January 07, 2018 - Comments Off on December 2017: One Year of the Cyber Harassment Helpline Countering Online Violence

December 2017: One Year of the Cyber Harassment Helpline Countering Online Violence

The Cyber Harassment Helpline Completes its One Year

Cyber Harassment Helpline

As the Digital Rights Foundation’s Cyber Harassment Helpline completes its one year, the team compiles and releases its first one-year report. The report [PDF] contains data collected by the Helpline which highlights the nature and extent of the problem of online harassment. The Report also contains recommendations for public bodies to improve their institutional response to online harassment. Read more...

DRF Launches the Network of Female Journalists for Online Safety

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Digital Rights Foundation marked the launch of their Network of Female Journalists on Online Safety on 12th December. The launch was coupled with a two-day advance training with 28 female journalists from across Pakistan.

The objective of the network is to empower female journalists to practice and promote online safety within media houses and to raise awareness regarding digital rights issues in mainstream media. Journalists were made aware about reporting on digital rights issues leading to improved quality of reporting when talking about the said rights.

The network will ensure quick and easy access to DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline to journalists and human rights defenders. The helpline is the first of its kind in Pakistan and provides legal advice, digital security support, and psychological counseling to the victims of cyber harassment.

DRF Presented at IGF 2017 in Geneva

IGF 2017

Digital Rights Foundation is at the Twelfth Annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF) happening in Geneva, Switzerland from 18th to 21st of December, 2017. The dynamic get-together of diverse stakeholders will discuss pressing public policy issues related to the digital world. It allows all participants to share their experiences and debate, as equals, the opportunities and challenges arising from the process of digitization. Read the details of the interventions by DRF here.

Reviewing the Right to Privacy in Pakistan

PI Conference Decemebr 2017 Blue-01

Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) and Bolo Bhi organized the “Reviewing the Right to Privacy in Pakistan Roundtable” at the Islamabad Hotel, Islamabad on Thursday, December 7th, 2017.

The goal of the roundtable was to have a comprehensive and interactive discussion with relevant stakeholders about data protection and the right to privacy in Pakistan. International and national trends and developments in regards to digital rights, freedom of expression online, and data protection measures were discussed at the event.

The conference covered the themes of data protection and privacy on the internet within the Pakistani context through participatory sessions with participants. The first panel, titled “Data Protection and the Open Government Partnership Process”, was moderated by Nighat Dad, and shed light on the commitments made by the Ministry of Information Technology (MoIT), under the Open Government Partnership (OGP) process, to introduce a data protection law in Pakistan. The panelists included Ali Mohyuddin and Ebrar Rashid from NADRA, Arzak Khan, Saad Saleem, the co-founder of Nayatel, Imran Haider from FIA, Natalia Tariq from Open Society Foundations, Saleha Zahid from Bolo Bhi, and Jannat Ali Kalyar from DRF.

The second panel, titled “The Right to Privacy through Gendered Lens”, addressed the gendered nature of the right to privacy, with particular focus on the gendered experiences of this right. The panel, moderated by Zoya Rehman, brought together a diverse set of perspectives to discuss the variations as well as overlap of the gendered nature of the privacy discourse within Pakistan. The panelists, which included Khawar Mumtaz, chairperson of NCSW, Shmyla Khan of DRF, Mehlab Jameel, Fatima Anwar from Engage Foundation, and Dr. Safieh Shah, further discussed how privacy from a gender perspective is a vital part of the larger discourse on internet rights.

#HamaraInternetKyaHai: DRF launched its campaign for 16 Days of Activism on Violence Against Women

Digital Rights Foundation has been working on women's safe access to technology since it was founded in 2012, and we always try to keep our narrative unbiased and our conversations inclusive. Some of our team members were actively involved in the drafting of the Feminist Principles of the Internet also, and implement their learning and knowledge along with these principles in our projects in Pakistan that primarily involve advocating for a feminist internet, while promoting digital security and countering online gender based violence.

With this year's 16 Days of Activism on Violence Against Women, we decided to mainstream the feminist internet discourse in Pakistan - a topic that has not been highlighted all that much here - through the hashtag #HamaraInternetKyaHai (Urdu for What is Our Internet?). Our communications team strategised and executed the campaign keeping multiple approaches in mind, making sure people understand the narrative and engage in the conversation. And we're truly glad that they did take part in the conversation through various mediums, be it by comments and tweets on social media, or via expressing their interest directly to the DRF team members, or through the Cyber Harassment Helpline that we launched in 2016 and is accessible to people via toll-free number.

Here's the breakdown of the activities that we did as part of DRF's 16 Days of Activism:

- A colourful and catchy visual that depicts inclusivity
Feminist Internet Poster

- Two Tweet Chats with DRF's team members, and wonderful feminists who advocate for a feminist internet in Pakistan. We've compiled these chats here in chronological order: https://www.scoop.it/t/16-days-of-activism-2017

- A blogpost on why does a feminist internet matter, by Fatima Athar:
https://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/why-does-a-feminist-internet-matter/

- A blogpost on how harassment hinders women's access to public spaces, both online and offline - by Hyra Basit: https://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/harassment-hinders-womens-access-to-public-and-online-spaces/

- We made this short and extremely powerful video depicting how women fall victim of a technological breach, and this is further used by the harassers to abuse victims and blackmail them into meeting more of their demands:

Facebook post: https://www.facebook.com/DigitalRightsFoundation/videos/976245469182682/

 

This video proved to be important in two ways in the context of Pakistan; a) a lot of people who reached out to us with a feedback on the campaign accepted that this video has helped them accept that it's not a woman's fault if someone bypasses technological loopholes and records them in their private space, where they're supposed to be feeling safe, and b) they understood that digital security is really important to be practiced. A lot of them also said that they covered their webcams after watching this video.

