard drive, and to make the files accessible, you need to pay some money in bitcoin.

Following these two major attacks, the FBI sent out a public-service warning about such malware. According to them, these software are getting more advanced and can penetrate larger and ‘more secure’ systems.

Pakistan has also been affected by ransomware as well. Different variants of ransomware software were found to be affecting Pakistani businesses and individuals. Over the past few months, the DRF helpline has seen a large number of calls come in regarding ransomware and a lot of them had to do with a ransomware strand called ‘Stop’.

How it Works:

Ransomware is a type of malware that anonymously injects into the digital devices that encrypts all the content stored on your hard drive, and you cannot read your files anymore. To get your files in a readable format, a decryption key is required, which will then unlock all the files. However to get that decryption key, you must pay a ransom.

This creates a bit of a dilemma. Are you going to pay money to get your files back, or are you encouraging cyber criminals so they can spread this malware to target more people?

Paying ransom itself is a bad practice because there is no guarantee that you will get your files back, and in any case. Let’s suppose if you pay money to the attacker that they asked for, there are still chances that the attacker will not have a private key, or the key they gave to you is corrupted. So paying money to the attacker is not good practice as there is no guarantee that he will unlock your content. Let’s say you successfully managed to get your data back, on the other hand, the attackers start hunting more people.

This is only the first step you have to take if you faced a ransomware attack.

The second step is that you need to disconnect the internet from your devices so it cannot do further damage to your device and don’t spread the malware within the network. After this, you have to run an anti-malware tool in your device, and if it finds anything, remove it and restart your computer. If you don’t do this step and unlock your file, the malware is still in your system, which will reactivate itself. Additionally, whenever you see a ransom note appear on your device, it would be good practice to take a screenshot and send it to experts who can help you decrypt your files.

Sometimes while running an anti-malware software, corrupted files can be deleted in order to protect your device. This leads to a permanent loss of data. To avoid this from happening, the user can create a backup of the files on an empty external hard disk in order to prevent loss of data before running the anti-malware software. Once a decryption toolkit is made for the particular ransomware that affected your device, these files can be decrypted and restored.

There are many ways an attacker can infiltrate the network or can compromise your device. Cybercriminals can exploit your device, and usually, they take advantage of outdated versions of operating systems or software installed on your device.

Avoiding Ransomware Attacks:

  • If you received any suspicious attachment within the email, do not open it until you verify the source of this email
  • Make sure you are using an updated version of the operating system or software installed your device
  • Do not install unverified software into your device
  • If you received any suspicious short link via WhatsApp or Facebook or any other platform, copy the link and open the website link and paste the link there. It will show the actual website link behind the short link. This is just good practice to identify if someone wants to trick you.
  • Do not let someone attached USB into the USB port of your device.
  • And the most important thing is to make a local backup of your data

Microsoft’s built-in ransomware protection:

Microsoft recently introduced the feature known as ransomware protection, which users can use to protect the folder they want. You can enable this feature by going into the ransomware protection section.

You can find the whole sequence below:

Setting---> windows security--->virus threat protection--->in ransomware protection section click on---> Manage ransomware protection

Below is the screenshot

You can turn the above option “controlled folder access” on and pop up will appear, which asks your permission, and then you can see the list of protected folder and can add any folder you want.

In the above picture, you can see the protected folder. This means that no third party unverified software can make changes in the folders mentioned above, thus lowering the risk of data being compromised. If any unverified application tries to make changes in the folder that is already listed in the above directory, an error will appear at the user’s end.

(Note: In order to use Window’s anti-ransomware features, you must have the most up to date versions of Windows 10.)

nomoreransom.org is the project where different IT security companies and law enforcement agencies are trying to help the people who got ransomware attacks on their devices and don’t know how to proceed further. They update their website regularly with new information on ‘trending’ ransomware attacks and software. With this, they release a decryption toolkit that can be used by victims in case of an attack. File uploading option is also available for the victim to check if there is decryption toolkit available for that specific variant. A feature on this website allows for users to upload the affected files. This feature, called the ‘Crypto Sheriff’ determines whether there is a solution. If there is, the ‘Crypto Sheriff’ will provide the victim with the solutions needed. You can access ‘Crypto Sheriff’ here

Aside from Window’s internal ransomware protection, there are multiple anti-malware tools one can use to protect their devices. One such tool is ‘MalwareBytes’. This software is able to conduct comprehensive scans and can identify threat. Additionally the software will quarantine and delete the affected files.

The DRF Helpline was established to help victims of online harassment. This includes people who have fallen victim to sensitive data leaks, and in recent times, ransomware attacks too.

The helpline can be reached at its toll free number, 0800-39393

October 17, 2019 - Comments Off on Digital Rights Foundation expresses solidarity with students of University of Balochistan

Digital Rights Foundation expresses solidarity with students of University of Balochistan

Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) is alarmed by the incident of surveillance, blackmailing and harassment of female and male students in the University of Balochistan. We express solidarity with students protesting the incident and demanding accountability. The policing and surveillance of student bodies, particularly women, is condemned in the strongest possible terms and we call for strict action to be taken to ensure the dignity and safety of students on campuses across Pakistan.

