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November 13, 2023 - Comments Off on خیبر پختونخوا کی ٹیکنالوجی سے بے خبر خواتین ووٹر لسٹ میں غلطی پر ووٹ کے حق سے محروم :مصنوعی ذہانت یا اے آئی کا الیکشن میں کیا کردار ہو سکتا ہے؟

خیبر پختونخوا کی ٹیکنالوجی سے بے خبر خواتین ووٹر لسٹ میں غلطی پر ووٹ کے حق سے محروم :مصنوعی ذہانت یا اے آئی کا الیکشن میں کیا کردار ہو سکتا ہے؟

ناہید جہانگیر

ایک ہی دفعہ ووٹ ڈالنے گئ تھی لیکن ووٹر لسٹ میں خاوند کا نام غلط لکھا تھا، ووٹ ڈالے بغیر گھر واپس آگئ تھی اس کے بعد کھبی نہیں گئ۔،

رخشندہ جن کا تعلق پشاور شہر مہمند آباد کے علاقے سے ہیں کہتی ہیں کہ وہ 2013 کے انتخابات میں ووٹ ڈالنے گئ تھیں، کافی رش کی وجہ سے گرمی بھی تھی لیکن پھر بھی قطار میں اپنی باری کا انتظار کرتی رہیں جیسے ہی باری آئی اور کاؤنٹر پر موجود خاتون کو اپنا شناختی کارڈ دیا تو خاندان نبمر اور ووٹ نمبر نکال کر بتایا کہ شناختی کارڈ میں آپکے خاوند کا نام نادر خان ہے جبکہ ووٹر لسٹ میں ناصر خان ہے اس لئے آپ ووٹ نہیں ڈال سکتی ۔

رخشندہ بتاتی ہیں کہ بہت دکھ کے ساتھ وہ واپس گھر آئیں اسکے بعد دل نہیں کرتا کہ کھبی بھی ووٹ کے لئے جائیں۔ انتخابات سے پہلے لسٹ چیک نہیں کی اور نا ہی وہ پڑھے لکھے لوگ ہیں کہ فہرست مں غلطی کو درست کر لیتے ۔

وہ مزید بتاتی ہیں کہ وہ موبائل کا استعمال نہیں کرسکتی تو درستگی کے لئے آن لائن درخواست کیسے دے سکتی ہیں۔

صوبائی اسمبلی الیکشن کمشنر کے ترجمان سہیل احمد نے اس حوالے سے کہا کہ خیبرپختونخواہ انتخابی فہرست پرنظرثانی  کے لئے ایک مرحلہ مکمل کرتا ہے اور اسکے لئے باقاعدہ شیڈول جاری کیا جاتا ہے اس انتخابی فہرست کو مکمل کرنے کے لئے گھر گھر جا کر ایک مہم چلائی جاتی ہے اس میں متعلقہ دیہاتوں، گاؤں یا شہری علاقوں کے مقامی اساتذہ یہ فریضہ انجام دیتے ہیں تو اس میں غلطی یا اندراج سے محروم ہونے کے بہت کم مواقعے ملتا ہیں۔ لیکن اگر ایک آدھ کیس میں غلطی ہوجائے تو ہر کوئی اپنے گھر میں موبائل پراپنا نام فہرست میں دیکھ سکتا اور غلطی کی صورت میں  بآسانی آن لائن درخواست دے سکتا ہے۔

ترجمان کے مطابق جہاں تک خواتین ووٹروں کے اندراج کی بات ہے تو جس علاقے میں بھی یہ خصوصی ٹیم جاتی ہے تو ہر گھر کے مرد حضرات ان اساتذہ کو گھر کی خواتین کے ووٹ اندراج میں مدد کرتے ہیں۔

خاندان کے تمام لوگوں بمہ خواتین کے قومی شناختی کارڈ  مانگے جاتے ہیں۔ تاکہ تمام لوگوں کے ووٹ کا اندراج گھر کی دہلیز پر مکمل کیا جائے، یہ بہت اہم  مرحلہ ہوتا ہے تو چاہے وہ دیہاتی علاقے ہوں یا شہری علاقے ہوں اس میں الیکشن کمیشن کی جانب سے اندراج  مہم ہوتی ہے یہ مہم بہت ہی مثبت ثابت ہوتی ہے۔ اگر اسکے بعد بھی کوئی غلطی ہوجاتی ہیں تو گھر میں کوئی نا کوئی پڑھا لکھا ضرور ہوتا ہے جسکی مدد سے بآسانی درستگی کی جا سکتی ہیں۔

پشاور شہر کی ریحانہ کہتی ہیں کہ انکی عمر 28 سال ہے لیکن ابھی تک قومی شناختی کارڈ نہیں بنایاگیا ہے ساتھ میں وہ پڑھی لکھی بھی نہیں ہیں وہ ٹیکنالوجی استعمال تو کیا ووٹ بھی نہیں ڈال سکتیں کیونکہ انکو ووٹ ڈالنے کا طریقہ نہیں آتا ۔

وہ مزید بتاتی ہیں کہ انکا شناختی کارڈ نہیں ہے تو اس لئے ووٹ کا استعمال نہیں کرسکتی لیکن ان کے خاندان میں ایسی خواتین بھی ہیں  جنکا شناختی کارڈ ہے لیکن انکو ووٹ ڈالنے کے تمام مراحل کے بارے میں علم نا ہونے کی وجہ سے ووٹ کا استعمال نہیں کرتیں۔

اس حوالے سے ترجمان صوبائی اسمبلی الیکشن کمشنر کہتے ہیں کہ خیبر پختونخوا میں اکثر خواتین ووٹرز کی تعداد کم ہوتی ہے ڈیجٹل ٹیکنالوجی کا استعمال نہ کر پانے اور ان پڑھ ہونے کے ساتھ ساتھ ایک اور اہم وجہ سامنے آئی ہیں  خاص طور پر 2017 میں خواتین ووٹرز کی فہرست جب سامنے آئی تو اس میں کافی کمی تھی یعنی 10 فیصد سے زیادہ گیپ تھا اس وجہ کو ایک سٹدی کے ذریعے معلوم کیا گیا کہ وجوہات کیا ہیں جو کہ 10 فیصد سے زیادہ کا گیپ ہے۔ تقریباً کوئی 103 اضلاع میں یہ 10 فیصد سے زیادہ گیپ ریکارڈ کیا گیا تھا، مشاہدے میں یہ بات آئی تھی کہ ان اضلاع میں زیادہ تر خواتین کے پاس قومی شناختی  کارڈ نہیں تھا شناختی کارڈ نا ہونے کی وجہ سے ان کے ووٹ درج نہیں ہو سکے تھے۔

اس مسلے کے حل کے لئے الیکشن کمیشن آف پاکستان نے نادرہ اور پارٹنر آرگنائزیشن کے اشتراک سے  فیمیل این آئی سی ووٹر رجسٹریشن مہم شروع کی جو اب بھی جاری ہے۔  اس طریقہ کار میں خواتین کے شناختی کارڈ مفت بنتے ہیں۔ جیسے ہی شناختی کارڈ بنتا ہے اسکے ساتھ ان کا ووٹ بھی درج ہوجاتا ہے۔ اس مکینزم سے 10 فیصد سے زائد گیپ کم ہو کر 9 فیصد پر آگیا ہے۔

پشاور کے سینئر الیکشن تجزیہ نگار و صحافی  محمد فہیم  خواتین ووٹر کے اندراج کے حوالے سے کہتے ہیں کہ ہمارے ہاں خواتین ووٹر کے اندراج کا مسئلہ ہے اگر ریکارڈ کو دیکھا جائے تو بہت بڑی تعداد میں خواتین تو ایگزسٹ ہی نہیں کرتی ۔ لیکن حکومت نے  یہ ایک اچھا کام کیا کہ شناختی کارڈ کو لنک کر دیا ووٹ کے ساتھ، پہلے یہ ہوتا تھا کہ آئی ڈی کارڈ بنانے کے بعد بھی ووٹ نہیں ہوتا تھااس کے لئے الگ سے جا کر ووٹ کی رجسٹریشن کرنی پڑتی تھی ۔

اب ایسا ہے کہ جیسے ہی شناختی کارڈ بنایا جاتا ہے تو نادرہ کی جانب سے خود بخود ووٹ کا اندراج بھی ہوجاتا ہے۔ مسئلہ صرف اب یہ آتا  ہے اگر کوئی اپنا گھر تبدیل کر دے تو کہا جاتا ہے کہ گھرتبدیل کر دیا ہے اب آئی ڈی کارڈ میں موجود پتہ بھی تبدیل کر کہ نیا بنائیں گے۔اسکے بعد الیکشن کمیشن کے آفس میں ووٹ کی تبدیلی کرانی پڑتی ہے جو ایک مشکل ترین مرحلہ ہوتا ہے۔ یہ کہا جا سکتا ہے کہ کافی وقت کا ضائع ہوتا ہے، جو ہر کسی کے بس کی بات نہیں ہیں۔

مہمند ایجنسی کی بشریٰ کہتی ہیں کہ نادرہ دفتر ان کے گھر سے کافی دور ہونے کی وجہ سے شناختی کارڈ نہیں بنا اس لئے تو انکا ووٹ بھی نہیں ہے۔