- And lastly, we launched completed our first year of the Cyber Harassment Helpline and released the one-year report based on our findings and experiences of operating a national level helpline that is also first of its kind. Access the report through this post: https://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/the-cyber-harassment-helpline-completes-one-year-of-its-operations/

Content Regulation in the Digital Age – DRF’s Submission to the Human Rights Council Report 2018

On December 20th, 2017, Digital Rights Foundation submitted its response to the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, for the upcoming study, “Content Regulation in the Digital Age” as part of the June 2018 Human Rights Council Report.

This submission is a precursor to DRF’s future plans to investigate the role of the private sector in regulating Pakistan’s online spaces, and sets the background for further advocacy revolving around online content regulation in Pakistan, while observing how this largely falls under the ambit of the government. Read more...

Consultation Meeting with Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability (TDEA)

Trust for democratic education and Accountability held an orientation consultation on Promoting the Human Rights And Electoral Participation of People with Disabilities (PWD), Transgender people and women in Pakistan on 12th till 14th of December 2017. The meeting brought together human rights defenders from all over the country to discuss inclusiveness in elections and the role of the civil society organizations.

DRF and TDEA Signed a Memorandum of Understanding

DRF and TDEA  signed an MOU to increase inclusiveness and capacities of people with disabilities (pwd), transgender people and women in the upcoming elections. DRF became one of the founding members of Coalition for Inclusive Pakistan (CIP).

Orientation Meeting with TDEA

DRF and TDEA conducted a small consultation meeting on 20th of December 2017 with women from diverse backgrounds to discuss about the importance of voting and the legal rights women have in Pakistan. Through the consultation women identified the problems they face while contesting for elections and voting and what needs to be done by the election commission and political parties to make the political environment better.

Session at the Punjab Revenue Authority

Representatives from DRF delivered an interactive session at the Punjab Revenue Authority (PRA) with their young interns on digital rights, online harassment and using the internet as a tool to hold government officials accountable. DRF also conducted interactive exercises to help students harass the internet for awareness-raising and dissemination of information.

Online Violence Against Women in Pakistan - Submission to UNSR on Violence Against Women

Submission to UNSR on VAW

Digital Rights Foundation submitted its response to the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women. This report explores the laws and institutions that are in place within Pakistan to deal with issues of online violence against women. Facts and figures are used to gauge the extent of the problem and its nature, relying on data provided by the government, law enforcement agencies and collected by DRF. A legal analysis of the legislation ise accompanied by an appraisal of the implementation of the laws and the functioning of institutions on the ground. Reported judgments are analysed to gauge jurisprudence (interpretations of the laws) as well as legal principles developed by local courts. The purpose of the report is not only to analyse the existing structures, but to situate them within the lived experiences of women facing online violence. This experience is elucidated through case studies as well as analysis done by DRF’s cyber harassment helpline team.

We hope that this submission will provide a sufficient overview of the regulatory and social landscape in Pakistan with relation to online violence against women. The report can be accessed here.

December 21, 2017 - Comments Off on Content Regulation in the Digital Age – DRF’s Submission to the Human Rights Council Report 2018

Content Regulation in the Digital Age – DRF’s Submission to the Human Rights Council Report 2018

On December 20th, 2017, Digital Rights Foundation submitted its response to the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, for the upcoming study, “Content Regulation in the Digital Age” as part of the June 2018 Human Rights Council Report.

This submission is a precursor to DRF’s future plans to investigate the role of the private sector in regulating Pakistan’s online spaces, and sets the background for further advocacy revolving around online content regulation in Pakistan, while observing how this largely falls under the ambit of the government. Private sector regulation of online content is at present a by-product of the state regulatory regime.

DRF’s submission details the laws and regulations established by the Pakistani government, which must be followed by ISPs and private companies. As with other nations of the Global South, the current political climate informs internet policy-making in Pakistan, with security concerns superseding fundamental human rights, in particular the rights of the general internet user and citizen. This is a situation that is exacerbated by the lack of substantial collaborations, if any, between the private sector, civil society and other relevant stakeholders, and the government.

What we are calling for through this submission, therefore, is a re-evaluation of the approach towards online content regulation by policy-makers in Pakistan, in order to uphold the right to freedom of expression -- as per the international human rights framework -- and ensure increased transparency and accountability on and for online platforms in Pakistan.

DRF examined the legislative framework that guides and underpins content regulation in Pakistan, and the problems associated with it, as can be encapsulated by the visible increase in internet censorship, takedowns and content filtration in Pakistan, as well as the prohibition of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and encryption mechanisms. The submission further discusses the existing processes developed by companies, both overseas and locally, to ensure adherence to Pakistan’s current content regulation regime, including the role of telecommunications companies operating within the country.

