March 25, 2021 - Comments Off on February 2021 Newsletter: Understanding the Cyber Harassment Landscape during the COVID-19 Pandemic

February 2021 Newsletter: Understanding the Cyber Harassment Landscape during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Online Campaigns and Initiatives:

#SaferInternetDay: Understanding the Cyber Harassment Landscape

https://twitter.com/DigitalRightsPK/status/1359767913637502976?s=20

As part of the Digital Rights Foundation’s “Humara Internet Curriculum” for young adults, to mark #SaferInternetDay the cyber harassment landscape and its various actors were discussed in great length, especially in the context of online violence manifesting into the physical realm targeting women.

Mapping Gender-based violence in Pakistan:

https://twitter.com/DigitalRightsPK/status/1360197036507877377?s=20

One of the key initiatives by the Digital Rights Foundation in 2020 was to start mapping violence against women in an open database, to show that violence against women is not a one-off occurrence but a systemic problem in the country. The database can be accessed here: bit.ly/3nW9H1W

Policy Initiatives:

Cyber Harassment during the COVID-19 pandemic in Pakistan

In collaboration with UN Women, the Digital Rights Foundation published a policy brief on “Cyber Harassment during the COVID-19 pandemic in Pakistan”, unpacking the surge in cyber harassment during the pandemic, followed by a series of policy recommendations on how these issues can be dealt with. Read the policy brief here: https://bit.ly/3bzmcMj

Cyber Harassment Helpline Annual Report (2020)

The Digital Rights Foundation published its Cyber Harassment Helpline Annual Report, giving an insight into the severity of cyber harassment during the pandemic, and urging users to take ownership of digital spaces, to ensure that these spaces are equal and safe for all. The report highlighted that in 2020, a total of 3298 cases were reported on the helpline, which constitutes a 70% increase from the tally in 2019.

You can read the report here: https://bit.ly/3jX6SNa

 

Self-help Toolkit on Mental Health

This past year has had a horrible impact on all of our mental health, as the COVID 19 pandemic posed a wide array of challenges and pressures. In collaboration with UN Women, the Digital Rights Foundation developed a 'Self Help' Toolkit, which highlighted common stresses people feel, as well as signs that you might be burned out, and how you achieve a healthy work-life balance. Read it here: https://bit.ly/2NAsmDG

DRF issues statement on UN’s commitment to highlight the importance of the right to privacy:

The Digital Rights Foundation issued a statement on the United Nations General Assembly which reemphasizes the UN’s commitment to highlight the importance of the right to privacy. The resolution affirms the right to privacy as mentioned in previous international covenants and conventions. Read our full statement here: https://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/drf-statement-on-un-resolution-on-right-to-privacy-16-12-20/

Media Coverage:

Nighat Dad shares her thoughts on content moderation and privacy to IFEX:

In a statement to IFEX, Nighat Dad reaffirmed that content moderation is becoming “one of the most important & contentious issues of our times,” noting that the privatisation of decision-making often overlooks the demands and needs of users outside the west.

https://twitter.com/IFEX/status/1364616094993022978?s=20

Nighat Dad on 92 News talking about DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline:

Nighat Dad, the Executive Director of the Digital Rights Foundation, spoke with 92 News about the Cyber Harassment Helpline, and shared an important message about data and how we need to be careful about sharing it with others. You can read the report here: https://bit.ly/3jX6SNa

https://twitter.com/DigitalRightsPK/status/1364523151430873088?s=20

Interview with Geo News about DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline:

Our Cyber Harassment Helpline Manager, Jannat, spoke with Geo News about our helpline reports and talked through some potential reasons for the surge we saw in complaints during COVID 19 lockdowns.

https://twitter.com/DigitalRightsPK/status/1365247336574763009?s=20

Interview with PTV News on Cyber Harassment Helpline:

The Cyber Harassment Helplines' Project Manager, Jannat, spoke with PTV news about the work she and her team does, as well as going through the types of cases they receive and deal with on a daily basis.

https://twitter.com/DigitalRightsPK/status/1364167860382130178?s=20

Events and Sessions:

Nighat Dad featured at WINGS Forum 2021, discussing Philanthropy and the Digital Revolution:

Nighat Dad, Executive Director of the Digital Rights Foundation, was featured at the WINGS Forum 2021 (virtual seminar series), where alongside a diverse group of speakers, she spoke about philanthropy and the digital revolution, and highlighted the importance of upholding privacy and user protection in digital spaces.

https://twitter.com/wings_info/status/1359100892369281030?s=20

Taking Charge of your digital identity: understanding digital rights

DRF collaborated with the Goethe-Institut Pakistan to conduct a virtual session with young students regarding the importance of digital rights, i.e. freedom of expression, privacy, right to information. The session was an interactive one and students got to do activities through real-work examples during the workshop as well.

Tweet Chat: Imagining a Safer Internet

In this Tweet Chat, participants discussed what the framework of a safer digital environment would look like, and the fundamental tenets of what made the internet an equitable space for all in the first place.

https://twitter.com/DigitalRightsPK/status/1361269212816285697?s=20

Tweet Chat: Privacy in Pakistan, Ghar Sey Kanoon Tak

In this Tweet Chat, DRF team members spoke about all matters pertaining to privacy in Pakistan, from the household level to legal discussions around data and privacy in the country.

https://twitter.com/DigitalRightsPK/status/1356921417447731201?s=20

COVID-19 Updates:

Cyber Harassment Helpline:

Cyber harassment helpline is now available 5 days a week from 9 am to 5 pm through its toll free number and social media platforms. You can contact the helpline on 080039393 or email us at [email protected] between 9 am to 5 pm (monday - friday).

Ab Aur Nahin:

In times of COVID19 domestic abuse is at an all time high where victims do not have anywhere to go. Ab Aur Nahin is a confidential legal and counselor support service specifically designed for victims of harassment and abuse. www.abaurnahin.pk

IWF Portal:

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

February 15, 2021 - Comments Off on January 2021 Newsletter: DRF Conducted Advocacy Campaign on WhatApp’s New Privacy Policy

January 2021 Newsletter: DRF Conducted Advocacy Campaign on WhatApp’s New Privacy Policy

Online Campaigns and Initiatives

Whatsapp New Policy

1


WhatsApp's new privacy policy has been met with a lot of criticism online, and rightfully so. WhatsApp is essentially forcing users to share their data with Facebook, otherwise they will not be able to use WhatsApp. #WhatsappNewPolicy

#WhyIsDataPrivacyDayImportant

DRF conducted a social media advocacy campaign on this year’s International Data Privacy Day which is observed on the 28th of January. The campaign involved videos covering the basics of what is data and privacy, as well as guest videos from noted rights activists and digital landscape stakeholders such as Anum Malkani of CERP, Usama Khilji of Bolo Bhi and former Senator Farhatullah Babar. The campaign ran for a week and was concluded on the 3rd of February with a Tweetchat with DRF’s Project Managers and Directors having a discussion on how privacy informs their work and what a model data privacy law would look like, from their perspective.

Policy Initiatives

Justice Ayesha Malik passes judgement on the ‘two-finger test’

Justice Ayesha Malik passed a judgement in the Lahore High Court today outlawing the ‘two finger test’ and hymen testing of female victims of sexual violence. This is a monumental judgement in the arena of women’s rights in Pakistan.

 

 

DRF in collaboration with FNF launches the Hamara Internet Young Adults Curriculum on Online Safety

Online Safety of Young Adults Curriculum aims to help students and young people develop a better understanding of how the online world operates, particularly since Coronavirus (COVID19) has restricted us to our homes and shifted most of our work to the digital spaces.

https://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/2020-11-11_DRF-Curriculum-1.pdf

https://tribune.com.pk/story/2281554/digital-rights-foundation-launches-cirriculum-on-online-safety

https://www.phoneworld.com.pk/digital-rights-foundation-introduces-online-safety-curriculum/
Helpline January Stats:

Cyber Harassment Helpline received 257 complaints in the month of January. It shows that there is a trend  in the cases of online violence especially blackmailing through non consensual use of information and images. Another observed trend is of social engineering through which people are coerced into sharing their personal details like National Identity Card number, WhatsApp code, bank account details and, e-wallet details making them susceptible to hacking and financial fraud.

Media Coverage

Nighat Dad on Arab News sharing how Signal, Telegram and Wire are more privacy friendly

In an interview with Arab News, Nighat Dad discussed how platforms such as Signal, Telegram and Wire are more “privacy friendly”, while also highlighting the privacy concerns around WhatsApp and its potential implications.

Nighat Dad on 7 News talking about the new Whatsapp Policy

In an interview on 7 News, Nighat Dad discussed the implications of the new WhatsApp privacy policy, what interventions can be made to enhance the privacy of users, and how platforms such as Signal, Telegram and Wire offer more in terms of privacy and security.

Nighat Dad on GNN talking about the new Whatsapp Policy

In an interview on GNN, Nighat Dad provided insights on whether Pakistan can formulate a better legislative framework for privacy and digital security, in addition to discussing the implications of WhatsApp’s new privacy policy and how it could compromise the privacy of its users.

DRF’s Nighat Dad shares her thoughts on Whatsapp’s data policy

In an interview with Samaa News, Nighat Dad discussed how WhatsApp’s clarification on its new data-sharing policy is not convincing enough, and it leaves a lot of questions to be answered on how the platform can protect the digital security and privacy of its users.

WhatsApp clarification on data-sharing unconvincing, says Pakistani digital rights activist

DRF’s Nighat Dad’s thoughts on Whatsapp alternative to be launched

In an interview for Bol News, Nighat Dad discussed the news around an alternative for WhatsApp to be launched specifically in Pakistan, and its potential implications on privacy and digital security in Pakistan.