 اس سوال کے جواب پر کہ گھر کتنا دور ہے بشریٰ نے کہا کہ 1 گھنٹہ سے زیادہ کا سفر ہے اور ان کا کوئی بڑا بھائی ہے نہیں ، والد کے محنت مزدوری میں مصروف ہونے کی وجہ سے ان کے ساتھ نادرہ دفتر جانے والا کوئی ہے نہیں۔ کارڈ نہیں ہے تو ووٹ کا استعمال بھی کھبی نہیں کیا ۔نا موبائل ہے اور نا ہی ان کو استعمال کرنے کی اجازت ہے۔ یہ صرف بشریٰ کا مسئلہ نہیں ہے بلکہ اس علاقے میں موجود تقریباً ہر گھر کا ہے۔

محمد فہیم نے بشرٰی کی بات سے اتفاق کرتے ہوئے کہا کہ یہ بہت اہم مسلہ ہے جسکا یہاں کی خواتین کو سامنا کرنا پڑتا ہے کہ کیا یہاں ہر جگہ نادرہ کا آفس ہے یا نہیں، حکومت کو پہلے یہ سوچنا پڑے گا کہ ہر ڈسٹرکٹ ،ہر تحصیل میں بلکہ خیبر پختونخواہ کی ہر تحصیل میں کم سے کم ایک نادرہ کا آفس ضرور ہونا چاہئے۔ کیونکہ اگر اپ ڈسٹرکٹ وائز بات کرتے ہیں تو معلوم نہیں کہ چترال میں نادرہ کے کتنے آفس ہوں گے۔

انہوں نے مزید کہا کہ اگر بات کی جائے  کوہستان بالا یا کوہستان پایاں کی اسی طرح  تورغر کی تو یہ وہ علاقے ہیں جو دوردراز پہاڑی علاقے ہیں تو اتنا دور ایک ضلع میں ایک دفتر ہونے سے کام چلے گا بھی یا نہیں۔ اسی لئے خواتین کی ووٹنگ زیادہ کرنے کے لئے اس کے اوپر تھوڑا کام کرنا پڑے گا۔ حکومت  سب سے پہلے نادرہ کے آفس کو ہر جگہ یقینی بنائیں کم از کم  ہر تحصیل میں ایک دفتر ہو۔ لیکن حکومت نے ہر ضلع میں ایک الیکشن کمیشن کا افس رکھا ہوا ہے اس کو بھی تحصیل لیول پہ لے کے جائیں  تاکہ خواتین کو آسانی ہو۔

اگر دیر کی بات کریں یا مہمند کی بات کی جائے تو اگر ایک خاتون مہمند ایجنسی میں رہتی ہیں جن کا گھر افغان بارڈر کے پاس ہے اور ان کو کہا جاتا ہے کہا آپ کو اپنے ووٹ کے رجسٹریشن کی درستگی کے لیے لور مہمند آنا پڑے گا کیونکہ آفس تو وہاں ہے تو  یہ گھنٹوں کا سفر ہے اب وہاں کی خواتین کو کون لے کر آئے گا اکثر اوقات مرد کہتے ہیں بس کوئی ضرورت ہی نہیں ہے آپ چھوڑیں بس جانے کی ضرورت ہی نہیں ہے۔خواتین کے ووٹ کے لئے تو یہ سب سے پہلی ضرورت ہے کہ حکومتی دفاتر تو ہر جگہ اویلیبل کریں ،صحافی محمد فہیم نے کہا۔

مصنوعی ذہانت یا اے آئی کا الیکشن میں کردار

مصنوعی ذہانت ہے کیا پہلے اسکو جانتے ہیں اس حوالے سے بانی دی انلائٹ لیب اور ماہر اے آئی شفیق گیگیانی کہتے ہیں کہ  کسی بھی مشین کوجب پرانا ڈیٹا دیا جائے اور اسکی بنیاد پر مسقبل کے حوالے سے معلومات فراہم کی جائے، مطلب جب مشین کو اتنی مقدار میں  پرویس ڈیٹا دے کر اور اسکی بنیاد پر یہ کہنا کہ مستقبل میں یہ ہو سکتا ہے۔اسکو مصنوعی ذہانت کہا جاتا ہے۔

شفیق گیگیانی اے آئی کے

 الیکشن میں کردار کے حوالے سے بتاتے ہیں کہ بالکل الیکشن میں اے آئی کا استعمال کیا جاسکتا ہے  جس کا کافی مثبت اثر ہوگا۔

وہ بتاتے ہیں کہ انتخابات سے پہلے  ایسا  کیا جا سکتا ہے  کہ اگر ایک حلقے کا پرانا ڈیٹا نکال کر مشین سے یہ پوچھا جائے کہ ماضی میں کس نمائندے نے کیسے اور کیوں انتخابات میں کامیابی حاصل کی ہے تو مشین بتا سکتا ہے کہ کیسے۔ اسی طرح  یا  ڈیٹا دے کر پوچھا جائے کہ ماضی میں اس حلقہ کے لوگوں نے کن کن بنیادوں پر ووٹ دیا تھا اب کیا ہوگا تو اگر کوئی نمائندہ اے آئی کے بتائے ہوئے فراہم کردہ معلومات پر عمل کرے تو ہوسکتا ہے آنے والے وقت میں بھی وہی نمائندہ انتخابات جیت سکے اور یہ اے آئی پریڈیکشن کی بدولت ممکن ہوا ہوگا۔  

اے آئی کا الیکشن میں استعمال سے کوئی فائدہ نہیں

سینئر صحافی و تجزیہ نگار محمد فہیم  اے آئی کے الیکشن میں استعمال کے حوالے سے بتاتے ہیں کہ

 آرٹیفیشل انٹیلیجنس ایک پائلٹ پروجیکٹ تو ہو سکتا ہے لیکن مکمل طور پر اس کے اوپر کام ممکن نہیں ہے کیونکہ اے آئی کے لیے بہت ضروری ہے کہ ہر جگہ انٹرنیٹ کی سہولت موجود ہو ۔پورے ملک کے اندر خاص کر دور دراز علاقوں میں انٹرنیٹ ایکسیسبلٹی نہیں ہے اگرصرف پشاور کی بات کی جائے تو پشاورصوبائی دارالحکومت ہے ملک کے بڑے شہروں میں شمار ہوتا ہے۔

تو ضلع  پشاور میں ہی بڈھ بیر، متھرا یا چمکنی کی طرف چلے جائیں یہ وہ علاقے ہیں کہ یہاں پہ نیٹ کام ہی نہیں کرتا بلکہ مین سٹی کے اندر علاقوں میں بھی گھروں کے اندر نیٹ کام ہی نہیں کرتا تو یہ ایک بہت بڑا مسئلہ ہے، جب نیٹ کی ایکسسبلٹی نہیں ہے تو پھر اپ کیسے کام کریں گے ابھی حکومت فائیو جی ٹیکنالوجی کے حوالے سے کام کر رہی ہے تو امید کی جاسکتی ہے پھر اس سے فرق پڑے گا لیکن اب یہی لگتا ہے کہ اے آئی کا الیکشن میں استعمال صرف وقت کا ضیاع ہوگا کوئی خاص فائدہ نہیں ہوگا، محمد فہیم نے کہا۔

آرٹیفیشل انٹیلیجنس کا انتخابات میں استعمال کیا خطرناک ہو سکتا ہے جواب میں محمد فہیم نے کہا کہ خطرناک تو نہیں کہہ سکتے لیکن عین یہ ممکن ہے کہ جب الیکشن کے دوران اے آئی کا استعمال ہوتو نقصان دہ ہوسکتا ہے کیونکہ اگر اے آئی جہاں سے معلومات لے رہا ہوتو شاید وہ درست نا ہو۔تو اسکا انتخابات پر منفی اثرات مرتب ہو سکتے ہیں۔

جبکہ دوسری جانب شفیق گیگیانی کے مطابق اگر آنے والے انتخابات میں اے آئی کا استعمال کیا جاتا ہے تو یہ بہت اچھا ہو گا اس میں کوئی نقصان نہیں ہے پہلے زمانے میں بھی کوئی بھی نمائندہ انتخابات سے پہلے مہم کے دوران سروئے کرتا تھا اور اسکی بنیاد پر اپنا مہم آگے چلاتا تھا تاکہ وہ آنے والے انتخابات میں میں کامیاب  ہوسکیں لیکن اب زمانہ ڈیجیٹلائز ہوگیا ہے اور مصنوعی ذہانت ڈیجیٹل ہے تو اس میں کوئی فرق نہیں ہے یوں کہہ سکتے ہیں کہ پہلے مینول تھا اور اب تمام چیزیں ڈیجیٹل ہیں۔

November 13, 2023 - Comments Off on ویمن ووٹرز کا ٹرن آوٹ ڈیجیٹل مہم سے بڑھایا جا سکتا ہے۔

ویمن ووٹرز کا ٹرن آوٹ ڈیجیٹل مہم سے بڑھایا جا سکتا ہے۔

فوزیہ کلثوم رانا

سیاسی عمل میں خواتین کی شمولیت سے معاشی ترقی اور جمہوریت کو براہ راست فائدہ پہنچتا ہے۔

 گزشتہ دو دہائیوں میں عالمی سطح پر اس حوالے سے مثبت رجحان دیکھنے کو ملا ہے ۔اگرچہ ماضی کے مقابلے میں اب دنیا بھر میں خواتین کو آگے بڑھنے کے مواقع زیادہ میسر ہیں اور اب خواتین سائنس سے لے کر سیاست تک میں مردوں کے ساتھ کام کرتی دکھائی دیتی ہیں۔ لیکن خواتین ووٹرز کی تعداد مردوں کے مقابلے میں اب بھی بہت کم ہے ۔اس لیے سیاسی جماعتیں عورتوں کو ووٹ ڈالنے کی جانب راغب کرتی ہیں ۔ اور اس کے لیے ڈیجیٹل مہم کا سہارا لیا جا رہا ہے۔