What our findings demonstrate is that in recent years the Government of Pakistan has established a strict regulatory regime for online spaces under the auspices of an overarching and all-encompassing security narrative, with various state institutions intervening on special occasions and particular topics. Conditions set under Article 19 of the Constitution of Pakistan have been interpreted broadly to enact vague criminal laws with draconian penalties, with those overly broad interpretations seeping into the government’s approach to online spaces as well.

DRF’s submission can be found here, and we hope that other stakeholders will benefit from it as well.

Written by Zoya Rehman, Jannat Ali Kalyar and Adnan Ahmad Chaudhri

December 20, 2017 - Comments Off on The Cyber Harassment Helpline Completes One Year of its Operations

The Cyber Harassment Helpline Completes One Year of its Operations

As the Digital Rights Foundation’s Cyber Harassment Helpline completes its one year, the team compiles and releases its first one-year report. The report [PDF] contains data collected by the Helpline which highlights the nature and extent of the problem of online harassment. The Report also contains recommendations for public bodies to improve their institutional response to online harassment.

Cyber Harassment Helpline

The Cyber Harassment Helpline was launched on December 1, 2016 and is Pakistan’s first dedicated helpline addressing issues of online abuse and violence by providing a free, safe, gender-sensitive and confidential service. It provides legal advice, digital security support and psychological counselling to victims of online harassment. The toll free number [0800-39393] is available during 9am to 5pm.  Nighat Dad, the founder and Executive Director of DRF, explained that “the Helpline aims to fill the gaps of service delivery to complainants and victims of online harassment--to do what law enforcement and other organisations cannot--while paying special heed to gender-sensitivity and mental health."

This report marks the one-year milestone of the Helpline. During its first year, the Helpline has received 1,551 complaints in the form of calls, emails and Facebook messages from December 1, 2016 till November 30, 2017. The Helpline has so far received a total 1476 calls on its toll-free number. The Helpline was originally only operational on the weekdays, however in August, it was expanded to seven days a week to meet the needs of its callers. This has resulted in an increase in the average number of monthly calls from 82 in the first six months to 123 by November.

67% of the calls at the Helpline were by women, whereas 33% of the callers were men. Facebook remains the most widely reported platform, with 45% of callers experiencing harassment there. Among the kinds of harassment reported, complaints of fake profiles, non-consensual use of information, blackmailing, and unsolicited messages were the most common ones.

The Helpline has strict privacy and confidentiality policies in place, and only non-personally identifiable information is collected from our callers with informed consent. While 19% of the callers did not want to disclose their location, we were able to identify that most of our callers on the Helpline were from Punjab (50%). The Helpline also received calls from Sindh (18%), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (5%), Balochistan (2%), Azad Kashmir and FATA (1%) and the Federal Capital, Islamabad (5%).

Building on this data, the Digital Rights Foundation has put forward some recommendations for the government and law enforcement agencies to improve the reporting mechanism regarding cyber harassment. There is an urgent need to build the technical and financial capacity of the National Response Center for Cyber Crime (NR3C), FIA to deal with complaints in a timely and satisfactory manner. The Investigation Officers (IOs) and Prosecutors need to be trained in cyber crime law, internet governance, criminal procedure and trauma counselling. The FIA is also urged to fulfil its obligation under section 53 of the Prevention Electronic Crimes Act 2016 to submit reports to Parliament and ensure that this report is public. We recommend that the FIA forms a separate desk for addressing online harassment with female IOs and gender-sensitisation training. Lastly, the FIA is urged put in place case management and tracking systems to ensure an accessible complaint registration procedure and effective follow-up on cases.

December 18, 2017 - Comments Off on Digital Rights Foundation is at the Twelfth Annual Internet Governance Forum, 2017

Digital Rights Foundation is at the Twelfth Annual Internet Governance Forum, 2017

Digital Rights Foundation is at the Twelfth Annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF) happening in Geneva, Switzerland from 18th to 21st of December, 2017. The dynamic get-together of diverse stakeholders will discuss pressing public policy issues related to the digital world. It allows all participants to share their experiences and debate, as equals, the opportunities and challenges arising from the process of digitization.

Find Nighat Dad, the Executive Director of Digital Rights Foundation, at the IGF organising and speaking at some of the very interesting sessions which include,

Surveillance from the Margins

December 19, 2017 | 11:00 am - 12:00 noon | Room XXII - E United Nations Office at Geneva
Organiser: Digital Rights Foundation

Surveillance is not a uniform experience, be it surveillance by the state, companies or social actors. The gendered nature of surveillance and the different forms it takes given the positionality of the person experiencing it is particularly glaring when experienced by members of a particular gender or a marginalised community. Sometimes surveillance is discriminatory per se, in that it is directed specifically at people because of their gender, race, class, disability, sexual orientation, etc. For instance, phishing attacks experienced human rights activists or offline and on-the- ground-surveillance of journalists covering controversial topics. In other instances, facially non-discriminatory surveillance is experienced differently by certain individuals
because of their marginality and positionality through the disparate impact that it has. It is the second form of surveillance that is often left undiscussed and the intersectionality of race, class, gender, religion, sexual orientation and ability is unexamined.

The purpose of this panel comprising of people from diverse backgrounds, is not only to map and understand the diversified experiences of surveillance but to take these findings regarding the diffused nature of surveillance and work towards actively finding solutions to the particular kinds of surveillance experienced by marginalised groups. The aim of the discussion will also be mainstream discourse from the margins at a global level.