DRF’s Nighat Dad’s shares her thoughts on Breaking Laws on TikTok

In an article for Vice News, Nighat Dad shared her thoughts on how individuals are sharing legally questionable content on TikTok, especially pertaining to firearms, stating that it is important for the platform to have clear and accessible messaging about safety.

https://www.vice.com/en/article/g5bkb3/we-asked-people-who-film-themselves-breaking-laws-on-tiktok-why

واٹس ایپ پرائیویسی پالیسی پر پاکستان میں تشویش، ڈیٹا پروٹیکشن قانون مسئلے کا حل ہے؟

As quoted by Voice of America Urdu, Nighat Dad articulates the need for a comprehensive data protection policy by the government, to protect the interests of domestic users, especially in light of WhatsApp’s change in privacy policy.

https://dour21.global.ssl.fastly.net/a/whatsapp-privacy-and-reservations-of-pakistani-users-12jan2021/5734308.html

واٹس ایپ کی نئی پالیسی: سگنل اور ٹیلی گرام کے ڈاؤن لوڈز میں تیزی سے اضافہ، واٹس ایپ کے لیے خطرے کی گھنٹی؟

As quoted by BBC Urdu, Nighat Dad gives a comprehensive insight into what WhatsApp’s privacy policy changes entail, and what alternative measures are available to protect the privacy and digital security of users in Pakistan.

https://www.bbc.com/urdu/world-55636664?at_custom4=EE55E7CA-54F4-11EB-8DC3-69004844363C&at_custom1=%5Bpost+type%5D&at_campaign=64&at_custom2=twitter&at_custom3=BBC+Urdu&at_medium=custom7

سائبر سیکیورٹی: دورِ حاضر کی اشد ضرورت

In an interview with Daily Jang, Nighat Dad explains what constitutes digital security, and how in light of WhatsApp's privacy policy changes, Pakistani users can protect their privacy online.

https://jang.com.pk/news/873829

Virginity tests for female rape survivors outlawed by Pakistani court

In an interview with The Guardian, Nighat Dad discussed the recent outlawing of virginity tests for female rape survivors in Pakistan, citing it as the culmination of a history of activism and built on the hard work that the feminist movement has been engaging in for decades.

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/jan/06/virginity-tests-for-female-survivors-outlawed-by-pakistani-court

Strong data protection law under study

In an interview with Dawn, Nighat Dad discussed the government’s intention to formulate stronger data protection laws in the country, which could be as draconian as the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), which compromises personal data of users.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1600877

Cybercrime peaked during lockdown- will 2021 be any different?

In an article published on Geo News, Nighat Dad discusses the Digital Rights Foundation’s cybercrime statistics during lockdown, and gives an insight into how incidences of online harassment and abuse increased during the pandemic.

https://www.geo.tv/latest/327267-quick-recap-how-was-2020-for-pakistans-cyberspace-and-what-to-expect-from-the-year-ahead

Source Fact Check

In the aftermath of the unfounded allegations pertaining to embezzlement of foreign funds being levied against Nighat Dad, this article renders these allegations to be false and defamatory in nature.

https://www.sochfactcheck.com/interior-ministry-complaint-alleging-nighat-dads-misuse-of-digital-rights-foundation-funds-is-misleading/

Mehwish Batool wins competition with her pitch on combating COVID19: A situation analysis

In an insightful report published by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, and written by Mehwish Batool, Pakistan’s response to Covid-19 related fake news is discussed, and what can be done to contain the spread of this era of disinfodemic in the wake of the second wave.

https://www.freiheit.org/consent?dest=%2Fpakistan%2Fcombatting-covid19-disinfodemic-situation-analysis-pakistan

https://twitter.com/FNFPakistan/status/1354743309277790209?s=20

Events and Sessions

Nighat Dad speak on Shaping Empowered Societies at World Economic Forum

In a panel interview at the World Economic Forum, Nighat Dad discussed what policies, practices and partnerships are needed to empower individuals, communities and society to unlock the value of data.

https://www.weforum.org/events/the-davos-agenda-2021/sessions/shaping-empowered-data-societies

Nighat Dad speaks to the German ambassador to Pakistan about women rights and online freedom of expression

In a meeting with Bernard Schlagheck, German Ambassador to Pakistan, Nighat Dad had a detailed discussion on the state of women rights and online freedom of expression in the country, and what barriers prevent these liberties from being extended effectively.

DRF conducts Two Day Training of Punjab Women Protection Authority’s Gender Based Violence Helpline

DRF conducted a two-day training workshop Punjab Women Protection Authority’s Gender Based Violence Helpline in collaboration with Dastak. The training included gender-sensitisation, fostering a human rights approach and victim-centric approach to cases, knowledge about laws dealing with gender-based violence and tackling mental health issues.

Digital Rights Litigation and Advocacy and Nigeria: How we have fared?

The Struggle Against Gender-Based Violence and the way forward

In a panel discussion organised by the University of Central Punjab on Gender Based Violence, Nighat Dad gave an insight into various policy interventions that could be made to protect women being subjected to violence, and to prevent that violence from perpetuating in society.

Digital Security during COVID and Beyond Human Rights

On the 25th and 27th of January, an online session was conducted by the Digital Rights Foundation. This online session specifically focused on human rights defenders, especially those from minority communities, and how they can navigate through online spaces in a safe and effective manner.

Digital safety training

Training on digital safety tools and laws regarding online spaces was conducted with members of minority groups and human rights defenders. It was conducted on 22nd January 2020. The workshop aimed to build the capacity of the participants in knowledge of basic tools, hands-on training of the tools, knowledge and applicability of the laws that apply to the digital spaces and how an individual can continue using digital spaces safely and effectively.

Panel discussion on Digital Rights and Advocacy with University of Karachi

This seminar hosted by University of Karachi explored issues of privacy and digital rights in Pakistan through Facebook Live. The panelists focused on the digital threats journalists, women and activists face in online spaces.

Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board: Soch, Youth Weekend Camp

Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board for Central Region (AKYSB) organized a two day camp for students aged 15-17 years. The camp included a session on cyberbullying and digital safety for students to equip them with the technical and soft skills to keep themselves safe while using the virtual platforms.

Goethe-Institut Pakistan Webinar: Taking charge of your online identity

DRF conducted a seminar for children from the age of 14 - 16 year-old students on understanding online threats faced by young students on social media. The students were given information about keeping themselves safe online.

COVID-19 Updates

Cyber Harassment Helpline

Cyber harassment helpline is now available 5 days a week from 9 am to 5 pm through its toll free number and social media platforms. You can contact the helpline on 080039393 or email us at [email protected] between 9 am to 5 pm (monday - friday).

Ab Aur Nahin

In times of COVID19 domestic abuse is at an all time high where victims do not have anywhere to go. Ab Aur Nahin is a confidential legal and counselor support service specifically designed for victims of harassment and abuse. www.abaurnahin.pk

IWF Portal

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

February 8, 2021 - Comments Off on DRF Statement on UN Resolution On Right To Privacy (16-12-20)

DRF Statement on UN Resolution On Right To Privacy (16-12-20)

The Digital Rights Foundation is excited by the resolution recently adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on the 16th of December, 2020, which reemphasizes the UN’s commitment to highlight the importance of the right to privacy.

The Resolution (75/176) adopted during the 75th session of the Assembly, while noting the Special Rapporteur reports of the Human Rights council on the subjects of right to privacy, freedom of expression and association as well as the UN Secretary General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation and a myriad of other factors. The resolution:

  1. Affirms the right to privacy as set out in Article 12 of the UDHR and Article 17 of ICCPR.
  2. Recognizes the paramount importance of the Internet as a tool to connect people and also aid in achieving Sustainable Development Goals.
  3. Affirms that the right to privacy must be translated into online spaces as well as offline.
  4. Asks the States to employ principles of legality, necessity and proportionality in any curtailment or limitation of citizens’ right to privacy.
  5. Encourages States to promote an environment of open and secure technology, based on respect for international law.
  6. Acknowledges impact of artificial intelligence on right to privacy and asks for such risks to be minimized and safe and high quality data infrastructures to be built with human oversight.

The document also involves a call addressed specifically to States, especially those signatory to the UDHR and ICCPR and also to business enterprises involved in the storage and processing of data that we will unpack in further posts.

We, as an organization invested in creating a safer internet for women and children and all people, welcome this Resolution and see it for the important step that it is towards achieving a breathable and secure digital age for all netizens.

January 18, 2021 - Comments Off on December 2020 Newsletter: DRF shares statistics around Instances of gender based violence in Pakistan for the #16DaysOfActivism campaign

December 2020 Newsletter: DRF shares statistics around Instances of gender based violence in Pakistan for the #16DaysOfActivism campaign

Online Campaigns and Initiatives

16 Days of Activism


#16DaysOfActivism is an annual, international campaign against gender based violence. This campaign is spearheaded by the UN. This year’s theme revolved about online gender based violence, and DRF’s campaign highlighted the disturbing trend towards online violence in Pakistan, and has also laid out interventions, and solutions to this problem.

 

Instances of gender based violence in Pakistan

During the 16 days of activism campaign DRF also recorded the cases of violence against women, minoors and transgenders in the country. 190 incidents of violence took place in the country since the horrific motorway case.

SahafatAurSachayi

DRF, Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) and Freedom Press Unlimited (FPU) launched a mini web series on the infodemic in times of COVID19. The #SahafatAurSachayi series focused on different aspects of fake news in times of the pandemic and what must we do in order to counter misinformation and disinformation online.

The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016

DRF started an online campaign with the hashtag PECA 2016 in which the current state of digital rights in the country were discussed in detail. The campaign highlighted how legislation around digital rights has changed and the ways in which this legislation is giving irrevocable power to state institutions.

Policy Initiatives

Social Media Rules threaten the internet

DRF, in a campaign around the new social media rules, highlighted how these new set of rules will threaten the internet and digital rights in the country. DRF along with other digital rights organisations in the country have been opposing these rules and highlighting their draconian implications if implemented.

 

Digital Detox and Self Care

2020 has been a difficult year for journalists and rights activists due to which DRF published it’s toolkit on digital detox and self care. The toolkit highlights how a digital cleanse is important and and the need to address burnout and fatigue.

Link to digital detox and self care of journalists and rights activists:

https://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Annex-6-Digital-Detox-Self-Care-1.pdf

Wiki Gap challenge results

DRF with a collaboration with the embassy of Sweden, Media matters for democracy and UN women announced the winners of the WIKIGAP challenge in Pakistan. In one month editors from across Pakistan created and translated 400+ articles of Pakistani women.

Media Coverage

Objectionable trends on Twitter, Urdu News:

In an article on Urdu News, Nighat Dad discusses the perpetuation of objectionable Twitter trends, especially those targeting female public figures, and how it has a negative impact on political discourse.

https://www.urdunews.com/node/524006

Too many apps can spoil online learning, The Express Tribune:

https://tribune.com.pk/story/2275239/too-many-apps-can-spoil-online-learning

In an interview with the Associated Press Pakistan and the Express Tribune, Nighat Dad discusses the potential of educational or learning apps for young students, stating that they can prove to be a good accessory to formal learning rather than a total substitute for it.