کہا جاتا ہے کہ پاکستان میں آئندہ انتخابی جنگ سوشل میڈیا پلیٹ فارمز پہ لڑی جائے گی۔ اس لیے تمام جماعتیں مبینہ طور پر اپنی اپنی سوشل میڈیا ٹیموں کو منظم کرنے میں مصروف ہیں اور یہ فارمولا صرف پاکستان میں نہیں بلکہ پوری دنیا میں چل رہا ہے ۔تاکہ ڈیجیٹل میڈیا کے ذریعے زیادہ سے زیادہ لوگوں کو آگاہی مہم دی جا

سکے اور جیت میں کردار ادا کیا جا سکے۔

سیاست کے لیے ڈیجیٹل میڈیا کا کردار کیسے بڑھ رہا ہے؟

پاکستان میں سیاست پر سوشل میڈیا کے اثرات کی نمایاں مثال پاکستان تحریک انصاف ہے ۔ یوں تو مسلم لیگ (ن) اور پیپلز پارٹی نے بھی اپنے سوشل میڈیا سیل قائم کر رکھے ہیں لیکن اس کے مقابلے میں تحریک انصاف کا استعمال کہیں زیادہ ہے اوریہ کہا جا سکتا ہے کہ 2018کے عام انتخابات میں تحریک انصاف نے ڈیجیٹل مہم کے ذریعے کامیابی سمیٹی تھی۔

اب اگر پرکھا جائے کہ سیاسی جماعتیں خواتین ووٹرز کی ایجوکیشن کے لیے کیا کرتی ہیں ؟

تو اس میں حق رائے دہی اہم ہے مگر خواتین کی اکثریت ووٹ کی اہمیت کو نہیں جانتی ہیں، خواتین کو ووٹ کی   اہمیت اور فوائد کے بارے میں آگاہی دینے کے لیے سیاسی جماعتیں اپنے ڈیجیٹل ونگز اور یوتھ ونگز کا اجلاس طلب کرتی رہتی ہیں تاکہ ان کو مضبوط بنا یا جا سکے اور خواتین ووٹرز کی تعداد میں اضافہ کیا جا سکے۔

اسی حوالے سے کہ کیا سیاسی جماعتیں خواتین ووٹرز کی ایجوکیشن کے لیے ڈیجیٹل مہم کا استعمال کرتی ہیں؟

سابق پارلمانی سیکرٹری لاء اینڈ جسٹس و سابق ممبر قومی اسمبلی مہناز اکبر عزیز نے کہا کہ پاکستان مسلم لیگ (ن) کی نائب صدر مریم نواز کی سربراہی میں خاص طور پر نوجوانوں اور خواتین ونگز کی ضلعی اور حلقہ کی سطح کی تنظیم پر توجہ مرکوز ہے ، اور خواتین میں ووٹ کی اہمیت اور سیاسی عمل میں شمولیت کے حوالے سے پاکستان مسلم لیگ ڈیجیٹل ایک منظم  مہم  بھی ہے جس کے تحت عورتوں اور نوجوانوں میں ووٹ کی اہمیت بارے ان کو آگاہی دینا، پروگرام منعقد کروانا اور ایسے علاقے جہاں عورتوں کے شناختی کارڈ تاحال نہیں ہیں، مریم نواز شریف کی سربراہی میں عورتوں کو اس کی اہمیت عملی طور بتانے کے لیے (ن) لیگ کے ویمن ونگ میدان عمل میں سرگرم ہیں۔

پاکستان پیپلز پارٹی کی سینیٹر سحر کامران نے خواتین میں ووٹ کی اہمیت اجاگر کرنے کے حوالے سے ڈیجیٹل 50.50 سے بات کرتے ہوئے کہا کہ بینیظیر بھٹو کے نقش قدم پر اب چئیرمین بلاول بھٹو زرداری خصوصی طور پر عورتوں کی سیاسی عمل میں شرکت کو ووٹ اور سیاسی عمل میں حصہ داری کی بناء پر بڑھانے کے قائل ہیں ۔ اسی حوالے سے ان کی خصوصی ہدایات پہ عمل کرتے ہوئے اسی طرح پیپلز پارٹی ڈیجیٹل دنیا میں متحرک ہے، اور اس حوالے سے خواتین میں ووٹ کی اہمیت پر بھی کام کر رہے ہیں اور یہ کہ انفرادی سطح سے لیکر ڈیجیٹل دنیا میں کثیر تعداد میں اپنا پیغام بآسانی پہنچایا جا سکتا ہے ۔ انہوں نے بتایا کہ سندھ میں کبھی بھی خواتین ووٹرز کی تعداد کم ہونے کی بناء پہ انتخابات کالعدم نہیں ہوئے ہیں ۔سحر نے کہا کہ پی پی پی یونین کونسل کی سطح سے لے کر ڈیجیٹل میڈیا کے ذریعے بھی عورتوں میں ووٹ کی اہمیت کیا ہے اور ان کے لئے اپنا ووٹ الیکشن کمیشن کی ویب سائٹ سے کیسے چیک کیا جا سکتا ہے جیسے ضروری عوامل کو سکھانے کے لئے سوشل میڈیا پلیٹ فارمز کا استعمال کر رہی ہے۔ انہوں نے کہا کہ اس سے پہلے تو ڈیجیٹل میڈیا کا اتنا کردار نہیں تھا مگر آنے والے انتخابات میں اس کی اہمیت بہت بڑھ چکی ہے، اور پی پی پی خواتین ووٹرز کی ایجوکیشن کے لئے مزید موئثر کمپین بھی ڈیزائن کروائے گی، کیونکہ ہمیں آبادی کا ایک بڑا حصہ سوشل میڈیا سے آشنا ملتا ہے تو خواتین میں ووٹ کی اہمیت کے لئے بھی ڈیجیٹل میڈیا یا ڈیجیٹل مہم چلانے کی اشد ضرورت ہے، انہوں نے بتایا کہ سوک ایجوکیشن ایکٹ بھی 2018  میں انہوں نے  متعارف کرایا تھا اور سوک ایجوکیشن میں ووٹر ایجوکیشن ایک بنیادی حیثیت رکھتا ہے، اسے پارلیمنٹ کے دونوں ایوانوں سے کامیابی کے ساتھ منظور کیا گیا تھا اور صدر مملکت نے اس کی منظوری دی تھی اور پھر یہ گزٹ آف پاکستان میں شائع کیا گیا تھا، یہ اب پارلیمنٹ کا ایکٹ ہے اور حکومت پر اس پر عمل درآمد کی پابندی ہے۔ اور سیا سی جماعتیں اس دور جدید میں جو بھی راستے اختیار کئے جا سکتے ہیں چاہے وہ ڈیجیٹل مہم ہے یا گھر گھر جانا ، خواتین کو ووٹ ڈالنے کے لیے راغب کرنے میں استعمال کریں گی اور پی پی پی اس حوالے سے خاصی متحرک جماعت ہے ۔

ڈیجیٹل مہم کا خواتین ووٹرز میں شعور دینا اور ووٹ کی اہمیت بارے  جماعت اسلامی کی سابق ممبر قومی اسمبلی عائشہ سید کا کہنا تھا کہ ہم اپنی ’دستک‘ کے نام سے آگاہی مہم چلا رہے ہیں، ہم نے ووٹرز کے لیے ایک ایپ بنائی ہے جس میں ووٹرز کا اندراج کیا جا رہا ہے۔ ہمیں یہ معلومات بھی مل رہی ہیں کہ کون سے علاقے میں کتنی خواتین کی رجسٹریشن نہیں ہوئی اور کتنی خواتین کا ابھی تک شناختی کارڈ ہی نہیں بنا، اس پر ہم مسلسل کام کر رہے ہیں۔ اور جو اہداف سیٹ کیے تھے ہم نے اس میں کامیابی حاصل کی ہے۔

عائشہ سید کا مزید کہنا تھا کہ جماعت اسلامی مختلف پروگرام بھی منعقد کروا رہی ہے جس کے ذریعے خواتین کو آگاہی دی جا رہی ہے اور ڈیجیٹل مہم چلا کر خواتین کو ووٹ کی اہمیت بتائی جا رہی ہے اور انہیں ووٹ دینے پر آمادہ کیا جا رہا ہے۔ اور جن خواتین کے شناختی کارڈز نہیں ہیں وہ بھی بنوا رہی ہیں ۔ ان کا کہنا تھا کہ جماعت اسلامی عوام کی جماعت ہے اور ہماری آبادی کا آدھا حصہ کیوں ووٹ کی اہمیت سے نا آشنا رہے ہم عورتوں کی سیاسی شمولیت بڑھانے اور ووٹ ڈالنے کے عمل میں خواتین کی ایجوکیشن پہ خصوصی توجہ دے رہے ہیں ۔

اسی حوالے سے پاکستان تحریک انصاف کی سینیٹر فلک ناز کا کہنا ہے کہ خواتین کو متحرک کرنے اور ان میں ووٹر ایجوکیشن بڑھانے کے لیے تحریک انصاف فعال کردار ادا کر رہی ہے۔ ان کا کہنا تھا کہ تحریک انصاف خواتین کو عملی سیاست میں آگے لے کر آئی، عمران خان نے خواتین کو جماعت میں مناسب نمائندگی دی اور اہم عہدوں تک رسائی دی تاکہ وہ اپنا فعال کردار ادا کر سکیں۔