Moderator: Alexandrine Pirlot de Corbion

Speakers:

  • Nighat Dad
  • Ankhi Das
  • Lisa Garcia
  • Joana Varon
  • Amalia Toledo

The impact of digitisation on politics, public trust, and democracy

December 19, 2017 | 10:00 am - 13:00 pm CET | Main Hall - Room XVII - E United Nations Office at Geneva
High Level Session of the UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF) 2017

The digital space, as a cornerstone of the public policy space, can be a great enabler for democratic discourse and participation, as well as inclusive policy-making. At the same time, the misuse of the digital public policy space can lead to the distortion of truth, mistrust in public information, and misrepresentation of public opinion.

This session will discuss both the opportunities and the challenges that digitisation brings to the digital political sphere, the public trust, and democracy. Discussions will revolve around ways of strengthening the benefits of democratic participation and inclusion via digital means, limiting the negative impact of the misuse of the public policy space, and rebuilding trust among online users.

The session will also address the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders. It will look at issues such as government policies aimed at creating more inclusive policy-making processes through the use of digital tools, the responsibility of Internet intermediaries for the dissemination of fake news and false news that can influence political processes, and the elements that can help rebuild trust among users. Also, the session will discuss the role of media actors in a democracy and the implications of the ongoing structural change in the media ecosystem. Most importantly, the session will look into whether and how digital literacy, education, and awareness-raising could be the key towards empowering citizens not only to take advantage of digital tools, but also to deal with the challenges related to the misuse of the digital public space.

‘Good stories’, ‘bad stories’, and lessons learnt will be explored as part of the discussions.

Host Chair: Mr. Philipp Metzger, Director General, Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM)
Moderator: Ms. Nathalie Ducommun, Talk Master of Swiss Television RTS
Remote Moderator: Ms. Katharina Hoene, DiploFoundation

Speakers:
The roundtable will include the following speakers:
• Ms. Nighat Dad, Executive Director, Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan*
• Mr. Bobby Duffy, Global Director, Ipsos Social Research Institute*
• Ms. Kareen Jabre, Director of Programmes, Inter-Parliamentary Union*
• Ms. Malavika Jayaram, Executive Director, Digital Asia Hub*
• Mr. Frank La Rue, Assistant Director-General Communication & Information, UNESCO*
• Ms. Dunja Mijatovic, former OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media*
• Mr. Gonzalo Navarro, Executive Director, Asociación Latinoamericana de Internet*
• Mr. Jean Paul Philippot, President, European Broadcasting Union*
• Ms. Snežana Samardžić-Marković, Director General of Democracy, Council of Europe*
• Ms. Nanjira Sambuli, Digital Equality Advocacy Manager, World Wide Web Foundation*
• Mr. Sébastien Soriano, Chairman, National Regulatory Authority for Telecoms and
Posts, France*
• Mr. Robert Strayer, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cyber and International
Communications and Information Policy, U.S. Department of State*

Combating Online Violence Against Politically-Active Women

December 19, 2017 | 3:00 - 4:30 PM CET | Room XXII - E United Nations Office at Geneva
Organiser: National Democratic Institute (NDI)

This is a multi-sector panel discussion about strategies for understanding and combating online violence against politically-active women. Online harassment of politically-active women is one form of the global problem of violence against women in politics (VAW-P), and can result in women choosing not to participate in leadership or political debates, and ultimately not to express their opinion. The resulting limitation of both the number of women able to participate and the range of issues discussed poses a fundamental challenge to democracy, progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment, as well as to the integrity of the information space.

The panel will engage experts from multiple sectors including digital activism, women's empowerment, technology, and international governance, to discuss methods for building international understanding of this issue and identifying strategies for combating it.

Moderator: Sandra Pepera, Director, Gender, Women and Democracy, National Democratic Institute (NDI)

Speakers:
Nighat Dad - Executive Director, Digital Rights Foundation
David Kaye - UNSR Freedom of Expression
Seyi Akiwowo - Elected politician in East London, and Founder of Glitch! UK
Nathan Mathias - Postdoc computational social scientist at Princeton University
departments of Psychology, Sociology, and Center for Information Technology Policy

November 30, 2017 - Comments Off on Harassment hinders women’s access to public and online spaces

Harassment hinders women’s access to public and online spaces

Working on the Cyber Harassment Helpline for exactly a year now, we’ve come across a range of cases, but there’s one thing that has really stood out as common among most of the cases. Not just one, not even a dozen, but most of the victims of online harassment who have reached out for help have reported that one of their immediate responses was to deactivate their online accounts. It becomes important to note here that the people who sought this solution as temporary relief were mostly, if not all, women. When backing away from online spaces is seen as the obvious and immediate recourse in the face of harassment, whether it’s blackmail, impersonation, stolen and/or edited pictures, and when most of the victims of harassment are women, it tells you not only that there is an imbalance of representation and participation of women in online spaces, but that there is a lack of alternate support and help available for them as well.