Has social media regulation increased in Pakistan? - Aaj News

In an interview with Aaj News, Nighat Dad discusses the ramifications of increased social media regulations and monitoring in Pakistan, especially in terms of the right to privacy and expression of the millions of users across the country.

Combatting the COVID19 Disinfodemic: A situation analysis for Pakistan - Mehwish Batool

In this report, written by Mehwish Batool, Pakistan’s response to COVID-19 related fake news and the spread of the disinfodemic were discussed in detail, in addition to making numerous policy interventions to circumvent this problem.

Combatting the COVID19 Disinfodemic: A situation analysis for Pakistan

Nighat Dad Interview with Kiran Butt (Capital TV):

In an exclusive interview with Capital TV, on “What’s the Buzz” with Kiran Butt, Nighat Dad discusses the impact of the new online harm rules and social media regulations on content creators, journalists and influencers.

Events and Sessions

Nighat Dad at Asia21 Summit ‘ Digital Security Issues in South Asia in the era of Pandemic’

In a policy roundtable for the Asia21 Summit, Nighat Dad discusses the state of Pakistan’s online regulations and its potential policy implications for the governance of digital spaces.

Nighat Dad at panel discussion on “End Violence Against Women and Girls” by Oxfam

In a collaborative event for Oxfam, on ‘End Violence Against Women and Girls’, Nighat Dad advocated for the protection of the Freedom of Speech and Media Freedom for journalists, in both online and offline spaces, and the protection of women from violence in all of its manifestations.

Looking Inward: 2020, and the way forward - tweetchat

In a Tweet Chat with the Digital Rights Foundations’ key project managers, innovative and modern solutions to digital rights issues were discussed, under the ambit of the ongoing global pandemic.

Nighat Dad’s Live session on 16 days of activism against gender based violence with the US consulate

DRF’s Nighat Dad spoke in a live session on 8th December on account of the 16 days of activism against gender based violence. Nighat focused on online violence and digital safety of individuals and why it's important to keep one's privacy settings strong.

Nighat Dad at NDI’s #ChangingTheFaceOfPolitics podcast series

In a podcast for the National Democratic Forum’s Changing the Face of Politics series, Nighat Dad discussed the opportunities and barriers of the digital space for politically-active women, and her experience as an activist fighting for women’s rights in Pakistan. (https://www.ndi.org/changing-face-politics-podcast)

A lecture on cyber harassment: UCP Law Society

In a lecture on cyber harassment for the UCP Law Society and the UCP ACM Student Chapter, Nighat Dad discusses the importance of identifying instances of cyber harassment, and creating legal safeguards for women and minority communities facing threats of violence in online spaces - and how they can often manifest into threats of violence in the physical world.

Mentoring for Civic Hackathon 2020 hosted by Code for Pakistan

DRF took part in mentoring for Code for Pakistan’s Civic Hackathon in December. Team member Shmyla Khan mentored young students and entrepreneurs on apps dealing with public safety, particularly women’s safety.

Rapid Fire Chat: “Feminist Superstars, Smashing the Patriarchy”

In a panel discussion for the Rapid Fire Chat series, Nighat Dad discusses the role of women in Pakistani society, and how the glass ceiling can be shattered by empowered women and a reversal of predetermined patriarchal gender roles.

Nighat Dad Panel Interview with UN Women on “Online Violence Against Women in Asia - A multi country study”

In a panel discussion with UN Women on “Online Violence Against Women in Asia”, Nighat Dad discussed the implications of a lack of safety for women in online spaces, and its potential ramifications in the offline world.

Nighat Dad Panel Interview with UN Women, DoctHERs: Online Safety for Healthcare Workers

In a panel discussion on the “Online Safety for Healthcare Workers”, Nighat Dad articulated the importance of digital security and online safety, especially in the midst of a global pandemic.

Responsible media is key for responding to violence against women and the COVID-19 Pandemic

In a webinar with GNMI, Nighat Dad discusses the role of ethical and responsible journalism in tackling issues pertaining to violence against women, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic - with a diverse panel including senior journalists, human rights defenders and parliamentarians.

COVID-19 Updates

Cyber Harassment Helpline

Cyber harassment helpline is now available 5 days a week from 9 am to 5 pm through its toll free number and social media platforms.

You can contact the helpline on 080039393 or email us at [email protected] between 9 am to 5 pm (monday - friday).
Ab Aur Nahin

In times of COVID19 domestic abuse is at an all time high where victims do not have anywhere to go. Ab Aur Nahin is a confidential legal and counselor support service specifically designed for victims of harassment and abuse.

www.abaurnahin.pk

IWF Portal

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

www.report.iwf.org.uk/pk

December 21, 2020 - Comments Off on November 2020 Newsletter: DRF marks the 16 days of activism on violence against women

November 2020 Newsletter: DRF marks the 16 days of activism on violence against women

Online Campaigns and Initiatives

Digital 50.50 Gender and Privacy

The fourth edition of the Digital 50.50 was launched in November which focused on gender and privacy in digital spaces. The edition covered different aspects on the intersection of gender and privacy in the digital spaces, including privacy of journalists online, how women are constantly watched and how it impacts their behaviour in online spaces, how discussion have shifted from national security to morality and the spate in banning of apps and content under this pretext. The magazine can be accessed here

 

#Orangetheworld #16days

#16DaysOfActivism is an annual, international campaign against gender based violence. This campaign is spearheaded by the UN. This year’s theme revolved about online gender based violence, and DRF’s campaign highlighted the disturbing trend towards online violence in Pakistan, and has also laid out interventions, and solutions to this problem.

Maru Website and DRF collaboration on 16days

Feminist Movements Go Online: Imagining Feminist Futures Online

Launch of second edition of ezine “Feminist Movements Go Online: Imagining Feminist Futures Online” on November 6th. In this edition the contributors looked at the internet and its role in movements from a critical lens in order to help develop possible futures of women and gender minorities on the internet. The launch was marked with a webinar with all the contributors on Facebook Live that can be accessed here.

The ezine can be assessed here.

#PrivacyIsARight #BeCyberSmart

As part of Digital Safety month, the DRF team developed the ABCs of Cyber Security that was shared during this entire month. The aim was to spread general awareness about digital safety issues as well as how to keep oneself safe from these common threats, and what to do if and when you become a target.

#UnmaskTheTruth #StopSilencingJournalists #stopviolenceagainstwomen

On November 2, to commemorate the International Day to End Impunity Against Journalists, Digital Rights Foundation conducted an online campaign. On the day, at 3 pm, DRF team observed silence for a minute to pay tribute to all the journalists who were killed for reporting the news and bringing accurate information to the masses. Impunity leads to more killings and is a breakdown of law and the judicial system. The campaign material was uploaded with the hashtags #TruthNeverDies, #EndImpunity, #SahafatJurmNahe (Journalism is not a crime). We also reiterated and reminded everyone that we have not forgotten Shaheena's brutal murder. It was a grim reminder that women journalists face innumerable barriers and threats on the basis of their gender. On #EndImpunity Day for crimes against journalists, the NWJDR shared their statement again to reiterate the demands.

#SahafatAurSachayi by FPU and FNF

DRF, Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) and Freedom Press Unlimited (FPU) launched a mini web series on the infodemic in times of COVID19. The #SahafatAurSachayi series focused on different aspects of fake news in times of the pandemic and what must we do in order to counter misinformation and disinformation online.

#ActivismInPandemic

DRF has launched the #ActivismInPandemic campaign highlighting the important work of human rights defenders and journalists have been doing during COVID19. The campaign aims to share experiences of journalists and HRDs during the pandemic and also highlight the importance of managing work and stress during these testing times.

Policy Initiatives

Legal Analysis - Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules, 2020:

https://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Removal-and-Blocking-of-Unlawful-Online-Content-Procedure-Oversight-and-Safeguards-Rules-2020_-Legal-Analysis.pdf

Digital Rights Foundation is gravely concerned by the the Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards), Rules 2020:

https://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/digital-rights-foundation-is-gravely-concerned-by-the-the-removal-and-blocking-of-unlawful-online-content-procedure-oversight-and-safeguards-rules-2020/

DRF published it’s policy brief on the ‘Impact and Legality of Surveillance’:

This policy brief, prepared by the Digital Rights Foundation, discusses the issue of the constitutionality and social impact of surveillance, particularly from a human rights perspective, and its impact on democratic freedoms.

https://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Impact-and-Legality-of-Surveillance-Final-Document-14.10.2020-1.pdf

Gender-based violence cases in Pakistan

As part of a study by the Digital Rights Foundation, a mapping exercise of gender-based violence cases since the Motorway Incident has revealed that in 64 days 123 cases of rape and gang rape have been reported across Pakistan.

Addressing Online Attacks on Women Journalists in Pakistan

This policy brief aims to discuss the increased incidence of online violence and targeted harassment against female journalists, and its implications on freedom of speech and dissent.

https://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Policy-1.pdf

Punjab Police Women Safety App

In a policy brief examining the Punjab Police Women Safety App, as an organization working on tech and gender for a number of years, the Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) sees the approach and the application both as wholly inadequate for tackling the issue of gender-based violence in the country.

https://twitter.com/DigitalRightsPK/status/1326510045048287232?s=20

250 recommendations on how to stop infodemics

In collaboration with the Forum on Information and Democracy, and based on more than 100 contributions from international experts, the Digital Rights Foundation offered 250 recommendations on how to rein in a phenomenon that threatens democracies and human rights, including the right to health.

Cyber Harassment Helpline October Statistics

Cyber Harassment Helpline received 235 complaints in the month of October. It shows the trend of online violence especially blackmailing through non consensual use of information and images has sustained. Another observed trend is of social engineering through which people are coerced into sharing their personal details like National Identity Card number, WhatsApp code, bank account details and, e-wallet details making them susceptible to hacking and financial fraud. Majority of the complainants were females (68%) belonging to Punjab (Lahore) and other cities without the FIA cybercrime office.

Media Coverage

Wired Article

In an article for ‘Wired UK’, Nighat Dad discusses the state of Internet Freedom in 2020 and beyond, stating that “In 2021 we will have to acknowledge that the internet is not the free space it was originally envisaged to be".

New Cyber Laws in Pakistan- What’s the buzz with Kiran Butt’ on Capital TV

In an exclusive interview with Capital TV, on “What’s the Buzz” with Kiran Butt, Nighat Dad discusses the impact of the new online harm rules and social media regulations on content creators, journalists and influencers.

IFEX Article

In an article for IFEX, Nighat Dad discusses the origins of the Digital Rights Foundation, and her pursuit in establishing safer online spaces for women.