فلک ناز کا کہنا تھا کہ خواتین میں ووٹ کی اہمیت کو اجاگر کرنے اور انہیں فوائد دینے کے لیے تحریک انصاف ڈیجیٹل مہم بھی چلاتی ہے تاکہ خواتین کو مزید مضبوط بنایا جا سکے اور خواتین ووٹرز کی تعداد میں اضافہ کیا جا سکے۔

سینٹڑ فلک ناز نے بتایا کہ جیسے ان کا تعلق چترال سے ہے تو پاکستان میں ایسے علاقے بھی ہیں جہاں عورتوں کو ووٹ دینے کے طریقہ کار کا ہی علم نہیں ہوتا اس لیے ان علاقوں میں بھی ڈیجیٹل مہم چلانا ضروری ہے تاکہ ان خواتین کو بھی ووٹ کی اہمیت کا پتہ چل سکے جو اس سے آگاہ نہیں ہیں۔ ان کا کہنا تھا کہ تحریک انصاف پورے پاکستان میں ڈیجیٹل مہم کے ذریعے آگاہی پیدا کر رہی ہے تاکہ خواتین کو ووٹ کی اہمیت کا پتہ چل سکے اور وہ اپنے اس حق کو استعمال کر سکیں۔ اور آئندہ انتخابات میں اگر پی ٹی آئی میدان میں اتری تو باقاعدہ ڈیجیٹل مہم بھی لانچ کریں گے۔

اب اگر ہم تقابلی جائزہ لیں  جنوبی ایشیا کے ممالک جن میں  پاکستان، انڈیا، بنگلہ دیش شامل ہیں کہ کیا ان ممالک میں بھی خواتین ڈیجیٹل مہم کا استعمال کرتی ہیں؟

تو بنگلہ دیش کی حسینہ واجد اور بھارت کی سونیا گاندھی کو جنوبی ایشیائی خواتین میں اہم اور منفرد اعزاز حاصل ہے ۔ ان کا شمار طاقتور اور مقبول ترین سیاستدانوں میں ہوتا ہے ۔ انتخابات کے لیے وہ بھی ڈیجیٹیل مہم کا سہارا لیتی ہیں تاکہ اپنے ووٹ بینک کو بڑھایا جا سکے جو ان کی کامیابی میں کلیدی کردار ادا کرتی ہے۔

پاکستان سے معروف سیاستدان مریم نواز شریف خواتین ونگ اور سوشل میڈیا اور یوتھ کا اجلاس طلب کرتی رہتی ہیں جس میں ڈیجیٹل مہم کے حوالے سے خصوصی ہدایات بھی جاری رکھتی ہیں ، حالیہ دنوں میں نواز شریف کی وطن واپسی کے موقع پر بھی انہوں نے ڈیجیٹل میڈیا کا خوب استعمال کیا تاکہ انتخابات کی صورت وہ زیادہ سے زیادہ لوگوں کو اپنی جانب راغب کر سکیں ۔

اس کے علاوہ تحریک انصاف اور دوسری جماعتوں سے تعلق رکھنے والی حنا پرویز بٹ، شیریں مزاری اور شہلا رضا ، شازیہ مری سمیت بہت سی سیاستدان ایسی ہیں جو ڈیجیٹل میڈیا پر متحرک ہیں اور انتخابات میں اس کا خوب استعمال بھی کرتی ہیں۔

پاکستان میں الیکشن ایکٹ 2017 کے تحت انتخابات میں بطور ووٹر خواتین کی شرکت اب پہلے سے زیادہ آسان اور بہتر ہو گئی ہے۔

انتخابی اصلاحات کے ایکٹ 2017ء کی رو سے سیاسی جماعتوں کو پابند کیا گیا ہے کہ وہ عام نشستوں پر 5 فیصد ٹکٹیں خواتین کو دیں۔الیکشن کمیشن کو اب اختیار حاصل ہے کہ وہ ایسے انتخابی حلقوں کے انتخابی نتائج کو منسوخ قرار دے سکتا ہے جہاں خواتین کا ٹرن آؤٹ 10 فیصد یا اس سے کم ہو اور ایسے کسی بھی معاہدے پر ضروری کارروائی کر سکتا ہے جس کے تحت خواتین کو زبردستی ووٹ دینے سے روکنے کی کوشش کی گئی ہو۔

انتخابات میں خواتین کی شمولیت بہتر بنانے کے لئے یہ ایک بڑا اور خوش آئند اقدام ہے۔

2018میں پاکستان کے الیکشن کمیشن نے صوبہ خیبر پختونخوا کے صوبائی اسمبلی کے حلقہ پی کے 23 میں خواتین کے دس فیصد سے کم ووٹ کاسٹ ہونے پر اس حلقے میں ہونے والے انتخابات کو کالعدم قرار دے دیا تھا۔ملکی تاریخ میں ایسا دو بار ہوا ہے اس سے قبل صوبہ خیبر پختونخوا کے علاقے لوئر دیر میں سنہ 2013 میں ہونے والے انتخابات میں خواتین کو ووٹ ڈالنے سے زبردستی روکنے پر اس علاقے میں دوبارہ انتخابات کروائے گئے تھے۔

الیکشن ایکٹ 2017ء میں خواتین کو حق رائے دہی میں سپورٹ کیا گیا۔ سیکشن 47 کے تحت الیکشن کمیشن پابند ہے کہ خواتین کے ووٹ رجسٹر کروانے میں خصوصی اقدامات کرے۔

جب کہ سیکشن  کے170(Aمطابق کوئی بااثر شخص کسی    خاتون کو ووٹ ڈالنے سے نہیں روک سکتا۔

اور سیکشن206کے مطابق الیکشن میں 5 فیصد ٹکٹ خواتین کو دیے جائیں گے۔

سیکشن 9 کے مطابق اگر کسی جگہ خواتین کے10 فیصد سے کم ووٹ کاسٹ ہوں تو اسے کالعدم قرار دیا جاسکتا ہے۔

اب چونکہ الیکشن کی بھی آمد آمد ہے تو سیاسی جماعتوں کو چاہیے کہ ڈیجیٹل مہم کا موثر استعمال عمل میں لاکر خواتین ووٹرز کا ٹرن آؤٹ بڑھائیں کیونکہ سیاسی جماعتوں کے ڈیجیٹل ونگز سے ہمیں ڈیجیٹل میڈیا پہ ٹرولنگ یا لیڈرشپ کے حق میں ٹرینڈ تو روز ہی نظر آتی ہیں مگر خواتین ووٹرز کی ایجوکیشن کے لیے اس کا موثر استعمال کم ہے۔ ہم نے کچھ سیاسی جماعتوں کی رہنماؤں سے بات چیت کی ہے مجموعی طور پہ ڈیجیٹل مہم پہ وہ متفکر پائی گئیں اور آیندہ انتخابات میں خواتین ووٹرز کا ٹرن آوٹ بڑھانے کے لیے ڈیجیٹل مہم کا استعمال کے عزم کا اعادہ کیا۔

November 13, 2023 - Comments Off on How are women in politics perceived on social media apps in the run-up to elections?

How are women in politics perceived on social media apps in the run-up to elections?

Wasfiya Sheikh

Remember the deeply misogynistic stunts from a time long before the emergence of social media, during the 1988 elections, when doctored photos of Nusrat Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto were air-dropped from helicopters in different cities of Punjab? Multiple individuals, including Nawaz Sharif and his media team, faced accusations in connection with this reprehensible act. However, in a recent podcast on 'The Pakistani Experience' with Shehzad Ghias Shaikh, Hussain Haqqani denied these allegations and instead pointed the finger at the military, a stance he has taken previously.

In another barbaric incident in Gujranwala, a female dog was paraded with a lantern attached to its collar, mimicking the symbol of Fatima Jinnah during her 1965 election campaign against General Ayub Khan. This shocking act of misogyny marked the inception of a highly divisive electoral contest.

Violence against women politicians is not a recent phenomenon and pre-dates the advent of social media. Women have always been subjected to a barrage of personal, religious, moral, and sexist comments and seen as vulnerable targets. These tactics, employed by political leaders, their parties, and followers, aim to establish moral superiority and perpetuate the notion that women do not belong in the political arena, but rather, they should adhere to traditional gender roles as homemakers. This also stems from the belief held by some men that they are the custodians of political heritage and that women can be objectified for political and selfish interests.

Only last year, Fawad Chaudhry, then a member of parliament associated with the ruling party, used derogatory language in a tweet, disparaging Hina Rabbani-Khar as a 'low-IQ woman' and insinuating that her fame rested solely on her choice of personal accessories. However, these sexist and/or derogatory  comments extend beyond just women. According to Dr. Asif Akhtar, LSE Fellow at the Department of Media and Communication, these misogynistic behaviours and remarks, regrettably, are not limited to male politicians targeting women. These comments are also targeted towards politicians who may not adhere to traditional notions of masculinity. They are embedded within Pakistan's broader political environment, highlighting a systemic issue.

For example, PML-Q's Mr. Moonis Elahi caused outrage when he asked women MPAs to share their vanity kits with Hamza Shehbaz. In another incident Pervez Musharraf commented on Bilalwal Bhutto's way of chanting in a video message, suggesting that he should first learn to chant like a man.