The online realm is only a reflection of the physical realm, and it shows. In Pakistan, the presence of women is restricted to specific areas in public and online spaces both. The habits and norms of the physical society are replicated within online spaces, so the abuse that women face is only made easier to spew from behind a device’s screen. Harassment faced online, however, has additional deep repercussions on the presence and identity of women physically. There is a certain element of danger that comes along with the ease of accessibility and broadcast that the internet provides. Perhaps the basic threat behind most forms of online harassment is that what a person considers the most personal and vulnerable aspect of themselves has the potential to be made public - and once information is on the internet, it is difficult to be optimistic about it not spreading like wildfire. The threat of possible public embarrassment and social condemnation leaves the victim with what they consider to be the easiest solution to the problem: backing away from the online world. That threat is sometimes powerful enough for them to partially withdraw from physical spaces such as schools, workplaces, markets and parks, even family gatherings, either taking the decision themselves to do so, or being forced by someone from within their family and/or friends.

But if there’s anything that the recent incidents of women (and men) coming out and speaking up against their harassers and abusers in the West has shown us, it is that there is no shame with being harassed when it is someone else who is committing a crime. Any forced ‘shame’ or ‘embarrassment’ that one is made to feel as a result of facing harassment can be overcome by the support and encouragement of everyone else. Drawing up a circle of support can encourage women to maintain their position in both the online and public spaces, instead of feeling like their only refuge is to wipe away their online identity.

A person who is harassed or abused in online and/or offline spaces often indulges in self-loathing and the guilt obscures their will to communicate with people and in expecting support from them. This self-blame results in more serious consequences stemming from psychological trauma. In such instances, the onus comes on people around the victim to extend support to them, and make use of the available sources of help starting from making sure the victim doesn't blame themselves for the abuse they were subjected to.

Author: Hyra Basit

November 28, 2017 - Comments Off on Why does a Feminist Internet matter?

Why does a Feminist Internet matter?

By the time you reach the middle of this post, users around the world will have generated a total of 466260 tweets, 3764940 Google search queries, and 157644120 emails. That is how much data is generated in one minute on the Internet.

Sit back and think about it for a moment.

The digital age is here, loud and clear. Cyberspace is rapidly expanding and becoming a key part of our lives. Distinctions between offline and online are beginning to blur, both at the individual level as well as the collective. What does this mean for those of us who are still working on the problems of the offline world, its millennia of discrimination and inequality, the many forms of oppression woven into the fabric of our social structures?

Digital spaces are rapidly changing and have the power to amplify our voices far beyond what was ever possible at any point in human history before. It can give a single image the power to catalyze a movement, or put a political candidate out of running with a data leak, or broadcast evidence of war crimes far and wide so their perpetrators cannot escape the moral outcry, or give oppressive regimes all-new tools with which to control and monitor citizens. The Internet is what we make it--which is why we must make it feminist. This must not be a tangential aim for our activism, a “nice to have” that can be dealt with later. If the world is going digital, we must be prepared to occupy digital space.

Based on this, we organized a session around feminist principles of the Internet earlier this year. Borrowing from the framework developed by APC, we outlined 5 key areas of change in the efforts to envision what a feminist Internet would look like. But Pakistan has its own unique circumstances, so we also looked at what a feminist internet means to us.

Access

We believe an Internet that is not accessible is not a feminist Internet. For all its importance, large pockets of the world as well as Pakistan have limited or contested access to the Internet. From socioeconomic factors to conflict and security concerns, the ease of connectivity is not available to many people. As the State shifts to a digitized model of public service, where many key functions are supplemented by or providing online whether through safety apps or vehicle trackers, does this mean these people are lesser citizens? Do they not have the same right to access and use technology?

Movements & Public Participation

The Internet’s most disruptive global impact so far has been its ability to circumvent, subvert, or even dismantle hegemonic models of governance, communication, and cultural dissemination. This is a trait worth protecting, through a struggle for net neutrality and refusal to cede space, as well as enhancing by adopting it as a powerful tool for civil resistance.

Economy

Traditional economies are saddled with traditional barriers to access and loopholes for discrimination. A feminist Internet must create and claim space for alternate economies, breaking down barriers to allow historically marginalized groups an equal chance at determining their own economic future and social mobility, and by ensuring that a fair return for digital labor is obtained. In this way, not only is a sustainable feminist economy developed, we successfully provide society a meaningful replacement to exploitative economic structures.

Expression

Because expression is pillar of both cultural growth as well as resistance, a feminist Internet must protect expression. We must utilize this medium to spread the message of liberation, while at the same time ensuring that censorship is not able to rebrand itself as false concern for public safety or morality. Moral panic must not be allow to drown out moral imperatives to promote justice.

Agency

Agency is a core tenet of struggles that seek the recognition of human rights and dignity for all people. Our understanding of technology and the dehumanizing effect it may sometimes produce must change; we must develop an ethics of compassion not just for those we see before us but also for those we only interact with behind a screen. Digital creator and digital user must not be seen as mutually exclusive--final authority and ownership of our digital lives must rest with our own selves.

Author: Fatima Athar

November 26, 2017 - Comments Off on Fake News in the Time of Censorship

Fake News in the Time of Censorship

In lieu of the ban on social media website across Pakistan, an information vacuum has emerged. While the situation in the country is quite alarming, we must guard against dissemination of misinformation and fake news, which can result in more panic and confusion than necessary.

A notification by the “Ministry of Interior Regulation” has been making the rounds, which states that all digital communications will be monitored by the government and those engaging in political and religious discourse will be subjected to punishment without due process. The message, distributed primarily through WhatsApp, has been reproduced below for reference:

Ministry of Interior Regulation

From tomorrow onwards there are new communication regulations.