Universities should ideally be spaces for critical thinking and freedom of expression, however due to neglect and regressive policies they have become spaces of harassment and repression for students. It is a well known fact that students’ bodies are regularly policed and surveilled by university administrations. Surveillance measures, justified under the pretext of safety to students were exasperated during the war on terror. Recently, CCTV cameras have been installed on campuses under the grab of anti-drug measures. It is unfortunate that the technology employed in the name of protecting students is often used to monitor and harass the very people it professes to protect. These systems of surveillance have become tools to monitor and silence dissent and political speech on campus, seen recently in the temporary expulsion of students from the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, UAF for social media posts criticising the university administration.

Female, including feminised, bodies on campus are often subjected to the objectifying gaze of surveillance technology. Mechanisms and technology introduced under paternalistic logic results in the moral policing of women, restricting their right to gender expression and sexuality. Surveillance in public spaces such as campuses is rarely used to enable the freedoms of women, rather it tends to replicate paternalistic models of surveillance prevalent in private spaces, restricting their autonomy. There have been countless cases of data breaches from university databases in which women’s private information is weaponised to target and harass them. The women at the University of Balochistan know this all too well as they were blackmailed and harassed on the basis of their gender. Their consent was repeatedly violated as secret cameras installed by university administrative staff recorded videos of their activities without their knowledge.

It is imperative that we don’t look at cases of policing on campuses in a vacuum. While patriarchal norms and society inform this policing, the underlying infrastructure is laid out by authoritarian strands within the state and a global capital economy that profits from monitoring and dataveillance. This system is invested in not only creating consumers for capital but also to increasingly silence citizens by relinquishing their civil liberties.

The right to privacy is a constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right and an intrinsic part of citizen’s personal liberties. The Constitution of Pakistan enshrines the right to privacy as a fundamental right in Article 14(1) stating that "[t]he dignity of man and, subject to law, the privacy of home, shall be inviolable.” The University of Balochistan case is a gross infringement upon this very fundamental right of students. The incident also highlights the lack of redressal available for ordinary citizens to hold institutions accountable for violations of privacy. The fact that Pakistan does not have a robust personal data protection law means that there is no legal mechanism available to make the constitutional right to privacy justiciable. 

While steps have been taken to investigate the incident, measures and safeguards should be in place to ensure that those responsible are held accountable. Additionally, the committee constituted by the provincial assembly of Balochistan to probe the matter lacks adequate gender representation, as only two members of the committee are women (notices to constitute the committee are attached as Annex A). We urge the government to guarantee the right to privacy of citizens by passing progressive data protection legislation. The draft Personal Data Protection Bill 2018 by the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications is a positive step, but the legislation of the Act should be a consultative and inclusive process. We urge that women and gender minorities be placed at the center of any effort to provide protection to citizens. We welcome the announcement by the Chief Minister of Balochistan to constitute anti-harassment special committees in all universities across the province, however meaningful implementation will require regular follow-up and investing resources into the process

Notices obtained from verified Twitter account of member of provincial assembly, Sanaullah Baloch. Mr. Baloch is also a member of the Committee.

October 17, 2019 - Comments Off on Tech & Mental Health: Are we better off?

Tech & Mental Health: Are we better off?

The digital revolution is evolving at an unstoppable pace. Alongside the unprecedented explosion of digital technology and systems, mental health is under greater pressure than ever before because there are more platforms than before, especially compared to when our parents were young there were only a few platforms such as msn, Myspace and Orkut etc. Now there is Facebook, Instagram,Twitter,TikTok,Snapchat,WhatsApp,LinkedIn, and many more. With its emphasis on big data, computing power, mobile technology, and network information, digital technology is set to transform health care also.

Social media might be a great workplace for some people but it also might cause depression and sometimes social anxiety for some other people as it shows them a  world of ease in which doing bare minimum gives what the person desires. Through social media networks the world looks so easy because they are not showing what goes on behind the scenes. We’ve seen that major chunk of the population affected by negativities online are children. Children tend to have a naive/immature thinking process or because they lack experience in general and have taken up examples from the wrong places. For the children, the people in the video are just running around and spending money but what they don't see is the planning and effort put into these things. This idealistic phenomenon creates a mindset that there is an easy way around and they don't have to care or take responsibility for their future is what stops the growth let it be in knowledge or overly.

One of the many examples from the influencer/YouTuber community which displays these attributes not entirely but to some extent, is that of a YouTuber named David Dobrik. This particular YouTuber makes daily life videos known as vlogs in which we can see him partying,spending enormous amounts of money and being friends with popular celebrities such as Charlie Puth , Kylie Jenner and Howie Mandel etc. 