Events and Sessions

UNESCO event on End Impunity Against Journalists in Islamabad

In a collaborative event for UNESCO Islamabad and the Swedish Embassy in Pakistan, marking the ‘End Impunity Day’ for Crimes and Journalists, Nighat Dad advocated for the protection of the Freedom of Speech and Media Freedom for journalists, in both online and offline spaces.

Changing the Face of Politics Podcast

In an interview with Mimoza Kusari-Lila, member of the Kosovo Parliament, for the ‘Changing the Face of Politics Podcast, Nighat Dad discusses the parliamentarian’s journey to political office, and the obstacles she faced on her journey.

Digital Rights Popup Forum

An estimated billion users are coming online for the first time. Yet little is understood about this market, which faces acute privacy, security and access challenges that threaten their ability to equitably connect. In a panel discussion for Internetdagarna Digital Rights Popup Forum, Nighat Dad discusses the “State of Internet Freedom Around the World: Protecting the Next Billion and the Global Soul”.

https://internetdagarna.se/program/digital-rights-popup-forum/

Launch webinar: “Feminist Movements Go Online: Imagining Feminist Futures Online”

DRF conducted a live webinar with some of the contributors of its ezine, Ajwah Nadeem, Sarah Shamim and Umaima Ahmed on Facebook that can be accessed here.

In a panel discussion for Hafiza Merkesi (the Truth Justice Memory Center), Nighat Dad discussed internet freedom and the incidence of cyber harassment against women in online spaces.

Broken Rules? Pakistan’s Online Regulations

In a policy roundtable for Tabadlab, Nighat Dad discusses the state of Pakistan’s online regulations and its potential policy implications.

Rapid Fire Chat Series

Rapid Fire on it’s an infodemic

Arslan Ather along with Laiba and Manal Khan, we discussed the prevalence of misinformation during the pandemic and otherwise too. Our panelists gave great and witty answers to our rapid-fire questions, while also giving us some important insight into how journalists have been working with this ‘infodemic’.

Rapid Fire Chat on #InternationalMensDay

DRF conducted its series of Rapid Fire Chats with digital rights activist Hija Kamran and journalist Fatima Razzaq to talk about masculinity in the digital spaces. The chat can be accessed here.

Gender-based harassment of women journalists 

DRF conducted another one of its Rapid Fire Chats on the 25th of November this year and in honouring the day, which is observed as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, conducted a chat on the same theme with our participants. We were joined by two women who have done commendable work in the field of journalism: Amber Shamsi and Ramsha Jahangir.

The conversation revolved around cyber harassment, it's impact and how these spaces can be navigated and also made safer, especially for women who use them as platforms for their work. The conversation is available on DRF's Facebook page where it was cast live on the date mentioned above..

Achieving Cyberpeace: A Collective Effort in Cyberspace and Beyond | November 30

DRF took part in a panel hosted by the Cyberpeace Institute for its first annual meeting. The panel titled "Achieving CyberPeace: a Collective Effort in Cyberspace and Beyond" will discuss ideas and initiatives to achieve peace in the digital world. The panel was also attended by Sheetal Kumar from Global Partners Digital,  Nicola Staub from Cybera Global, and Kanwaljit Singh from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Find more details here.

Digital Literacy Drive session

DRF conducted its third Digital Literacy Drive session with the students of the Forman Christian College (FCC), Lahore. The session was held on Wednesday the 25th of November, 2020 and was organized with the kind help of Ms. Mehwish Batool.

The topics touched upon included the concept of privacy, the legal state of the right to privacy as well as cyber harassment, gender and privacy. The session was concluded with a section on online safety conducted by our trainers.

Meeting with Canadian High Commissioner
Panel on How do we make our parents understand the internet? How do we reach out to them when we need help?

DRF with the support of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation held a Facebook live session with our 4 youth ambassadors on ‘How do we make our parents understand the internet? How do we reach out to them when we need help’. The session focused on the need to talk to parents more and also make them understand the importance of the internet.

Data Localisation: All you need to know

DRF organized a session on the topic of data localisation in the month of November, given the recent developments in e-governance rules and laws in Pakistan and the overall status quo we felt it was the need of the hour. The excellent panelists who joined us for this session included Shmyla Khan and Arslan Athar of DRF and Alexandrine Corbion from Privacy International. The conversation revolved around the examination of what data localisation is, what it's impact has been so far in the countries where it is practiced and what we can expect from it's implementation in Pakistan. The session is available to be viewed on DRF's Facebook page where it's as cast live.

Digital Rights and Laws in Pakistan

This workshop was conducted by our Director of Legal Affairs and covered the legal landscape in Pakistan in terms of digital rights pertaining to freedom of expression, right to information and right to privacy in online spaces. Furthermore, the workshop also focused on the laws such as the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 in Pakistan and how they impact digital freedoms.

Two Day Residency Training with HRDs and Journalists

DRF held a two day residency training with HRDs and journalists on online safety and digital rights laws in the country. The training was particularly designed keeping in mind the needs of the participants in the training.

Impact Talk Digital Security, Privacy Rights and Fake News Pakistan Perspective

DRF participated in the #ImpactTalk titled ‘Digital Security, Privacy Rights and Fake News’ and DRF’s team participated in it on 13th November. The talk was organized by Friedrich Naumann Foundation.

COVID19 Updates

Cyber Harassment Helpline

Cyber harassment helpline is now available 5 days a week from 9 am to 5 pm through its toll free number and social media platforms.

You can contact the helpline on 080039393 or email us at [email protected] between 9 am to 5 pm (monday - friday).

Ab Aur Nahin

In times of COVID19 domestic abuse is at an all time high where victims do not have anywhere to go. Ab Aur Nahin is a confidential legal and counselor support service specifically designed for victims of harassment and abuse.

IWF Portal

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

www.report.iwf.org.uk/pk

 

 

December 1, 2020 - Comments Off on Combatting the COVID19 Disinfodemic: A situation analysis for Pakistan

Combatting the COVID19 Disinfodemic: A situation analysis for Pakistan

Author: Mehwish Batool 

Mehwish Batool is an academician and researcher currently working at Forman Christian College - A Chartered University

She tweets @Mehwish_Bat00l

Supported by:

Introduction

Starting December 2019, humankind has witnessed the spread of two deadly viruses. The first one being Covid-19 – a pandemic that has claimed over 1.25 million deaths till now. The second one was a disinfodemic. The damage that the disinfodemic has done is yet to be determined in terms of its scale (many researches are underway), but it has proved no less dangerous than the novel coronavirus.

In this report, we are analyzing Pakistan’s response to Covid-19 related fake news and what can be done to contain the spread of this era of disinfodemic in the wake of the second wave.

What is Disinfodemic?

The term “Disinfodemic” is a combination of two words “disinformation” and “pandemic.” UNESCO coined this term to refer to the wide spread of false information related to the coronavirus. This is a global issue and there is hardly any region of the world that has not been hit by a misinformation or disinformation campaigns around Covid-19. 

Source: https://en.unesco.org/covid19/disinfodemic

The Outbreak of Disinfodemic

The first case of coronavirus in Pakistan was reported on February 26, 2020. But fake news about the virus was spreading way before that. In January 2020, forwarded messages started circulating on WhatsApp about people dying in China due to a “mysterious disease.” Soon after that, a few Facebook pages and Twitter profiles started posting video clips taken from a Hollywood movie and equated them with the situation in Wuhan. Pakistan’s mainstream media was rather careful in its reporting of coronavirus, but that had more to do with its hesitation to comment on anything controversial related to China than the fact that it was exercising any social responsibility.

https://twitter.com/WaqasLalwani/status/1222145983867498496

While most of the initial WhatsApp posts had the usual "قدرتی آفت" (natural calamity) and "خدا کا عذاب "  (divine affliction) narrative, there was a particular forwarded message that advised people not to order anything from AliExpress as the virus can stay on the delivery package for days. The Current ( a Pakistani digital only news outlet)  tried to debunk this myth and advised their readers to not opt for faster delivery in order to reduce their chances of getting infected by the virus:

https://thecurrent.pk/can-you-get-coronavirus-through-your-aliexpress-order/

As it turned out, AliExpress packages did not become the gateway to Pakistan for coronavirus but the virus did reach us eventually. What followed next was a flood of false information related to COVID-19 origin, remedies and how it spreads.

Misinformation and Government’s Response

Social media became the breeding ground of misinformation on coronavirus; with WhatsApp leading the way as the super spreader of this disinfodemic. Controversy theories were on the rise and many social media users were calling this virus a "یہودی سازش" (A Jewish conspiracy) or an aftermath of a 5G experiment. However, there was no sustained disinformation campaign in Pakistan as far as the origin of the virus is concerned. Zarrar Khurro (Twitter : @ZarrarKhuhro), a senior journalist at Dawn, is of the view that in Pakistan, Covid-19 related misinformation was rather harmless than many other countries. “Of course, the typical WhatsApp forwarded messages were there, but we did not see any sustained disinformation campaign here driven out of political agenda like the one we saw in the US.”

Zarrar Khurro is partially right! Most of the fake news around Covid-19 in Pakistan was not politically motivated. It was harmful nonetheless as the majority of social media users believed in such messages without verifying them. WhatsApp chats and Facebook groups were flooded with posts and videos advising people not to visit hospitals as doctors might inject them with poison and sell their dead bodies to Bill Gates/USA/WHO. In an interview for this piece, Dr. Arslan Khalid (@arslankhalid_m), who is Prime Minister’s focal person on digital media, said that this would have become a dangerous pattern if left unaddressed.

In order to prevent this kind of misinformation, the government took two major steps. In March, the government  took all the major digital media portals and influencers on board for an awareness campaign around Covid-19. Digital content from the likes of Nashpati Prime and Bekaar Films gathered good views and sensitized the public about the pandemic:

Apart from this, a committee was formed by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) in July to prepare a legal framework to counter the spread of false information about the pandemic. This committee worked under the Chairmanship of the Interior Minister retired Brig. Ijaz Shah, while representatives of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MOIB), Health department, the Inter Services Public Relations Pakistan (ISPR), and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) were part of the committee too. Dr. Khalid, who is also one of the members of the committee, said that they identified and removed many fake posts that termed Coronavirus as a hoax. He also pointed out that social media companies such as Facebook did not promptly respond to fake news complaints raised by the government and it was difficult for them to identify fake content that was shared in local languages.