Women themselves can sometimes perpetuate these attitudes, even directing them toward other women. For example, Maryam Nawaz accused Imran Khan and Jemima of having their children raised by Jews. In response, Jemima mentioned that in 2004, she had to leave the country due to anti-Semitic attacks, which, to this day, have not ceased. These attacks were initially triggered by Imran Khan's comment about Junaid Safdar playing the aristocratic sport of polo in the UK.

The proliferation of social media accounts and globalisation has compelled even traditionally-oriented political parties to establish and maintain their presence on these platforms. In Pakistan, this transformation became evident during the run-up to the 2013 elections, as political parties turned towards social media to expand their reach. This shift occurred concurrently with the launch of 3G and 4G services in Pakistan and the increased availability of affordable smartphones. PTI was among the first political parties to successfully embrace social media as a tool for mass communication. Others, such as the Jamaat-e-Islami, which did not initially see the need for a strong social media presence during the 2013 elections, have since recognized its significance and harnessed its potential in recent years, particularly in the lead-up to subsequent elections.

Twitter is increasingly the preferred platform for political elites to gain public acclaim and disseminate their political ideologies. The discourse on Twitter demands a critical examination of linguistic structures and strategies to reveal the intricate relationship between language and social practices. In the realm of political communication, a constant struggle for power and public approval unfolds, often at the expense of denigrating opponents. When their interests are at stake, politically aware elites employ a variety of linguistic structures, strategies, and rhetorical manoeuvres in opposition to other powerful groups. The rise of social media has amplified this discourse, giving birth to new strategies and approaches in these dialogues.

Originally initiated as a means for friends to keep tabs on each other due to the high cost of SMS messages, Twitter has since evolved into a crucial tool for political engagement, activism, and campaigning. Despite these positive developments, it is disheartening to note that women still endure relentless abuse on the platform. This online political interaction has also paved the way for what some refer to as "social media warfare," where politicians seek to defame their rivals in pursuit of public favour. Within this social media domain, numerous power structures are at play, and multiple political leaders employ strategies to expose the weaknesses of their adversaries.

Abuse and harassment in online spaces are not limited to women in Pakistani politics; they extend beyond Pakistan and even beyond the realm of politics. According to an Amnesty International study published in 2018, women are subjected to abuse on Twitter every 30 seconds. In 2020, a group of Pakistani female journalists and activists issued a statement, urging the government to respond to a "coordinated" effort aimed at harassing and intimidating them on social media. This campaign was carried out by accounts openly expressing support for the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.

Another Amnesty International study, published in 2020, highlights that women in politics often pay a higher price as compared with men, especially when it comes to online trolling. The study, focusing specifically on women politicians in India, stated that these attacks are not solely based on their political views but often take the form of personal attacks. Between March and May 2019, 95 Indian female politicians received nearly 1 million hateful mentions on Twitter, with one in five of these mentions being sexist or misogynistic in nature.

For this article, I analysed tweets from three different Pakistani politicians in October 2023. These politicians are Maryam Nawaz (PMLN), the daughter of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Senior Vice President of the Pakistan Muslim League; Shazia Marri (PPP), who served in the National Assembly of Pakistan from August 2018 to August 2023; and Sharmila Faruqi (PPP), a former Pakistan Minister of Finance

On October 24th, Maryam Nawaz tweeted about her father's return to Pakistan on October 21st after four years of self-imposed exile in London which attracted multiple comments from accounts owned by men. These comments not only made derogatory and misogynistic remarks about her appearance, character, and competence, but they also went so far as to compare her to an animal. Importantly, all of these attacks were entirely irrelevant to the content of her original post. It appears that these accounts were merely waiting for her to make a post so they could launch such dismissive attacks.

In contrast, Shazia Marri's Twitter account had no negative comments. She had restricted her comment section to prevent random comments, which is an effective way to self-regulate and limit harmful interactions on women politicians' Twitter accounts, compensating for the weak policies on social media platforms

On Sharmila Farqui's tweets about visiting religious sites, commentators, particularly men, demanded that she post pictures with her husband, questioned her intelligence, and made derogatory comments about her honesty. One comment even included edited pictures of Sharmila, implying that her political social media presence was only valuable when accompanied by a man.

The underrepresentation of women in Pakistani politics is exacerbated by the backlash they face and the challenges of entering male-dominated establishments. Persistent intimidation forces women to abandon political positions, directly impacting the democratic process.  This risk is compounded by the fact that women's seat quotas exist in both the national assembly and the senate, but they only account for 17%.

According to a 2019 Digital Rights Foundation report on ‘Online Political Participation of Female Politicians in Pakistan’s General Election 2018’, Facebook data analysis revealed that female politicians often receive comments like "sexy," "queen," and "beautiful," while their male counterparts are more likely to receive comments such as "lion," "thief," and "hero." The top-ranked comments in this analysis were categorised as sexist, politically victimising, involving personal abuse, ethnic-based, and containing threats. This suggests a stark difference in how men and women are perceived on social media. Feminity is often subjected to attack and sexualization, while masculinity is often celebrated.

At the beginning of this year, Twitter had 4.65 million users in Pakistan. Globally, Twitter's gender statistics show that there are 63% men and 37% women on the platform. However, it is important to approach this data, as well as Twitter's gender data, with caution because the platform doesn't distinguish between bot accounts and real human accounts

All the comments analysed in this article were made by men. This leads to the question: Who gets to take up space on social media and in conversations related to politics and political figures? This, in turn, raises another question: Who has access to these spaces?

Ali Cheema, Shandana Khan Mohmand and Asad Liaqat’s IDS working paper –  titled  'Invisible Citizens: Why More Women in Pakistan Do Not Vote' – delves into the gender gap that exists in electoral turnout in Pakistan. It discusses how patriarchy manifests in various ways: women are not expected to actively participate in politics, and they are also discouraged from leaving their homes unless it is absolutely necessary. This limited accessibility extends to the social media political space, compounded by the underutilization of mobile phones by women. According to a recent report by the UNDP, in Pakistan, 50% of women own a mobile phone, while 81% of men do. This means there are 22 million fewer women with mobile phones than men. Women in Pakistan are also 49% less likely to use mobile internet, resulting in 12 million fewer women using it compared to men.

Dr. Shandana Khan Mohmand, one of the authors of the paper – who is also currently leading the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) Governance research cluster and the IDS Pakistan Hub –  believes that political social media spaces are male-dominated, regardless of their democratic nature. She also stated that such engagement of comments leads to gendered disinformation.

Gendered disinformation encompasses the deliberate dissemination of misleading or harmful information with two primary aims. First, it involves attacking or diminishing individuals based on their gender, perpetuating stereotypes or engaging in harmful practices. Secondly, it employs gender-specific narratives to further political, social, or economic objectives, effectively weaponizing gender-related stories to manipulate public opinion or achieve specific goals. Such attacks or behaviours lead to systematic exclusion of women from politics.

Subsequently, gendered disinformation reinforces the fact that politics is a gendered space, gendered stereotypes and social norms. These gendered stereotypes extended into internet spaces, where offline inequality and violence against women continue to persist. Moreover, the technological possibilities of social media – its unwieldy bounds and absence of geographical borders – have radically increased the flow of anti-feminist ideas and information between groups and platforms existing across cyberspace.

According to a study published by the Pew Research Center in January 2021, women are three times more likely to be subjected to online sexual harassment, with percentages increasing in younger women (under 35). Sexism and misogyny have a considerable – and concerning – influence on the online world, with one in two women encountering some form of gender-based online harassment. These statistics are staggering and alarming, and are only compounded by vaguely worded hateful conduct regulations governing social media sites such as Twitter – which make it difficult for women and other gender minorities to seek recourse.

The relentless criticism of women in politics by men – in both, online and offline spaces – and the sexist tropes they perpetuate, have a cascading effect on how people discuss women in politics, in the broader political landscape. The call for increased representation of women in national assemblies underscores the complexity of the issue. Online trolling, while undeniably detrimental, has various consequences, impacting victims on personal, political, mental, and physical levels, often misleading voters.

Consequently, social media transforms into an archive where sexist and misogynistic comments are documented, potentially influencing others to participate in or reject such narratives. At the same time – the matter is not confined to online spaces. The enduring influence of patriarchy means that women often find themselves burdened with the task of explaining themselves on public platforms, parliamentary settings, or on social media, especially when confronted with false information.

It is pertinent to note that social media platforms – and governments – have failed to promote equal democratic participation in online spaces. Sexist remarks used against women on the floors of assemblies and rallies – such as the Firdous Ashiq Awan “dumper” comment or Ali Amin Gandapur’s sexist comments about Maryam Nawaz in a rally in Gilgit Baltistan in December 2020 – have trickled down into everyday election-related discourse on Twitter.

Subsequently, hate speech has become part and parcel of the daily routine for women politicians and communicators – it is regarded as an inevitable consequence of being visible and online, and these abusive practices are intended to silence them or limit their activities. In the run-up to Pakistan’s 2024 General Elections, it is high time that women’s political participation moves beyond just mere recognition. Failure to do so would be a disservice; not just towards women in politics, but also towards the country’s democratic values and its citizens.

November 13, 2023 - Comments Off on Political Parties in Pakistan cling to targeted marketing on Facebook to attract voters.

Political Parties in Pakistan cling to targeted marketing on Facebook to attract voters.