All calls are recorded

All phone call recordings saved

WhatsApp is monitored

Twitter is monitored

Facebook is monitored

All social media and forums are monitored

Inform those who do not know.

Your devices are connected to ministry systems.

Take care not to send unnecessary messages

Inform your children, Relatives and friends about this to take care

Don't forward any posts or videos etc., you receive  regarding politics/present situation about Government/PM etc.

Police have put out a notification termed ..Cyber Crime ... and action will be taken...just delete ...

Inform your friends & others too.

Writing or forwarding any msg on any political & religious debate is an offence now....arrest without warrant...

This is very serious, plz let it be known to all our groups and individual members as group admin can b[e] in deep trouble.

Take care not to send unnecessary messages.
Inform everyone about this to take care.

Please share it; it's very much true.

FORWARDED AS RECEIVED


Firstly, it needs to be noted that there is there is no “Ministry of Interior Regulation” in Pakistan. The closest in name is the Ministry of Interior, which has not issued any notification on the subject as per its official and public communications. This message is verbatim copied from a
similar hoax in India, where a fake notification was circulated through WhatsApp earlier this year.

While the notification has no authenticity as it was not issued by any government authority, it is still important to counter the misinformation contained therein. The notification posits that “All calls are recorded”. There is no law in Pakistan that allows for mass surveillance of the contents of phone calls, even the most problematic of legislation such as the Fair Trial Act 2013 requires warrants to be obtained before calls can be intercepted, monitored, or saved. While there is a possibility of targeted intercepts, there is no evidence of mass interception of all telephonic calls in the country. Furthermore, even though the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 allows for retention of traffic data for up to one year (section 32: Retention of Traffic Data), this retention does not extend to the contents of communications. It is also important to note that the Constitution of Pakistan guarantees the right to privacy to all citizens under Article 14, and it is unlikely that mass surveillance and monitoring of communications will be deemed legal.

The message also claims that “WhatsApp is monitored”. All messages exchanged through WhatsApp are protected by end-to-end encryption, which means that third party interception and real-time monitoring is impossible. WhatsApp does not store any data on its servers. While there have been reports of backdoors and given the fact that it is owned by Facebook, the potential effects are quite limited and extremely unlikely to compromise communications at a mass level.

Writing or forwarding any msg on any political & religious debate is an offence now....arrest without warrant…

The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016, does not criminalize political or religious speech per se. Despite being broad and vaguely worded, the Act only criminalizes political speech in the event that it falls under the definitions of hate speech (section 11), cyber terrorism (section 10), glorification of an offence (section 9), defamation (section 20) or spoofing (section 26). Even in the event that speech qualifies as a crime under these sections, there is no provision for “arrest without warrant” given the protections of due process and criminal procedure for obtaining data and devices, as well as arrest and detention.

The message ends with a general warning: Don't forward any posts or videos etc., you receive  regarding politics/present situation about Government/PM etc.

Panic-inducing messages such as these have the effect of chilling speech and discourages citizens from engaging in political discourse.

While it is important to be cautious in our speech, especially when it comes to sensitive topics, it is imperative to still exercise the rights that we have as citizens and not give in to fear and panic. In times like these, we must be vigilant and cautious before sharing or forwarding any news or information and ensure that the news is from a verified and authentic source before distributing it.

Author: Shmyla Khan

November 26, 2017 - Comments Off on Press Release: DRF and NetBlocks find blanket and nation-wide ban on social media in Pakistan and demand it to be lifted immediately

Press Release: DRF and NetBlocks find blanket and nation-wide ban on social media in Pakistan and demand it to be lifted immediately

The NetBlocks https://netblocks.org internet shutdown observatory project in coordination with the Digital Rights Foundation https://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/ has collected evidence of nation-wide internet disruptions throughout Pakistan.
On the afternoon of Saturday 25 November, internet users reported disruptions affecting key social media platforms amid protests. The present investigation seeks to provide an early determination of the extent of those restrictions.
Between 16:00 pm and 11:00pm on 25th November 2017, measurements from 121 unique vantage points distributed through 16 ASNs (Autonomous System Numbers) covering major cities and regions in Pakistan were collected, geolocated and anonymised via the NetBlocks web probe measurement network.
Twitter and Facebook are currently restricted with mobile operators Mobilink, Zong, Telenor, Ufone and fixed providers PTCL, Witribe, Zong and Cybernet. Our data indicates that YouTube restrictions are only partially implemented, suggesting that many internet users in Pakistan will still be able to access the video streaming service. Availability of other services has not yet been investigated. A control set of international news websites remained reachable, indicating that the restrictions are targeted to suppress social media coverage of the unrest. The restrictions remain in effect at the time of writing.
A summary of the data is available in CSV format https://netblocks.org/files/netblocks-pk-25-11-2017.csv for examination and may be used with credit. This report is provided as an early indicator during an ongoing crisis situation; we expect our investigation to be supported by more detailed technical evaluation.

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Cities specifically found to be affected include Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Islamabad, Quetta and Peshawar while the data suggests the restrictions are in affect nationwide, save for a small number of outliers which appear remain able to access the services.
Digital Rights Foundation demands the suspension of the blanket and nation-wide ban on social media and channels of communication as it does not serve the principles of freedom of expression and proportionality. While the government can take measures to ensure the security of Pakistani citizens, it is important to strike a balance between censorship and security.