The curious case of Corona remedies:

Perhaps the largest number of fake news in Pakistan was related to the cure of the virus. Ranging from immunity boosting drinks that can prevent the infection to home-made remedies that can cure corona positive patients; social media was filled with unverified and false information. According to Ramsha Jahangir (@ramshajahangir) - a journalist and researcher with a focus on technology and human rights - the key factor that led to the rapid spread of misinformation was the novel nature of the virus itself. “The corona crisis was unprecedented; it was new and unknown. There were no hard facts about Covid-19 and the situation was constantly changing. Even WHO had to change its policies a couple of times. Now, it has been eleven months and we still don’t have a definite cure to Covid-19, which is why everybody is coming up with different theories.”

As the number of Corona cases increased in Pakistan; desi remedies recommending the use of garlic, saltwater, onions, lemon juice, senna leaves (sana makki) and ginger have all featured in viral posts on social media. In a matter of a few days, several whatsapp forwards started making rounds suggesting remedies for the cure of coronavirus. Most of these remedies were falsely credited to WHO, UNESCO, US and UK based doctors.

A post went viral in which UK based Dr. Nazir Ahmed, a non MBBS doctor dealing in herbal medicine, claimed that he had cured over 150 Covid-19 patients with tea made out of sana makki. This misinformation was soon debunked but not before the demand of sanna makki reached an all-time high in the country. Some of the government officials also shared such posts on their social media accounts and gave way to corona related rumors.

Source: https://twitter.com/fasi_zaka/status/1240619748079153152

https://tribune.com.pk/story/2234073/1-tribune-fact-check-sana-makki-cure-covid-19

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/669097-growing-demand-drives-herb-prices-up

If we put aside the misinformation that was spread via social media, the government’s core messaging around corona was also problematic to some extent.  We can see that eleven months into the pandemic and we as a nation have not been able to adopt mask-wearing and social distancing practices at a mass level. Dr. Arslan Khalid defends the government “I believe that everybody became a medical expert during the corona crisis. This trend was not limited to social media only; mainstream media also added to the misinformation. The way Plasma therapy was hyped by our media, even though its effectiveness is still unproven, that could have been avoided. It’s not just the government, media and civil society should also sensitize the public.”

Fact-checking efforts around Covid-19:

The cure for Covid-19 pandemic is yet to be found but effective and timely fact-checking can surely cure the disinfodemic. In the wake of the corona crisis, many international organizations have launched fact-checking initiatives that aim to debunk the myths and provide sound scientific guidance. In Pakistan, we can identify  few such initiatives, but their reach and effectiveness is still to be determined. The government of Pakistan, for example, has added a section on its Corona portal  titled Myths about Covid-19. It has also introduced Chatbots on Messenger and WhatsApp and a Fake News counter on the Press Information Department (PID) website. Around 200 influencers have been taken on board by the Prime Minister Office to keep the public well-informed (#ehtiyatcorona Urdu for ‘be careful about corona’).

https://covid.gov.pk/

http://coronacounter.pid.gov.pk/fake-news.html

Apart from this, we have a few independent fact-checking organizations such as Soch Fact-Check, Sachee Khabar, and Surkhi who are working to debunk myths around coronavirus. According to Ramsha Jahangir, there are no dedicated fact-checkers in the mainstream media, but a few organizations such as Dawn and Express Tribune have some fact-checking mechanisms in place.

Fact-checking is being done in Pakistan at some level, but these initiatives have limitations in terms of reach and effectiveness. Misinformation spreads at a rapid speed; and these portals don’t have the capacity to counter false news with the same strength and magnitude. Much more needs to be done now to enhance Pakistan’s response to this disinfodemic.

 

Using Digital Literacy to fight Fake News:

Now that the country is going through the second wave of Covid-19, there is a dire need to launch Digital Literacy programs and equip the citizens to identify and counter fake news. Zarrar Khurro argues that “Fact-checking has now become a life skill. Everyone should learn to do a basic Google search and reverse image search before forwarding any Covid-related remedy.” It might be easier said than done but there cannot be a better weapon to fight disinformation than to equip the public with fact-checking skills. The consumers of fake news need to be apprised of this disinfodemic and how to counter it. To achieve this goal, a collaboration is required between all the key stakeholders; the government, media, and civil society. Media and Information Literacy (MIL) programs should be designed to address Covid-19 disinformation. Educational institutes could step up to impart fact-checking skills among students. Local body officials can also play an important role by engaging people in their constituencies.

The existing fact-checking infrastructure also needs an overhaul. There must be dedicated fact-checkers in the newsrooms across the country. At the same time, the capacity of independent fact-checking organizations should be increased. Government should actively work with social media companies to identify and debunk any false information related to coronavirus. While doing so, it must keep its personal vendetta aside and should not target the voices through dissent. Our experts have a few more suggestions to curb the disinfodemic:

Zarrar Khurro (Senior journalist – Dawn)

Journalists should exercise caution while reporting corona related information. Always attribute the information to credible sources only.

Government should facilitate independent fact-checkers to debunk Covid related misinformation. Information shared in local languages must be closely monitored for fact-checking. 

Education and Health ministries should collaborate with educational institutions to create Media and Information Literacy (MIL) programs focused on Covid-19. Training programs for teachers, students and parents should be organized.
Ramsha Jahangir (Journalists and Researcher)


Mainstream media has a wider reach than that of independent fact-checkers. The media must step up now and hire fact-checkers in their newsrooms. 

Debunked and fact-checked content must be translated in Urdu and local languages.


We need to create digital literacy programs that do away with the jargons and go down to basics. A common person doesn’t understand the difference between misinformation and disinformation. S/he doesn’t know how to report Fake News on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. These skills should be taught to people in the language that they understand.

Zainab Husain (Managing Editor at Soch Fact-Check) (@ZainabHusainn)

Journalism degree programs throughout the country should introduce mandatory courses on fact-checking and source verification. 

Local media organizations should take advantage of the resources offered by International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) and First Draft. Links: https://www.poynter.org/ifcn/ & https://firstdraftnews.org/

Digital media portals that have a good number of followers should exercise some responsibility before publishing viral stories. They should publish only verified information and should regularly debunk myths around coronavirus.

Dr. Arslan Khalid (Prime Minister's Focal Person on Digital Media)


Media should regularly debunk the myths around coronavirus. It seems we have to live with this crisis for more time now, so awareness campaigns on the mainstream media should not be stopped.

We need to tweak the communication strategy in the wake of the second wave. Core messaging can remain the same but we need to expand our delivery channels and address misinformation proactively.

Our health communication strategy needs to be revised in order to prepare a ground for Covid-19 vaccination, if and when it becomes available.

 

November 19, 2020 - Comments Off on October 2020: DRF launches First Edition of E-zine ‘Feminist Movements Go Online in Pakistan’

October 2020: DRF launches First Edition of E-zine ‘Feminist Movements Go Online in Pakistan’

Online Campaigns and Initiatives 

Launch of e-zine

feminist movement

DRF launches e-zine feminist movements go online in Pakistan. The e-zine discusses the onset of feminist movements in the digital age and how social media has become a tool for rallying feminists online. 

Click here to access first version of our e-zine:

https://bit.ly/2FKplwK

 

Podcast: “Do Dost aur Digital pe Kacheri”

In this episode two friends, Simran and Fiha (Communication and Design students at Habib University) talk about the criticality of the digital space. From personal experiences to shared insights, from incidents in their physical surroundings to the ones observed in the digital world, it has it all. This podcast casually unveils the power of the online world as well as the lack of it, taking you on a journey of relatable experiences and hushed conversations.

Listen to the podcast here:

https://soundcloud.com/help-desk-781720443/do-dost-aur-digital-pe-kacheri

#NoHonorInKilling

A recent Supreme Court observation was hailed as an important precedent when it comes to honor killing in Pakistan. Our legal team chose important segments of the observation and posted it on social media to raise awareness about the document. 

#ActivismInPandemic

DRF has launched the #ActivismInPandemic campaign highlighting the important work of human rights defenders and journalists have been doing during COVID19. The campaign aims to share experiences of journalists and HRDs during the pandemic and also highlight the importance of managing work and stress during these testing times. 

#MentalHealthAwareness #MentalHealthDay

Following Mental Health Day, our Helpline team shared positive affirmations and different aspects of the mental health discourses. This was an important campaign to stretch past just ‘Mental Health Day’ and use October as a Mental Health Month, given how Pakistani society sees mental health 

#BeCyberSmart

As part of the digital security month, we designed an A to campaign to go over the basics of digital security as well as how to be safer online. 

#UnMaskTheTruth #StopSilencingJournalists

In collaboration with Free Press Unlimited, Digital Rights Foundation sent face masks with the taglines Unmask the truth and Stop silencing journalists to the members of our Network of Women Journalists to show solidarity with journalists across the globe in our collective support for press freedom and against violence, censorship and persecution. Members shared their photos wearing the masks with a short quote on why they think it is important for journalists to do their work free from violence and threats. 

#InternationalInternetDay

On this year’s International Internet Day, the DRF team did a campaign on internet shutdowns and their costs on the digital economy of Pakistan. 

internet shutdown

Questionnaire on personal data and politics

DRF, along with Media Matters for Democracy, is conducting a survey on the use of personal data by the private sector for purposes of political persuasion.

We would really appreciate it if you can fill out our survey (available in English and Urdu).

Eng: https://forms.gle/dBtNyrGCPELYW6R9A

Urdu: https://forms.gle/G2sarjMDhc5AvcxC6

Policy Initiatives 

Open Data Initiative

mapping gender based

Data, in today’s hyper-digital world, has been monetised and become a site for exploitation. Those who extract, collect and analyse data have acquired immense power, which is often concentrated in the hands of the few.

As a digital rights and feminist organisation, it is our mission to dismantle these structures of power through open data practices. This initiative of mapping online trends through open data principles is a start. We hope this openness and transparency through sharing of knowledge sparks collaborative work that builds on these open data sets to advocate and fight for social justice in both online and offline spaces!

Learn more about our initiative here.

Mapping gender-based violence since the #motorwayincident

This month we tracked incidents of gender-based violence and child abuse since the motorway incident based off reports from English-language newspapers. The dataset can be accessed here.

Disinformation Campaign from Pro-India Accounts

The research team at DRF compiled a list of accounts and tweets disseminating disinformation through extensive Twitter searches online using keywords such as “Karachi”, “Karachi blast”, “civil war” and “FATF” based on an early analysis of sample tweets being identified by fact-checkers in Pakistan. The tweets were catalogued on this spreadsheet which contains 86 tweets originating from a total of 62 accounts.