The point of my emphasis is not to shame his efforts but that he himself does not put importance on what length of effort he has gone through to achieve this lifestyle he has today and since he doesn't have higher education like so many other influencers, youtubers and popular celebrities, it also creates a somewhat of a false idea of a loophole that children nowadays don't have to get educated fully and can achieve instant wealth and success with minimal effort.   

Nowadays platforms such as Instagram and YouTube have grown rapidly and there are these influencers and different types of youtubers like the one mentioned above which create this culture of superficial things but what they don’t realize is that they’re creating a culture of negativity. One of the many things which causes such pessimism is Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) which is a phenomenon that was born at the same time as Facebook and it has one of the most common negative effects of social media. This phenomenon basically is a form of anxiety that you get when you’re scared of missing out on a positive experience or emotions that someone else is getting.

It happens to everyone. You’ve been invited to go out for dinner with friends. But instead, you decide to stay back at home and get some work done. Of course you can’t help but wonder: what exactly are you missing out on? How much fun are they having without you there? Will there be inside jokes that you’re now not privy to?

This fear is fueled by your social media engagement. The more you use social networks, the more likely you are to see that someone is having more fun than you are right now. 

Instagram celebrities, if you look at the most-followed accounts on Instagram, you’ll find beautiful people wearing expensive clothes and their perfect lifestyle. All this has made Instagram toxic because it has made people conscious about each and everything about themselves. Today, body image has become an issue for both sexes. Of course, seeing perfection on a daily basis makes you conscious, you start comparing how different you look from those pictures and not everyone comes to the right conclusion in these situations.

Another phenomenon on the rise: Social media stars create negativity in the form of “cancel culture” which usually involves bullying others over a mistake or a contradiction in their view point, or due to some past actions. Although may be one of the two parties originally in an argument is doing something right but people especially children might be favoring bashing or shaming the other person  in order to be part of the popular group and not realizing the meaning behind such ordeals. This misinterpretation of such acts creates a norm which erodes a child's confidence and they start applying such behavior towards others in their life as well. 

Sometimes children justify it by saying that others do it too and become part of this illogical banter which gives a sort of an insight into a child’s mind. It tells us that he/she knows what they are doing is somewhat in the grey area. However there are some groups or social media leaders of the masses who humiliate and bully a person for his/her standpoint which differs from theirs on particular matters so then that person, mostly someone young, shuts downs his personal thought process and tries to align with the masses. 

One of the examples found online is that of Tati Westbrook (@glamlifeguru) and James Charles. A quick summary of their spat is that it came to light that James uses Tati’s rival company Sugar Hair Bears vitamins and she felt betrayed as she has a vitamin company herself and she saw James as her protege. What happened as a result of this online war is that all his negative doings came out and people started all of a sudden started hating him and he lost millions of subscribers within hours. What really aided this whole war further was the support Tati got from big-shot youtubers and her friends such as Shane dawson and Jeffree Star. All of this created this cynical atmosphere and people who didn't even know either of them started taking interest in them and it created an army and hashtags calling James Charles a liar , a bad friend and much more.

 This sort of negative behavior generates another problem which is grouping, and as the name suggests is basically people who find similar interests and viewpoints to create online groups whom sole purpose is to work on belittling those people online who differ from their stance on particular issues. 

One of many organizations working for the protection of children's rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities is UNICEF, with the support of experts, is leading an effort to develop a data collection tool to capture information on adolescents’ mental health at a population level in low and middle income countries. Validation and adaptation of the tool in different contexts will involve a mix of qualitative and quantitative approaches, including clinical validation of depression, anxiety and sociality.”

(Unicef website)

What this research by UNICEF would do is that it would aid the upcoming and existing generation to take up and create positivity let it be in the virtual or real world. Although there are organizations, such as UNICEF and  UNESCO, working for the betterment of children but we also need to take up some amount of responsibility. Parents are the key members in this development and what most parents need to realize is that things have changed drastically and technology has evolved to create more problems than before.

This know-it-all nature among the elderly has created distance among the parents and kids. This makes children think “what do my parents know about my experience? They did not go through something like this.” Parents should leave behind attitudes such as that they know best or that their experience as a child can explain the present. Parents need to meet their children halfway as well, get at level of their children and make an effort to learn what is going on. They need to be the ones with the change in such situation sometimes because if parents shut down or leave the problem for next day that makes a child conscious about his/her online and real life issues and its importance to their parents. What parents should do is take out time in such situations and implement some measures and rules in their respective household. Measures like restricting their time on the internet, to try to find out what they are doing in general by engaging in meaningful conversation and talking about whether they need help regarding things. Although these measures might seem small but they make a huge difference in the longer term. The impact they hold is that the child knows that if he/she needs help regarding anything he/she could seek it and they would not be put down and also  in this way the parents can get to know what is happening in the child’s online world and their viewpoints and their intake from a negative or positive issue. In such a situation the discussion could give strength to a child because if his/her standpoint is fair no matter what the other one says they would know that they are doing the right thing due to a parent/elderly’s support.

This article on mental health and technology is written by our lovely intern Priya Zaidi who is doing her A-levels currently.