NetBlocks.org is a global network observatory that monitors Internet shutdowns, network disruptions, and cybersecurity incidents and their relation to politics and conflict in real-time.
Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) is a research and advocacy NGO based in Pakistan that focuses on how ICT can support human rights, democratic processes and digital governance. It works towards a world where all people, and especially women, are able to safely exercise their right of expression.

November 11, 2017 - Comments Off on October 2017: DRF drafts Policy Recommendation for the Data Protection Legislation

October 2017: DRF drafts Policy Recommendation for the Data Protection Legislation

DRF drafts Policy Recommendation for the Data Protection Legislation

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Jannat Ali Kalyar from Digital Rights Foundation prepared a policy brief regarding data protection and privacy in the digital age. The policy brief significantly expands the discussion on legal safeguards, the general lack of guidance on Privacy and the broad powers given to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) under the existing legal regime. Read the blog post here.

Malala attends Nighat Dad's talk at the Oxford University

Nighat Dad spoke at Oxford University on Navigating Social Media: Tackling Violence, abuse and Harassment” on November 2, 2017. Nighat was hosted by Oxford University Pakistan Society, and talked about why and how she felt the need to establish an organisation to raise the concerns that not only affect her as a woman but also to other millions of women in Pakistan - the issues that go back to the patriarchal roots the society is based on, and the issues that have been oppressing women for centuries.

The talk was attended by the students of the university, which also included the youngest Nobel Prize recipient, the amazing Malala Yousufzai. She applauded the efforts that DRF is doing to make online spaces safe for women, including the Cyber Harassment Helpline.

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Because the DRF team is focused on doing a lot of things, the limelight of the week was knowing that Malala has been following our work very closely and has been excited about the launch of the helpline as much as we were. It’s safe to say that we had a little celebration at the DRF office amidst the chaos.

Nighat Dad spoke at the Mozilla Festival 2017

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Nighat Dad was part of the diverse lineup of speakers advocating for digital rights around the world for this year’s MozFest. Nighat shared her frustration for being invited on yet another global festival and to speak about inspirational success stories on yet another stage in front of yet another group of people, and finally go back to the real life where people are still facing injustice, where women are still oppressed, where her understaffed Cyber Harassment Helpline team is exhausted while trying to provide relief to the victims of online abuse with limited resources, and while trying to make things a little better than they were before the event that she attended. She talked about how her mouth hurts now to be speaking at panels and conferences without having to see the situation getting better. Watch her full talk at MozFest here.

DRF submission on online violence against women to Human Rights Council

DRF submitted the report to the UN Special Rapporteur on online violence against women. The report explores the laws and institutions that are in place within Pakistan to deal with issues of online violence against women. Facts and figures are used to gauge the extent of the problem and its nature, relying on data provided by the government, law enforcement agencies and collected by DRF. A legal analysis of the legislation is accompanied by an appraisal of the implementation of the laws and the functioning of institutions on the ground. Reported judgments are also analysed to gauge jurisprudence (interpretations of the laws) as well as legal principles developed by local courts. The purpose of the report is not only to analyse the existing structures, but to situate them within the lived experiences of women facing online violence. This experience is elucidated through case studies as well as analysis done by DRF’s cyber harassment helpline team. The report can be accessed here.

DRF attended 5-day Digital Rights Camp in Indonesia

Hija Kamran from Digital Rights Foundation was part of a 5-day digital rights camp, COCONET, that took place from October 21 till 26, 2017 in Indonesia. The camp was organised in an informal setting and gathered 120 digital rights activists from South Asia and Southeast Asia, and aimed at discussing the state of digital rights from the region and encouraging collaboration and bringing everyone on one platform to promote well-being of the citizens beyond borders.

The intervention from the representative of DRF was largely based on curbing online gender based violence and the tools and approaches that have been and can be proven effective in the context of conservative societies.

What does a feminist internet look like?” at Books and Beans

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The panel discussion was facilitated by Maham Javed and included Sarah Eleazar along with Shmyla Khan and Nighat Dad of DRF. They discussed the issues that women faced online as well as a call to action to “fix” the internet and imagine it from a feminist framework. The event was organized by 'Well-connected women', a journalistic project about feminism and the internet in Pakistan, called.

STEMinists of Pakistan: How to Overcome Barriers in STEM fields”, 28 October 2017, British Council Library

In the panel DRF was represented by Shmyla Khan who highlighted the barriers that women face in STEM fields in Pakistan, such as equal progression/ equal pay, as well as local biases and stereotypes preventing women from taking up roles. The panelists shared strategies on how women can “make it” in fields related to science and technology, and shared their personal journeys.

Online Safety Session at Bahria University, Islamabad

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Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) conducted an awareness raising on the online safety of female students at Bahria University, Islamabad on 10th October, 2017. Participants included 85 female students from the Law, Media Studies and Social Sciences departments. The presentations given by the DRF team focused on cyber harassment laws and policies, the impact of harassment on women, DRF’s cyber harassment helpline, threat modelling, controlling access online and digital safety.