A report from the data was published and can be found here.

Report: “Availability and responsiveness of gender-based violence helplines in Pakistan” by Digital Rights Foundation and Chayn

Chayn and Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) have collaborated to conduct a comprehensive study of the helplines and resources available to support survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) in Pakistan.

This study was conducted between May and June 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was conducted at a time when infection rates were rising across the country as the state gradually eased several lockdown restrictions. Over this period, reports of GBV, both online and offline, increased around the country.

You can access the report here: https://bit.ly/2IRPknh.

Fact Checking and Source Verification Manual in times of COVID19

DRF launched it’s fact checking and source verification manual in times of COVID19 for journalists and information practitioners with the support of Friedrich Naumann Foundation. The manual has been developed keeping in mind this disinfordemic age in times of COVID19. 

You can access the manual here:

https://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Fake-News.pdf

Cyber Harassment Helpline September Statistics 

helpline

Cyber Harassment Helpline received 473 complaints in the month of September. In comparison to the previous month of August, this number has slightly increased. It shows that there was a spike in the cases of online violence especially blackmailing through non consensual use of information and images.The number of male complainants calling on behalf of their female friends or family members has also increased. Another observed trend is of social engineering through which people are coerced into sharing their personal details like National Identity Card number, WhatsApp code, bank account details and, e-wallet details making them susceptible to hacking and financial fraud. 

Data Privacy Booklet in English and Urdu

DRF with the support of Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) released the data privacy booklet in urdu and english highlighting important privacy aspects for young adults. The booklet is specifically designed for young adults and the privacy issues they face online. 

You can access the booklet here in Urdu:

https://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Data-Privacy-Booklet-Urdu.pdf

You can access the booklet here in English:

https://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Data-Privacy-Booklet-English.pdf

Media Coverage 

What is emotional regulation and why is it so important?

Kashfa Zafar wrote on what is emotional regulation and why is it so important? 

Read the full blog here:

https://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/what-is-emotional-regulation-and-why-is-it-so-important/

Silent Battles: How Pakistani Women Counter Harassment in Cyberspace

DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline provides resources to victims of harassment online especially women who have no place to go. 

Read about the challenges that women face in online spaces here:

https://thediplomat.com/2020/10/silent-battles-how-pakistani-women-counter-harassment-in-cyberspace/

Events and Sessions 

Changing the Face of Politics Podcast

podcast

DRF’s Nighat Dad took part in a podcast on changing the face of politics with Michelle Bachelet. Nighat Dad highlighted the importance of digital rights and gender equality in a democracy with the former president of Chile Michelle. 

You can listen to the full podcast here:

https://t.co/SteeqxlBzt?amp=1

 

Ezine Launch: Feminist Movements Go Online in Pakistan
Date: October 20, Tuesday
Facebook live

Digital Rights Foundation launched its two-part e-magazine titled “Feminist Movements Go Online in Pakistan” to talk about the role online spaces have had in the feminist movement in the country. Some of the authors from the first edition of e-zine came together to discuss the themes they explored in their submissions and the importance of online spaces in creating feminist collectives, communities, and consciousness!

Link to discussion: https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=395487908280527

Report Launch: Availability and responsiveness of gender-based violence helplines in Pakistan
Date: October 7
Facebook live

Shmyla from DRF was in conversation with Hera Hussain from Chyan to talk about the launch of our report on helplines working on gender-based violence in Pakistan. The report was done in collaboration with Chayn (you can follow them on Twitter: @ChaynHQ and check out their own on their website: https://chayn.co/). 

You can watch the conversation here: https://www.facebook.com/150002775140293/videos/365983301194907/

Refresher on digital safety tools (for journalists, bloggers, researchers and content creators) - 13th and 14th october

A two-day refresher on basic digital safety tools and techniques was conducted by DRF’s Digital Security Expert to reiterate the importance of integrating these practices in their work, especially in times of Covid-19. Each training was attended by around 10 people each.  

Meeting on creating synergies regarding COVID19 and the human rights situation in Pakistan - NHRF

DRF participated in a meeting on creating synergies regarding COVID19 and the human rights situation in Pakistan by the Norwegian Human Rights Fund. In the meeting DRF’s Nighat Dad highlighted the importance of civil society collaborating and working together in these testing times. 

Rapid Fire Chat

         

Digital Rights Foundation, held its fourth and fifth RapidFire Chat on 23rd and 29th October. The fourth chat invited two panelists, Sabin Agha and Mehar Khursheed, to discuss the spike in bans and censorship and was moderated by Seerat Khan from DRF. The next chat which was held on the World Internet Day talked about the misogyny of the internet with Saba Bano Malik and Atiya Abbas and was hosted by Huma Umer from DRF. The chats were interactive and fun conversations on otherwise loaded and heavy topics and were meant to have a light conversation during the pandemic when the digital spaces are already laden with workshops, webinars and much more. 

Twitter Chat: Home based workers in digital space

DRF’s Nighat Dad participated in a twitter chat by UN Women on home based workers in the digital space. The digital gender divide was highlighted by Nighat Dad along with the added labor that women have to do now due to the pandemic. There was a special emphasis laid on how women need to be empowered more and online spaces need to be made safe for them. 

Girls Education during and beyond COVID19- A live webinar series

Science Fuse conducted it’s 4th webinar on girls education during and beyond COVID19. The webinar focused on creating safes for girls both in online and offline spaces. Nighat Dad of DRF participated in the webinar and shed light on how important it is for women to stand together and make online spaces safe just like offline spaces. 

Do you think internet access is a human right?

         

DRF conducted a panel discussion on Facebook live on ‘Do you think internet access is a human right’ with the support of Friedrich Naumann Foundation on the 28th of October. The panel included DRF’s youth ambassadors Tia Aftab, Zahra Jadoon, Usama Khilji of Bolo Bhi and Nighat Dad executive director of DRF. The discussion focused on what is the internet and why internet access is important. 

You can access the Facebook Live discussion here:

https://www.facebook.com/DigitalRightsFoundation/videos/944003699422471/

Cyber Harassment and Offline harassment on campus? What should institutions do?

         

DRF conducted a panel discussion on ‘cyber harassment and offline harassment on campus? What should institutions do?’ with Friedrich Naumann Foundation on the 29th October. The panel discussion included DRF’s youth ambassadors Kenizeh Khan, Eshal Siddiqui, Barrister Jannat Ali Kalyar and Dania Mukhtar of DRF. The discussion highlighted the responsibility of institutions to protects its student body and the need to believe victims when they share their experiences of online and offline harassment. 

You can access the Facebook live discussion here:

https://www.facebook.com/DigitalRightsFoundation/videos/1295949887464040/

Legal Clinic Video with Hope

DRF in collaboration with Hope recorded a legal clinic video with Nighat Dad. DRF’s Nighat Dad highlighted the laws one can use to protect themselves online. 

You can access the video here:

https://t.co/RrqM6X80ge?amp=1

Combating Insecurity in the Age of Digital Media Transformations

On 5th and 6th October, DRF organized a workshop for journalists and bloggers on ‘’Combating Insecurity in the Age of Digital Media Transformations’’ in Lahore with Daily Times Newspaper.

 

 

The workshop aimed to discourse if the existing media and journalism ethics are suitable for the evolving digital media landscape or new and diverse standards are required to tackle issues of not only advanced digital security (such as malware attacks directed at journalists and media practitioners) but also misinformation and report on online trends. The session also aimed to highlight digital rights and create awareness about the legal landscape that governs digital platforms for the freedom of media and journalists, how to secure their professional and personal data and avoid perilous practices online as many journalists actively use the digital media as part of their jobs but are still unaware of these tools.

How to Tackle Sexual Harassment:

DRF was invited by the Mirror to deliver a virtual talk session on “How to Tackle Sexual Harassment" on 3 October 2020.

Digital Literacy Drive

DRF conducted it's first session from the Digital Literacy Drive series on the 22nd of October, 2020. The session was headed by Zainab Durrani and Danish Umar who discussed the themes of consent, privacy, the legal protections afforded to the Pakistani digital landscape and the impact of gender disparity on the women and gender minorities.

COVID19 Updates

Cyber Harassment Helpline

Cyber harassment helpline is now available 5 days a week from 9 am to 5 pm through its toll free number and social media platforms.

You can contact the helpline on 080039393 or email us on [email protected] between 9 am to 5 pm (monday - friday).

Ab Aur Nahin

In times of COVID19 domestic abuse is at an all time high where victims do not have anywhere to go. Ab Aur Nahin is a confidential legal and counselor support service specifically designed for victims of harassment and abuse. 

www.abaurnahin.pk

IWF Portal

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

www.report.iwf.org.uk/pk

November 19, 2020 - Comments Off on Digital Rights Foundation is gravely concerned by the the Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards), Rules 2020

Digital Rights Foundation is gravely concerned by the the Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards), Rules 2020

November 19, 2020

The confirmation of the Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards), Rules is cause for alarm given the state of digital freedoms in Pakistan. Digital Rights Foundation (“DRF”) is extremely concerned with both the procedure followed in passing the Rules, devoid of meaningful consultation and transparency, and the implications the Rules have for Constitutional freedoms in the country.

DRF, along with other civil society organisations, boycotted the consultation process conducted by the Ministry of Information Technology & Telecommunication (MoITT) on grounds that the ‘Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020’ notified in January 2020 were not formally de-notified by the government. Despite challenges in high courts across the country, the terms of the consultation process initiated in June 2020 were based on the earlier draft of the rules and the fundamentally flawed section 37 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 (PECA). We reiterated our concerns and reservations with the entire process at the time. Our worst fears have been confirmed since then as the government has failed to share the draft of the Rules with any of the stakeholders, including social media companies who participated in the process, and the Rules were notified and only available once Ghazzeted (the rules were published on the MoITT website on November 18, 2020. The entire ‘consultation’ process has been an eyewash to legitimise the Rules which are fundamentally similar to their earlier version.