Hamna Iqbal Baig

Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) has emerged as the second most followed party with 3.9 million followers on Facebook after Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which enjoys a massive following of 8.6 million, followed by Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz with 3.6 million followers. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Jamiat Ulama-e-Islam Pakistan (JUI-F) are followed by more than 800,000 people on the platform.

Pakistan lifted the ban on the far-right party, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), in November 2021. When you look up the party on Facebook, the platform displays a message that says, “Are you sure you want to continue? The term you searched for is sometimes associated with activities of Dangerous Individuals and Organizations, which isn't allowed on Facebook.” Although the party does not have an official Facebook page, we found numerous unofficial groups with users who align with the party’s ideology or support them. TLP’s Twitter account was suspended in November 2022. However, the party has a presence on YouTube with 48,600 followers.

Over the years, Meta (the parent company of Facebook) has emerged as the dominant online platform for political advertising due to its cost-effectiveness and powerful tools that enable messages to be precisely targeted at specific audiences. Political parties in Pakistan began utilising these tools for their general election campaigns in 2018.

For the recent local body elections and mayor elections in Karachi, Jamaat-e-Islami Karachi effectively used targeted marketing on Facebook. The party claims that paid ads were shown to at least 6 to 7 million people whose location was set as Karachi.

Meta's Ad Library report shows that since July 2022, a total of 25,138 ads related to social issues, elections, and politics were launched, and more than Rs 69,112,403 was spent on it by advertisers in Pakistan.

Following the 2016 US presidential election, which Donald Trump won, Meta introduced a significant overhaul in 2017 of its approach to paid political advertisements. This was an attempt to respond to concerns raised by US lawmakers threatening to regulate the social network due to the saturation of political ads during election campaigns.

This move included making all political ads visible to everyone and demanding that political advertisers disclose who pays for the advertisements to address transparency concerns associated with governments using Facebook for election interference.

Imran Ghazali, a digital media strategist, said that political campaigns often employ highly targeted strategies using various parameters and metrics on platforms like Facebook to refine their audience. “This includes targeting specific age groups, geographic locations, areas of interest, and keywords,” he said.

JI’s LG polls campaign ran over a 40-day period where 15 to 18 videos were boosted on Facebook and Instagram by JI Karachi’s official page. The last paid ad was run on 23 August 2022, as part of it.

JI Pakistan has run 67 ads on Facebook and Instagram since July 2022, spending at least Rs 384,947 on them. The cost of each ad is between Rs 100 to 25,000. The first paid ad was launched in November 2022.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) - PMLN started running paid political ads in October recently, both on Facebook and Instagram. They have run a total of 41 ads with a spending range that varies from Rs 100 to 20,000 per ad. The total amount spent on these ads is Rs 140,741.

Most of these ads from the PML-N focused on their leader, Nawaz Sharif's return to Pakistan, with the message that he would lead Pakistan out of its current crisis. The ads emphasised that Sharif was the key to solving issues like poverty and inflation and driving the country's progress. They conveyed the idea that Pakistan's prosperity and development would only be possible if Nawaz Sharif became the Prime Minister again.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) ran ten ads from 16 May to 19 October 2023. The total expenditure for these ads amounts to Rs 119,838. The PPP has spent between Rs 4,500 to 35,000 on each ad. Except for PPP, no party is currently running ‘active’ ads on Meta platforms as of writing time.

Interestingly, the Ad library had no data about PTI, but the party usually runs paid ads around election cycles. The last time they launched paid ads was in 2018 on their official page.

Political parties are now shifting to digital advertising for two main reasons. The younger demographic, particularly Generation Z, is less inclined towards traditional marketing strategies. Given that these individuals represent the forthcoming generation of voters, their preferences hold significant importance. In the upcoming elections, a major chunk of the electorate will consist of first-time young voters who use social media as their primary source of news.

Fatir Siddiqui, Chief Technical Officer at a digital agency called East River, pointed out that political campaigns on social media are now beginning to “expand beyond traditional issues of a Pakistani voter like food, clothing and shelter” but instead delve into “targeting sentiments”. An example of this is targeting individuals looking for a laptop via laptop scheme ads.

He said that this approach allows advertisers to precisely target specific audiences or groups. “For example, if someone is unemployed and searching for a job or looking to mortgage their house, they start searching online on platforms like Google and asking for recommendations on Facebook. Algorithms can understand these cues, and if a political party runs a campaign addressing these concerns, it can effectively convey a message that voting for a particular candidate will lead to solutions,” he said.

Initially, advertisers initiate an awareness campaign to reach a broader audience, employing Facebook's Filter Tools to target specific demographics. Then, the audience that engages with the content is exposed to a second ad, introducing the party's product or message. A third ad is then presented, encouraging support in the form of votes.

Haris Alam, JI Karachi’s social media manager, said that awareness or reach-based campaigns are commonly preferred by political parties but not narrow targeting because they may restrict results, especially for larger campaigns.

“During Karachi LG polls, targeting voters based on their location was challenging due to their varying addresses because many people live in rented houses and often shift. Therefore, we targeted college, university students and women based on their issues,” Alam said.

Alam said that simultaneously, the party also ran an organic campaign, which achieved better results as compared to their paid campaign, reaching 12 million people.

Women in Karachi were the focus of this campaign after their issues, such as the need for improved transportation options, safety from harassment, better access to education, and improved healthcare, were identified by JI. The party tailored its campaign’s content and launched paid ads aimed at these women, assuring them that if they supported the party or its candidates with their votes, their concerns would be addressed.

This trend of targeted political advertising on social media is being observed globally while it's still emerging in the context of Pakistan where political parties are beginning to utilise such strategies, focusing on specific issues primarily.

In the United States, political candidates have been at the forefront of this approach. They are using platforms like Facebook and Instagram to tailor their messages to voters based on a wide range of factors, including music preferences, sports interests, shopping behaviours, and TV viewing habits. This level of micro-targeting allows candidates to connect with voters on a more personal and relatable level, making their campaigns highly effective in reaching specific demographics and interests. In addition to their official social media team, numerous political parties utilise thousands of volunteers who actively disseminate their content across various social media groups.

PML-N’s social media lead, Atif Rauf, said that although the party’s content team based in Model Town Lahore comprises 40 people, he has 20,000 volunteers to help disseminate his party’s message on social media or share paid ads.

To reach women, JI’s volunteers specifically share advertisements in groups that cater to women in Pakistan, as well as TV drama-related groups and other relevant communities.

PTI also has a huge volunteer network which primarily disseminates their messages via Facebook groups. Despite other political parties’ growth on social media, PTI dominates massively all major social media platforms.

Experts have raised concerns that Facebook and WhatsApp groups established by political parties can contribute to the echo chamber effect by gathering like-minded supporters, filtering information to align with the party's agenda, reducing exposure to diverse opinions, fostering polarisation, and strengthening a sense of group identity. These dynamics can reinforce existing beliefs and hinder open discussion of alternative viewpoints.

A policy paper by UNDP and USAID, titled “How social media fuels echo chambering phenomenon in Moldova and how to address it?” pointed out that people tend to favour information that aligns with their preexisting beliefs while dismissing dissenting views. Social media platforms employ algorithms that tailor users' content based on their past interactions, creating virtual echo chambers where like-minded individuals repeatedly encounter content and opinions that reinforce their own. This algorithmic customisation filters out diverse perspectives, making users less likely to be exposed to contrasting viewpoints.

Consequently, these isolated digital spaces foster polarisation and manipulation, contributing to the deepening of political and social divisions. The echo chamber effect is not limited to a specific region; it's a global phenomenon present in both mature democracies and developing nations, profoundly impacting electoral processes and outcomes. The influence of social media, as seen in events like the Brexit referendum and the Cambridge Analytica Scandal, demonstrates the far-reaching consequences of echo chambering on democratic processes.

However, a recent study led by researchers from various universities and conducted in collaboration with Meta examined the impact of social media on political views. When investigating the existence of echo chambers on Facebook and their influence on political polarisation, the researchers found that Facebook users' feeds often consist of like-minded content, confirming the presence of echo chambers. However, when they attempted to reduce the bias in users' feeds, it had no significant impact on their political opinions. While this suggests that echo chambers may not be solely responsible for political polarisation, the researchers stress the need for more data transparency and further research on social media's impact.

Ghazali said it's not necessary that political ads will convince users to support a particular party. “If I'm not already affiliated with a specific political party, and I encounter their advertisements on my timeline, there's no guarantee that it will sway me to support them or adopt their viewpoints,” he said.

He said that while targeted marketing allows political parties to connect with undecided voters, the impact on users may vary, as their decision-making depends on various factors, including the content and messaging, along with a myriad of other factors.

While Meta has implemented various transparency measures aimed at political advertisements, concerns persist about potential misuse. The page that has spent the most on ads in Pakistan is "Karachi Stories." This page has run a total of 480 ads and describes itself as a media/news company based in Karachi. It has a substantial following with 75,000 likes and 115,000 followers on Facebook.

In 2023, Karachi Stories ran 81 ads with varying spending amounts ranging from Rs 100 to Rs 70,000 on each ad. Since July 2022, this advertiser has spent an estimated total of Rs 19,063,680 on ads related to social issues, elections, or politics in Pakistan.

The advertiser has allocated a significant portion of this spending to ads with disclaimers, while Rs 214,100 was spent on ads without disclaimers. Ads without disclaimers are usually removed by Facebook. The most recent ad from Karachi Stories was posted on 17 September 2023, and the first ad in this period was launched on 29 June 2022.