Awareness Raising Workshop at Forman Christian College, Lahore

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Digital Rights Foundation carried out an awareness raising workshop on November 1st, 2017 at Forman Christian College (A Chartered University) Lahore, with the collaboration of Women Empowerment Society and Forman Journalism Society. There were 72 number of female students from Journalism department. During the workshop several issues were discussed such as online violence against women, cyber harassment, cyber stalking, spear phishing attacks etc. Digital security team by DRF demonstrated on how to use digital devices safely and securely.

October 17, 2017 - Comments Off on Digital Rights Foundation in Hong Kong: Conversations on Data Protection, Gender, and Privacy

Digital Rights Foundation in Hong Kong: Conversations on Data Protection, Gender, and Privacy

Late last month, Digital Rights Foundation was in Hong Kong, taking part in two events concerning privacy - the 39th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (ICDPPC), and the 3rd Edition of the Privacy, Personality and Flows of Information (PPFI) workshop conference. DRF took part in a panel on Gender and Privacy in Asia at the PPFI workshop.

What is the ICDPPC & why did we go?

Inaugurated in 1979, the ICDPPC, according to Access Now, is a “forum which brings together a membership of 100 data protection authorities (DPAs) from more than 70 countries across the globe” with the decisions made at the forum being “influential” as “they shape data protection policy globally by providing guidance and tools for DPAs to fulfill their mandates.”

As we have highlighted through our advocacy campaigns and articles, Pakistan does not have data protection authorities or indeed data protection legislation, despite an overly broad cybercrime law - the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, passed in August 2016 - and a desire to be a new South Asian tech hub. DRF has been pushing for data protection provisions in the PECA both prior to and after its passage, to ensure that the private data of Pakistani citizens is protected. We went to Hong Kong to discern current global trends concerning data privacy, the nuances in a world where governments demand more surveillance and data retention powers, and what it all means for human rights, particularly in the Global South. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, the DPA for Hong Kong, hosted this year’s forum, with the theme “Connecting West with East in Protecting and Respecting Data Privacy.”

The ICDPPC being held in Hong Kong  is an interesting choice of location, given the Chinese government’s interest in bringing Hong Kong judiciary et al in line with Beijing, something that has given independence and civil rights activists and lawyers concern. Given that the Government of Pakistan has signed up to be part of CPEC, as well as Shenzen-based Huawei being given the contract for Pakistan’s ambitious Safe Cities project, Digital Rights Foundation and other rights organisations should share that concern as well with the citizens of Pakistan.

At the ICDPPC there were recurring conversations being held, including: Internet of Things (IoT), the impact of data collection by Facebook, et al on personal privacy across international borders, biotech, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR, to come into effect early 2018), and the evergreen concern of security versus privacy. There were calls by panelists at the ICDPPC to respect the necessity of strong encryption protocols, even in the face of calls by politicians for a loosening of encryption - e.g. the UK and US government calling for “backdoors” into encryption software and encrypted messengers such as WhatsApp.

Legislation as it stands in Pakistan does not permit encryption without prior permissions from and application to regulatory bodies, specifically the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority. Article 4 of the  2010 Monitoring and Reconciliation of Telephone Traffic Regulations (MTTR) requires that network operators allow for the monitoring and recording of real-time traffic both by and to be forwarded to the PTA. In July 2011 the PTA directed that encryption software and mechanisms that in its eyes contravene Article 4 of the MTTR to be banned. This condition of the PTA - which technically means that WhatsApp is some ways prohibited, yet widely used in Pakistan - is also one that a proposed digital protection authority and legislation in Pakistan may come up against, which in in turn is why the latter two are necessary, more now than ever.

What DRF hoped to see was more civil society involvement at the ICDPPC, with their concerns taken onboard. While there were civil society panelists - such as DRF partner Privacy International - the role of civil society in the development and larger discussions by the DPAs did not appear to be a large one.

About PPFI

Following the ICDPPC, DRF took part in the 3rd Edition of the Privacy, Personality and Flows of Information (PPFI) workshop conference, co-organised by the Office of the UN Special Rapporteur, Digital Asia Hub, and the University of Hong Kong. The workshop focused on Asian perspectives for privacy as a global human right, with us taking part in a panel that focused on Gender and Privacy in Asia.

An interesting observation by other participants - which also factored into our involvement on the panel - was the recurring trend of “honour” or “shame” being at the heard of privacy violation in Asian societies. A number of Asian countries, including Pakistan, do not have a word that directly translates into “privacy”, with some, such as Pakistan having synonyms for “personal”, which is telling in of itself.

DRF discussed what we observed through our training sessions and via our cyber harassment helpline, wherein the theft (and in some cases manipulation) of personal data would lead to young women being blackmailed, or else the perpetrators threatened to release their personal information to their families. It is the the fear of the latter, and how the family may react, that leads many victims to not come forward. When or if they do, however, there has been noticeable victim-blaming, even by officers of government authorities such as the Federal Investigation Agency, leading to further discouragement and disillusionment.

A key focus of our panel participation was the tragic case study of Qandeel Baloch, the Pakistani social media personality, on whom the Guardian had recently released a short documentary earlier last month. We highlighted that overarching patriarchal sensitivity and misogynist attitudes led to her personal information - her Pakistani passport and national ID card - being broadcast by media outlets, and journalists - some of whom whose own privacy had been attacked by the government - tweeting out her personal details. These directly led to her murder by her brother. What happened to Qandeel Baloch was, for lack of a better word, a perfect case study for the need for data protection legislation in Pakistan.

Written by Adnan Chaudhri