The only major revision from the earlier draft and the one notified by the government now is the elimination of the body of the ‘National Coordinator’ and these powers have been vested in the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA). However, it is alarming that the grounds for removal of ‘unlawful content’ have been expanded beyond the ambit of section 37 of PECA to include sections of the Pakistan Penal Code (sections 292 - 298, 204 and 509) as well as criteria such as “fake or false information.” The definition of “integrity, security and defence of Pakistan” has been expanded to include any information that “harms the reputation of Federal or Provincial Government or any person holding public office” (Rule 4(1)(ii)).  It should be noted that under Indian case law, “security” has been defined to include “those aggravated forms of prejudicial activities which endanger the very existence of the State but do not include ordinary breaches of the peace. We fail to understand how harming the reputation of the Federal or Provincial government undermines the security of Pakistan. It is submitted that such draconian provisions are reminiscent of colonial times, where laws were made with the intent to establish control over the population rather than govern. It should also be noted that sub-statutory rules cannot impose or create new restrictions beyond the scope of the parent act. The defamation law under PECA (section 20) is limited to protecting the privacy or reputation of a “natural person” only, which is to say that only individuals can use the remedy available under section 20. It is submitted that the Federal or Provincial government do not fall under the definition of natural persons and cannot bring a claim under section 20 of PECA. We maintain that section 37 in its form and application is violative of the freedom of expression and right to information enshrined in the Constitution as well as in contravention of Pakistan’s international law commitments. The criteria laid down under Rule 4 exceeds the existing ambit and is ultra vires of the parent act and the powers granted under section 37(2) of PECA.

The powers of removal and blocking of content places immense discretion in the hands of the PTA, without adequate safeguards. While there is provision for review (Rule 11), that review will be conducted by the PTA itself, and the appeals process to the High Court will be the last resort (Rule 12). It is submitted that the remedy for review and appeal provided under the Rules are very limited and narrow. The appeal will be against the review order of the Authority and not against the original order of the Authority. This essentially means that the High Court while hearing the appeal will be limited to adjudication upon the grounds of the review and not the entirety of the record. This limited right to appeal is, therefore, largely ornamental as it leaves the citizens whose fundamental rights have been infringed without an efficacious right of appeal. The powers of banning entire social media applications and platforms (Rule 8) acts as a disproportionate measure to essentially bully service providers and social media companies to ensure compliance with the PTA’s demands. In the past this power has been wielded in an immensely non-transparent manner. There is also no provision for public transparency on what content is blocked or removed by the PTA pursuant to these Rules despite the fact that the removals impact the online freedom of expression and access to information of the public at large. These practices, only bolstered by the Rules, will force some social media companies to leave Pakistan, leaving local users with less choice in terms of the applications and platforms they can access, and leave users with platforms which provide ‘compliant’ services which will be heavily censored, localised and surveilled.

The regulatory uncertainty and onerous restrictions on social media companies in the form of immediate removals (within 24 hours and 6 hours in cases of “emergency” even though the Rules do not define what constitutes emergency cases) will deter investment in Pakistan’s nascent digital economy. Social media companies have already expressed having to “re-evaluate their view of the regulatory environment in Pakistan, as well as their willingness to operate in the country.” These companies are after all businesses in need of a stable and predictable regulatory environment to operate in. Furthermore, these policies will

discourage local businesses and startups--economic activity which the country’s flailing economy desperately needs.

Lastly, the Rules are an affront to the right to privacy as they require social media companies and service providers to hand over data to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in decrypted form, placing a legal obligation on companies to break the encryption in secure and private communications (Rule 9(7)). The Rules also anticipate a future Personal Data Protection Act (the current draft of which requires undefined ‘critical personal data’ to be stored in servers within Pakistan) and require that companies set up “one or more database servers in Pakistan within eighteen months of coming into force” (Rule 9(5)(d)). This move towards data localisation is ill-advised as it jeopardizes the data security of Pakistani citizens.

We can only hope that the institutional checks and balances within the government, the parliament and courts, are able to correct this wrong before irreparable damage to our online freedoms is done. It is incumbent on our judiciary to independently review the legality and constitutionality of these Rules in light of the concerns we and other digital rights groups have raised. Lately, the parliament needs to significantly amend the draconian PECA with a complete repeal of section 37 to ensure the integrity and freedom of the internet.

 The Rules can be accessed here:
https://moitt.gov.pk/SiteImage/Misc/files/Social%20Media%20Rules.pdf.

 The earlier version of the Rules can be accessed here: https://bit.ly/2Th6CMD. 

 Hasnaat Malik, “IHC moved against new rules for regulating social media IHC will hear the case on August 17,” The Express Tribune, August 15, 2020, https://bit.ly/3jsdeCm.

 Ramsha Jahangir, “Govt begins consultation on online harm rules,” Dawn, June 3, 2020, https://bit.ly/35GFbSj. 

 “Comments on the Consultation & Objections to the Rules,” July 1, 2020, https://bit.ly/35GFbSj. 

 “[Pakistan] The Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) publishes statement on “Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules” (23 Oct 2020),” Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), October 23, 2020, https://bit.ly/34jWpFs.

 Romesh Thapper v. State of Madras (1960) SCR 594

 The said section reads “whoever intentionally and publicly exhibits and transmits any information through any information system, which he knows to be false, and intimidates or harms the reputation or privacy of a natural person”

 “[Pakistan] The Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) publishes statement on “Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules” (23 Oct 2020),” Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), October 23, 2020, https://bit.ly/34jWpFs.

 The draft Personal Data Protection Bill 2020 can be found here: https://moitt.gov.pk/SiteImage/Misc/files/Personal%20Data%20Protection%20Bill%202020(3).pdf.

 We analysed the April 2020 draft of the Personal Data Protection Bill 2020, along with the implications for data localisation, here: https://bit.ly/3dUZvmC.

 “Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020: Legal Analysis,” Digital Rights Foundation, February 20, 2020, https://bit.ly/2FSvd7e. 

“Pakistan’s Online Censorship Regime,” BoloBhi, July 18, 2020 https://bit.ly/3joZBUH. 

“Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020: Key Concerns, Objections and Recommendations,” February 2020, https://bit.ly/2Tk8dkK.

 

November 11, 2020 - Comments Off on Punjab Police Women Safety App: Old Approach, New Interface

Punjab Police Women Safety App: Old Approach, New Interface

November 11, 2020

This week the Punjab police launched it’s ‘women safety’ android phone application in an effort to leverage technology to enhance policing for women’s safety. After immense and justified backlash in the aftermath of the horrific motorway gang-rape incident in Septemeber, it is not surprising that the Punjab police is attempting to implement women-centric reform. However, as an organisation working on tech and gender for a number of years, the Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) sees the approach and the application both as wholly inadequate for tackling the issue of gender-based violence in the country.

The application can be downloaded from Google Play Store here.

What does it do?

The main feature of the application is its ‘panic button’ which can alert the law enforcement authorities regarding an incident of gender-based violence at a particular location. Apart from that, the application provides access to numbers of the following agencies: Punjab Police Emergency Helpline 15, Rescue 1122, Punjab Highway Patrol and Motorway Police.

         

Furthermore, the application has an ‘emergency live chat’ feature, though it is unclear whether the feature is a chatbot or run by the Punjab Police personnel. There is also a section on laws relating to violence and harassment; however, our team felt that the section needed to be translated into Urdu as well and could do with more visual/video-based content to make the laws more accessible. Lastly, the app crowd-sources safety reviews of different locations across the province, allowing users to pin rate locations as “secure”, “partially secure” and “not secure” according to their experience.

   

The Location Review feature is a good idea as it allows policymakers to track which locations are marked and unsafe and design policy interventions to rectify the problem. This, however, comes with a caveat as the data will only be meaningful if a large number and diverse set of users contribute to it. Additionally, data collected from these reviews should not be used to justify surveillance and over-policing measures in certain locations, which create additional human rights concerns and issues of discrimination rather than solve the problem of women’s safety.

Limitations

Currently, the application is only available on Playstore and compatible with Android phones, which excludes those with iOS-based phones. Furthermore, given that Pakistan has one of the highest gender digital divides in the world, the application essentially only caters to women with smartphones and access to mobile internet. According to the GSMA “Mobile Gender Gap Report 2020”, Pakistan has the widest mobile ownership gender gap as women were 38%  less likely than men to own a mobile phone and 49% less likely to use mobile internet. As per a study by LirneAsia, a think-tank based in Sri Lanka, Pakistani women are 43% less likely to use the internet than men.

The digital safety team at DRF reviewed the application to find a number of issues in terms of privacy. Given that the app collects highly personal information including phone number, location access and NIC number, robust data security and protection policies must be in place to ensure that the women using the application can trust the technology. Furthermore, the permissions of the app include GPS and network-based location, phone number, access to phone contacts, media files and storage.

The digital safety team at DRF reviewed the application to find a number of issues in terms of privacy. Given that the app collects highly personal information including phone number, location access and NIC number, robust data security and protection policies must be in place to ensure that the women using the application can trust the technology. Furthermore, the permissions of the app include GPS and network-based location, phone number, access to phone contacts, media files and storage.

       

Unfortunately, when the team tried to review the privacy policies in place, the link redirected to the ‘Career page’ on the PSCA website, https://psca.gop.pk/PSCA/privacy-policy/:

For anyone using the app, it is apparent that women’s privacy and safety of their personal information was not a priority for the Punjab Police or the developers of this app. For many women reporting a crime of gender-based violence is accompanied by immense anxiety about privacy in terms of their identity and information--without these assurances, women are unlikely to place their trust in the app. In the absence of personal data protection legislation in the country, lack of privacy policies and protocols is a huge concern. Any intervention for women’s safety that neglects to keep their private data safe is counterproductive and wholly incomplete.

Technology as a Silver Bullet for Women’s Safety?

This is not the first time that authorities and tech developers across the world have sought to introduce applications that can address the issue of gender and sexual violence. In fact, this is not even the first time the Punjab government has attempted this, as the current application seems to be a relaunch of an old application developed by the Punjab Safe Cities Authority (PSCA) introduced in 2017. Nevertheless, there is increasing consensus within researchers and experts that women’s safety applications are unsuited to adequately addressing the question of violence against women.

Firstly, these applications treat women’s safety as an issue that only occurs in public places and crimes perpetrated by strangers. This approach fundamentally misunderstands issues of violence, which are perpetrated inside the home (domestic violence, marital rape and sexual violence at the hands of family members and ‘trusted’ individuals). This means that applications such as these are only scratching the surface of the violence and harassment that women face in society at large.

Secondly, no amount of technology and applications can solve the systemic problems of misogyny and patriarchal mindsets within the police and public institutions. Often women do not report cases of violence because of societal perceptions around victims and victim-blaming by law enforcement bodies. Technology will not change these attitudes. Applications such as these just provide a new interface for an old institution. Until and unless law enforcement bodies and the legal system, in general, engage in systemic reform at every level, any technological interventions will be rendered superfluous.