Based on our analysis of the page's content, it appears that their coverage is primarily centred around Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). The politician who receives the most coverage on their page is Hafiz Naeem ur Rehman, who serves as JI Karachi Ameer. Their recent content is notably focused on expressing support for Palestinians during the recent escalations, a cause that Jamaat-e-Islami strongly advocates for. Interestingly, the page also features content related to JI's recent Karachi rally in support of Palestinians. Although the page doesn't explicitly state its affiliation or the political party it supports, it seems to promote JI’s activities in Karachi primarily.

Instances like this, where a page is promoting a political party under the guise of being a media/news company by concealing its true intent, are concerning. Such pages spend significant sums on advertising, potentially circumventing the system's transparency mechanisms. This means that there is a need for stricter enforcement to ensure information integrity in elections.

Amnesty International has raised significant concerns about the surveillance model employed by Big Tech companies such as Google and Facebook. These tech giants, with their vast array of services that dominate the internet, have built their business models on gathering and monetising extensive data about individuals. Advertisers are eager to pay for detailed insights and predictions about people, driving Google and Facebook to collect as much information as possible to create highly accurate user profiles. These profiles include not only basic information but also predictions about users' moods, ethnicities, sexual orientations, political opinions, and vulnerabilities. In essence, the more targeted an ad is to a user, the more profit these companies make.

The data collected goes far beyond what users may willingly provide, encompassing extensive details about their activities, searches, and interactions. This pervasive data-gathering enables these companies to make inferences about users' behaviour, hobbies, interests, relationships, and much more, all of which are used to target specific ads. Artificial intelligence systems aid in making these predictions, with Facebook, for instance, claiming to make trillions of predictions daily. Amnesty International argues that this intrusive surveillance poses a serious threat to individuals' privacy and their broader human rights.

In an environment where polarisation and the influence of social media on political discourse are significant concerns, it's crucial for both online platforms and government authorities, like the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), to address these challenges.

The absence of specific rules and spending limits for political campaigns on social media in the ECP's code of conduct is a notable gap in regulating modern political campaigns. Given the growing importance of social media in political messaging and influence, it's imperative for regulatory bodies to adapt and establish guidelines that ensure fairness, transparency, and information integrity in elections.

Governments and relevant authorities should work in collaboration with online platforms to create a framework that effectively oversees digital political advertising, sets clear spending limits, and enforces rules to prevent the misuse of these platforms for political purposes. It's important to address these issues for the integrity of the electoral process and ensure that voters have access to accurate and balanced information, helping to reduce polarisation and foster a healthier political discourse.

Addressing the impact that digital technology has on the electoral process.

November 13, 2023 - Comments Off on Election Illusions: Deepfakes & Disinformation in Pakistan

Election Illusions: Deepfakes & Disinformation in Pakistan

Ayesha Khalid

Imagine: Elections are just around the corner. You are scrolling through your social media feed, and a video of your favourite politician passionately addressing a large crowd captures your attention.

You watch intently. The person in the video appears nothing short of authentic. But here’s the catch: What if I told you the figure full of fervour in that video is not flesh and blood but a mere illusion conjured through generative artificial intelligence (AI) technology?

While the disclosure may initially strike you as whimsically surreal at first, there is no denying the fact that it has become a reality, surpassing even the most far-fetched imaginations. In an age where artificial intelligence has taken the world by storm — and despite reservations expressed by writers, artists, performers, and educators worldwide, and the ongoing heated debates about the threats and challenges persisting from such advanced tech — generative AI has become one of the most captivating and fascinating wonders in the world of technology.

AI products continue to astonish the world as they change the face of the global creative media industry. These advancements encompass everything from the generation of lifelike images of revered celebrities to the production of AI-crafted news anchors. And now, in a development that breaches the boundaries of political theatre, we are witnessing the emergence of AI-generated clones of political leaders. The potential implications of this technology are extensive and captivate those who engage with its boundless possibilities.

When virtuality permeates reality

Let’s begin with “Chat2024.com”, an initiative launched by Delphi, a digital cloning platform which offers users a unique opportunity to establish one-on-one connections with a range of famous personalities. These prominent faces may range from political figures, creators, and artists to renowned business magnates. Delphi excels in the art of replicating the complete personality and cognitive abilities of a real-life persona, custom-tailoring this duplicate to offer a personalised and interactive experience for its audience.

In a fascinating convergence of technology and human interaction, Delphi effectively renders these digital clones accessible to its audience. Its service, Chat 2024.com, stands as a digital forum where audiences have the distinct privilege of engaging in dialogue with these synthetic duplicates, gaining insights, perspectives, and even responses to queries of vital significance. For instance, users can not only pose pressing questions to their favourite politicians but can also avail an opportunity to witness these clones engage in dynamic political debates.

AI in political campaigns around the world

Before delving into the potential implications of AI in the upcoming elections in Pakistan, it is important to look at a few examples highlighting the potential of deepfakes around the world, including in some of the foremost economies. In the United States, for instance, the Florida governor launched a confrontational campaign against former president Donald Trump, using “deepfake” images that depict Mr. Trump embracing the governor. Forensic experts subsequently revealed that the AI-generated media, despite appearing remarkably realistic at first glance, was misleading and aimed at undermining Trump’s reputation. Similarly, another video, seemingly showing the current U.S. President, Joe Biden,making transphobic remarks, was shared on social media, where it spread like wildfire. Experts, however, debunked this video as a deepfake, too.

In Turkey, in the run-up to the general elections, President Erdogan showcased a manipulated video, which insinuated that his major contender, Kilicdaroglu, was linked to a militant organisation. Erdogan’s use of this manipulated footage highlights how AI-generated content can be harnessed for political purposes, even when its authenticity is subject to question. These incidents collectively illustrate the growing role of AI deepfakes in political campaigns, making it essential for policymakers in a country like Pakistan to address the ethical and regulatory challenges surrounding this technology, considering the upcoming elections.

But are we there yet?

AI and the upcoming Pakistani elections

In the context of Pakistan, a state where political divisions have taken on an increasingly fervent and polarised character — particularly following the ousting of the former prime minister Imran Khan and the return of the self-exiled disqualified premier Nawaz Sharif — the potential role of AI looms as an additional threat to the electoral processes. For a moment, just consider the prospect of engaging in a conversation, posing challenging questions, and witnessing heated debates with these AI-generated replicas of political leaders. It may sound bizarre, but considering past events, it is evident that the supporters of different political parties would wholeheartedly embrace such technological innovations, as who wouldn’t relish the spectacle of their favourite leader skillfully navigating the tumultuous waters of the electoral battle? While Pakistan hasn't traditionally indulged in the practice of one-on-one debates between rival electoral candidates, it is imperative to acknowledge the possibility of such a paradigm-shifting development in the country’s intricate political tapestry. The fusion of AI and politics is poised to redefine the way political discourse is conducted, and Pakistan, with its robust but fragile political environment, may be no exception to this sweeping change.

In the critical May 9 episode, Pakistan Tehreek Insaf (PTI) Chief Imran Khan shared a video titled “Sinf-e-Ahan,” — translated to “women of steel” — aimed at honouring and emphasising the role of women in what Khan described as a struggle for “real freedom”. This came almost a year after his much-debated removal from the Prime Minister’s Office. The incident sheds light on how political leaders, including influential and highly followed names Imran Khan himself, can inadvertently or intentionally embrace AI to shape their narratives, often without fully comprehending the consequences of spreading technology-facilitated disinformation. The AI-generated video in question, portraying a woman confronting the police, was generated using artificial intelligence (AI) software. International media outlets have conducted investigations confirming the fabrication of the said media.

This situation serves as a stark example of how politicians can potentially misuse AI in the electoral process. While the intention behind using AI-generated content may vary from creating emotional impact to building a particular narrative, the line between genuine information and AI-generated content can become increasingly blurred. In the context of elections, this could lead to the spread of false or manipulated information, which, in turn, could impact the choices made by voters.

Another pressing concern arises when considering OpenAI's implications on politics in the context of the upcoming general elections in Pakistan. OpenAI's software, ChatGPT — which was launched in October 2022 and changed the face of conventional academia and content marketing — is primarily trained on human feedback, which results in it inheriting human-like qualities, including the general political biases of its users. While this attribute might be useful for content generation, it becomes problematic when we consider its application in a court of law or, in this case, an election process. The impact of AI on democracy and democratic norms is complex and multifaceted. There are concerns that AI could be used to manipulate public opinion and undermine the democratic process, as well as exacerbate existing inequalities and reinforce biases.

Threats to marginalised communities and persecuted groups

It is important to mention that Pakistan drafted its first National Artificial Intelligence Policy in May 2023, marking a significant step in adopting AI’s potential for growth. However, the policy lacks a holistic national outlook, with concerns raised about limited input and consultation and exclusion of crucial stakeholders across the board. The existing bureaucratic aversion to digitisation poses a substantial hurdle to the policy's effective implementation. Also, the policy raises concerns about Internet access and connectivity restrictions that could disrupt market confidence and the emerging AI ecosystem. The draft policy seems to emphasise idealistic goals over practical considerations, suggesting a lack of substantive analysis. It is clear that the impact of AI on democracy will depend on how it is developed and deployed. It is, therefore, essential, that policymakers, researchers, and technologists work together to ensure that AI is used in a responsible and ethical manner that respects and upholds democratic values and principles.