Thirdly, surveillance cannot and should not be posited as a solution to women’s safety. DRF has pointed out several times that technological interventions that seek to increase surveillance of women’s movement and bodies in order to ‘protect’ them are simply benevolent and paternalistic patriarchal control in another name. Technology often ends up replicating familial and societal surveillance of women’s bodies which does not truly emancipate or change the root causes of the violence against them.

Fourthly, if the app seeks to serve all women it should take into account issues of accessibility for women and persons with disabilities. Currently, for instance, the app lacks features to make the text and graphics readable for visually impaired persons. The app does come with a video explaining how to use it, however more visual and video content regarding the laws and other features will make it more accessible to women who are not literate.

This application comes less than two months after the motorway incident which shook the mainstream national consciousness on the issue of gender-based violence, particularly rape. It is no secret that the Punjab Police received immense criticism because of the victim-blaming remarks of the CCPO Lahore, Umar Sheikh. As per data collected by the DRF team, through monitoring of English-language newspapers, 123 cases of gender-based violence have been reported in just two months after the incident. Incidents such as these often compel law enforcement to engage in interventions and reform that creates the public perception that steps are being taken to address the problem--however cosmetic changes such as new apps do little to actually change things. ‘Internet Democracy,’ an organisation based in India, has noted that after the 2012 Delhi rape case several ‘women’s safety’ applications emerged. Similar to Pakistan, these technological interventions did little to change the ground realities that women face on a daily basis.

Conclusion

It seems that the Punjab Police has taken a top-down approach to women’s safety by developing (or rather rebranding) technology to ‘protect’ women without taking into account the actual lived experience of women and gender minorities in Pakistan. No effort seems to have been made to consult women’s rights and digital rights organisations when making the technology. Technology cannot be expected to enact social change or facilitate marginalised communities if its design does not incorporate the very communities that it seeks to serve. Additionally, technology cannot be used as a smokescreen to dent criticism of policing and the barriers women face at the hands of law enforcement if it is not accompanied by structural and meaningful reform.

 

November 2, 2020 - Comments Off on Pakistani students in Wuhan: the other side of the story

Pakistani students in Wuhan: the other side of the story

Autor: Tehreem Azeem

Tehreem Azeem is a digital media journalist and a Ph.D. scholar at the Communication University of China.

She tweets @tehreemazeem

Supported by 


“Can you connect me with any Pakistani student in Wuhan?”

This was the common request I was getting from my friends and colleagues working in media houses of Pakistan. I came to Beijing in September of last year to do a PhD in Communication Studies. Four months later, I saw China battling a novel coronavirus which we all today know as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

Some of my friends in the media took my comments too for their stories on the situation of Pakistani students in China but I was living in Beijing, 1,115 km away from the virus-hit Wuhan. They were more interested in connecting with someone from Wuhan. Soon, we realized the media was interested in the ‘we are dying here’ statements only. Many of the students stopped talking to the media as it was not helping them; instead, it was making their families in Pakistan more worried.

Hira* completed her PhD in December from a university in Wuhan. She had booked a flight of late January which got cancelled after the city was put into lockdown. The university had stopped her stipend as she had graduated. Her university allowed her to stay on campus for free the whole period.

‘It was tough. The university was helping us at every level. They gave us masks, sanitizers, and anything we wanted to get from outside. My problem was a bit different. My stipend had stopped. I did not know how long the quarantine would go. I requested the embassy to at least send us (those who had graduated) to Pakistan. We had nothing to do here,’ she said.

She finally left Wuhan on the first flight of Pakistan International Airlines on 19 May 2020. She spent her quarantine talking with Pakistani girls in a WeChat group. That was the time when some students from Wuhan University of Science and Technology released a video on social media in which they said they had limited food supplies and the government must evacuate them. I asked Hira if she was getting the groceries easily in Wuhan.

Screenshot from the video message of Pakistani students of Wuhan University of Science and Technology

‘Yes, that was not the problem. I had rice, pulses, and spices. I could also order groceries online. Prices of few commodities did go high but I would not say that I was not getting anything.’

Hira said the students were scared of the uncertainty of the whole situation. They just wanted to leave China.

Pakistan decided not to evacuate its citizens from Wuhan. The news was immediately picked up by international media. Deutsche Welle news published a video on their YouTube channel with the title ‘Is Pakistan abandoning its citizens in China?’. The anchor talked to a student from the Xianning city of Hubei province to know the living conditions in lockdown. He told him that he could not even go out of the campus and the city was in complete lockdown.

‘There is no transportation. Our city is totally locked down - no trains, no airports. We are just trapped in our rooms and no one is here to help us.’

Later, a TV anchor took senior journalist Shahzeb Jillani on the video link to get his comment on this issue. Jillani clearly said the real reason behind Pakistan’s decision to not evacuate its citizens from Wuhan was Pak-China friendship.

‘The official stance is that Pakistan does not want the disease to spread. It is acting under WHO guidelines and the Chinese have assured them that we will take care of the situation but the real reason we all know is the special relationship between China and Pakistan.’

No doubt, that was the main reason Pakistan refused to airlift its people from Wuhan. The government first announced to provide financial aid to students in Wuhan and later said it will also send food. The students did receive money but that was not equivalent to USD 840 which was promised. Each student in Wuhan received 3500 yuan which makes USD 496. However, eight students of the University of Chinese academy of sciences and twelve students of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural sciences did not receive this money till the end of March. They received the money after the issue was highlighted in a report of Independent Urdu.

The Pakistani media should have investigated these stories but it preferred to disturb our families in China. Social media influencers or bloggers were no different. Comedian Junaid Akram in a podcast while criticizing the government on its stance about students in Wuhan said that he received calls and messages from relatives of people living in China. He said that students in China had not much food to eat and that they were surviving on whatever rations they had.

Junaid Akram released this podcast on 2 February 2020

TV channels in Pakistan showed visuals from the video message of students from Wuhan University of Science and Technology in their news bulletins. Jamal Ahmed was a student of The Communication University of China in Beijing. His family told him to take the first available flight to Pakistan after they watched these reports on TV channels. Ahmed had to buy an expensive ticket and return to Pakistan; otherwise, he had planned to go after his graduation in July. He talked to a couple of journalists before his departure.

‘I told a journalist that China has even closed mosques so people could not gather at any place. The reporter wrote in their report that Muslim students are even not allowed to go to mosques in China. I contacted the person and asked them to correct it. They changed it after half an hour.’

Ahmed stopped watching TV after he returned home. He said watching TV during the outbreak was creating more panic than the virus itself.

Nazish Zafar of BBC Urdu says the media was taking information from the videos students were posting on social media. She says those videos had different messages – some students wanted to come back, and some did not. The media preferred to stay with the videos, which showed panic, helplessness, and fear.

‘Also, there was no official statement to verify and crosscheck their claims of food shortage. President Alvi and the Foreign minister after their visit to China told the media that the students had asked for Pakistani food. This statement somehow confirmed that the students had food-related issues.’

Sisters Sehar Iqbal and Mehar Iqbal are studying Chinese literature at Wuhan University.  They started vlogging in January. They released a video on 26 January 2020 in which first, they showed the masks their university had given them. Later, they went out of the campus to buy groceries for lockdown. They say we don’t know how long we will have to live like this. In their next video, they talked about the situation of foreigners in Wuhan. They said the situation was not as bad as it was being shown.

‘Our teachers are taking care of us. The whole Pakistani community of our university is in a WeChat group. Our representative took details of each student and forwarded it to the embassy. It’s not like we are alone here.’

Both sisters, Sehar Iqbal and Mehar Iqbal share screen in one of their video on YouTube: Screengrab

They also told that the university had opened its cafeterias and supermarkets which normally are kept closed during summer and winter vacations. Dawn news shared their video in a news story. Aljazeera also published their video on its website and social media platforms on 3 February. This video became the most-watched video on its Facebook and Twitter accounts that week. Both sisters talked to many media houses after that giving the same stance that the situation was not as bad in Wuhan as the media was showing.

When I approached them to have their comments for this piece, they told me that the Pakistani students of their university were threatening them for their comments on media. They said to me that the Pakistani community of their university had decided to give a single narrative in media to push the government to send a plane for their evacuation.

They shared screenshots of a few messages they had received on the Chinese messaging app WeChat with me. In one message, a student told them to take permission from him before giving any comment in the media. The student has written in his message that even male students take his permission before talking to the media. He also wrote that the girls were disrespecting him for not doing so.

Iqbal sisters told me that that particular student is still in China. He did not go back to Pakistan when the plane finally arrived in Wuhan.

A friend of them sent them a message to tell that many members of the Pakistani community had asked him for their fathers’ mobile number. Apparently, they wanted to call him to stop their daughters.

They also received a message from a Chinese number on their WhatsApp in which the sender said that they were not supporting their brothers and sisters. In a friend request on WeChat, a person not only abused them but also threatened to leak their biodata.

The girls said that their WeChat id and WhatsApp number was already shared in the Pakistani community. Some students even called their house and talked to their parents.

The girls were in touch with an official in the embassy of Pakistan in Beijing. They shared these screenshots with the officer. The official did not do much except calling the dean of their department who called them and assured of his full support. Iqbal sisters did not file any complaint to the International Students Office of their university. They said they were so afraid and they did not want any of those threats to come true.

Both sisters appeared in Zara Hat Kay of Dawn News on 9th April 2020. In this show, they mentioned that they were receiving threats for their comments. They also told the hosts how their university was taking care of them during the peak of the outbreak.

While talking to me, they said that their university was providing three-time meals, masks, sanitizers, fruits, sanitary napkins for female students, and diapers for the families with children.

A PhD student of their university who wishes to remain anonymous and who had sent them a threatening message said that the community had decided to put pressure on the government through the media for their evacuation.

‘The whole situation was uncertain here. Everything was closed at that time, and we had no idea when things will come to normal at that time. No student from Wuhan University said that they were not getting food supplies. Some of us had medical issues; three women were pregnant. The outbreak was putting them into depression. Some people were above 40 years of age. That is why the community here was pressurising the government for evacuation.’

I also asked him about the threats Iqbal sisters were receiving for not following what the community was directing and sticking with their comments. He said it might have happened and no one should be blamed for it. It was the uncertainty and the fear of getting an infection that made them harsh.

 This single event tells us how user-generated content can affect media reports if not verified or cross-checked. The Iqbal girls went through a lot, more than any of us whose families would call them hysterically after watching TV reports about our situation in China. That was a tough time. It has passed, but we have lost our faith in the media of our country.  

*Names were changed to protect the privacy of the individual(s)