Another crucial aspect to consider in the context of AI's influence on electoral campaigns is to explore the consequences of AI-generated harmful material on vulnerable and persecuted groups, especially the transgender community and women. In a country where conservatives and supporters of exclusionary agendas actively engage in coordinated disinformation campaigns against women in politics and gender-diverse communities, the implications of generative AI on electoral campaigns raise a fresh set of complex challenges.

The rise of online gender-based violence (OGBV) in the country further compounds these concerns. As AI advances and enables the generation of increasingly convincing deepfakes and manipulated content, the risk of harmful narratives targeting marginalised groups necessitates robust vigilance on online platforms. In a patriarchal society like Pakistan, where gender disparities and discrimination have long gripped the social fabric, the use of generative AI in shaping electoral narratives can perpetuate harmful stereotypes, intensify disinformation, and exacerbate online harassment and violence against vulnerable groups.

Shehzadi Rai, the first elected transgender member of the Karachi Municipal Council, has raised concerns about the potential threats posed by AI-generated content, particularly in online gender-based violence (OGBV) against transgender individuals. She highlights, “I have raised critical concerns about the threats posed by AI-generated content against my community. I’ve experienced it personally, facing AI-fueled trolling on platforms like Twitter, where trolls use AI to fabricate extensive threads with malicious intent, specifically targeting individuals from marginalised groups like ours. Recently, in another unfortunate incident, I received a doctored image of me on WhatsApp, showing me inappropriately without my clothes. The image was fake, and I assume it must have been created using AI technology. For me, the mere thought of such images going viral is alarming, as it could have severe consequences for my political career and personal safety.”

She adds, “I often find myself in a state of uncertainty, questioning whether these threats constitute an organised campaign to implicate me in spreading LGBTQI agenda or are merely part of the regular daily threats I encounter. However, one thing is clear – the potential harm caused by this unchecked AI technology, particularly in a conservative society like Pakistan, could seriously jeopardise my political career and personal life”.

Shahzadi shares that her hopes for government intervention are minimal, emphasising that tech giants operating AI technology have a fundamental responsibility to govern its harmful use. Her experience underscores the urgent need for AI regulation and ethical considerations to protect vulnerable and marginalised communities from the implications of AI-generated harmful content. This essentially tells us how AI can be a tool for political manipulation and a vector for reinforcing societal inequalities.

AI regulation in Pakistan

The situation steers us to question the stance of state authorities in addressing the possible consequences and risks associated with AI. What proactive steps can they take to address these issues, rather than remaining passive while the rapidly evolving world addresses security and safety concerns linked to AI? “It does get frustrating at times to see other countries moving towards the regulation of AI technology while we have yet to move on from draconian cyber legislation aimed at surveilling citizens and coercing tech firms into handing over personal user data to the government,” Usman Shahid, editor Digital Rights Monitor (DRM), says. “You look at countries like France, Australia, Japan, and the UK, and they have all started regulation of AI technology, reviewing security assessments from tech firms and investigating potential breaches. AI has already become a mainstream dialogue in the tech sphere in these markets.”

In Pakistan, ensuring an understanding of online disinformation requires local authorities to stay abreast of the latest trends in AI generative material. Monitoring disinformation can be particularly resource-intensive due to the vast volume of online information and social media content shared in local languages. In light of these challenges, the unbridled spread of false information manipulates public opinion, erodes trust in institutions, and sows discord within society. These divisive narratives can further exacerbate existing societal divisions, creating an environment of polarisation and mistrust. Therefore, the digital domain's vulnerability necessitates a prompt and effective response from the government and relevant bodies in Pakistan.

Hamaad Salik, a PhD in Information Systems Security, currently associated as a programs manager with the U.S. Department of Labor, says the upcoming elections in Pakistan face a severe challenge from AI-generated deepfakes and disinformation.

“AI introduces a constellation of significant cybersecurity threats with far-reaching implications for political parties, both as potential victims and wielders of these threats in the context of elections,” says Saalik. “The manipulation of AI-driven tactics and the resultant disruption of election results necessitate rigorous mitigation strategies.”

The use of AI, particularly in the form of deepfakes and cyberattacks, poses significant threats to political processes and campaigns, as it may tarnish the reputation of political figures. Cyberattacks, on the other hand, can lead to the theft of crucial information and disrupt the operations of rival political parties. AI-generated material can also distort public opinion and voter turnout, and it can also offer or facilitate hacking techniques that are more sophisticated and harder to detect.

According to Salik, AI-related challenges in Pakistan are further exacerbated by inadequate digital infrastructure, limited internet access and unreliable connectivity. The lack of resources and awareness at the governmental level also contributes to the complication of efforts that can overcome these challenges through tech-based solutions.

Beginning with the basics

For a fair and secure electoral process, it is essential for authorities to work towards adequate resources that enhance their capacity for monitoring disinformation and developing situational awareness for the public on artificial intelligence. It is an established fact that disinformation thrives on fundamental falsehoods that evolve and circulate continuously. To tackle this menace, the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoITT) can collaborate with officials from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to enhance public awareness and trust in the security of the electoral system.

However, the Commission must start collaborating with nonprofits working on tech-related issues in Pakistan, including disinformation and hate speech. This can significantly counter AI-driven misinformation around elections and help prevent manipulation attempts that can mislead the public. Journalists can also leverage resource packs and training modules developed by these organisations to comprehend better the challenges arising from AI and the tackling thereof. Additionally, ministries should scrutinise their official websites for any personal or organisational information hackers might exploit to create personalised phishing emails.

In an individual capacity, Salik says, tools such as Deepfake Lab and FaceForensics++ and initiatives like the DeepFake Detection Challenge can help people develop and enhance basic digital investigation skills. Fact-checking resources like Snopes, PolitiFact, and FactCheck.org can also play an essential role in helping counter the disinformation battle.

November 13, 2023 - Comments Off on Pakistan Elections 2023: Calls Grow for Tech Platforms to Rein in Online Misinformation

Pakistan Elections 2023: Calls Grow for Tech Platforms to Rein in Online Misinformation

Tehreem Azeem

It is election time in Pakistan. It is the most crucial period when all political parties are actively engaged in increasing their contact with their voters to ensure they get maximum votes in the upcoming elections and rule the country for the next five years.

At present, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has not announced a specific date on which general elections will happen. ECP said on September 21st that the elections would occur sometime in late January 2024. This vague timeframe exceeds the November 6th deadline suggested by President Arif Alvi by over two months.

The Supreme Court issued notice on October 23rd to the ECP and the federal government regarding petitions demanding elections within 90 days of the National Assembly's dissolution. All eyes are now on the ECP to announce a definitive election date that ensures all parties have sufficient opportunity to contest the crucial polls.

Election Dynamics and Social Media Engagement in Pakistan

In the meantime, political parties are actively engaging their followers on their respective social media platforms to garner votes.

All these parties have massive social media presence, with Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) leading other political parties with over 8 million followers across Facebook, X (former Twitter) and YouTube. It is over twice as large as Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz PML(N)'s 3.6 million followers. Meanwhile, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) trails far behind both, with under a million followers.

These parties use social media platforms to livestream their rallies, broadcast leader addresses, and showcase their campaign efforts. They highlight their long-standing struggles, the hardships faced by their party leaders and their families, and their agendas for the people of the country. They also use their social media platforms to describe how they plan to achieve their goals and how other parties and the establishment have been hindering their efforts to work for the country.

Not to ignore, all these parties use social media to criticise and malign opposing parties and their leaders. They run organised campaigns that mostly involve disinformation, hate speech, falsehoods, inflammatory content, harassment and personal attacks on the opposing political parties, their leaders and workers. Despite the prevalence of such tactics, there appears to be little action from platforms against this type of problematic election-related content.

This raises questions about how tech giants like Meta, X (former Twitter) and YouTube are regulating their respective content policies and preventing the spread of misinformation, disinformation, hate speech, harassment, and inflammatory content on their platforms ahead of the elections.

Social Media Platforms’ Content Policies and their Application in Pakistan

With over 200 million citizens, Pakistan has the world's fifth-largest population. How this massive electorate uses social media to inform their vote and how the country's political parties use their social media platform to engage with their voters could significantly impact the election's outcome. Therefore, it is critical that tech companies ensure their platforms are not manipulated to spread false or misleading information about parties, candidates, or voting procedures. But it seems these tech giants have limited interests in regulating the country-specific platforms even in this crucial time.

So far, only Meta has unveiled its strategy for Pakistan's upcoming general election and ensure the safety of online communities. In its policy, it has announced to establish an election operations team to monitor risks in real-time, as well as to reinforce policies against harmful content and misinformation. Meta has also said that it will increase transparency around political advertising on its platforms. The company has also mentioned to advance its digital literacy and civic education programs both in English and Urdu in collaboration with local partners like the Election Commission of Pakistan.

On the other hand, X has yet to announce any policy. Since acquiring Twitter in late 2022, Elon Musk has made sweeping changes in the company. He has reversed several content moderation policies, like lifting the ban on political advertising that Twitter had instituted to combat misinformation. This ongoing turmoil and change in priorities under Musk's leadership means Twitter's capacity to consider and implement country-specific content moderation policies, especially for Pakistan, has likely reduced. The platform is currently more focused on broadly stabilising itself rather than enhancing its content policies for Pakistan.

YouTube is another platform that has yet to announce any specific policy changes regarding its content regulation in the lead-up to the Pakistani polls.

Shmyla Khan, a digital rights advocate and researcher based in Lahore, while talking on this very subject, raises her concerns about the limited presence of social media platforms in Pakistan. She points out a significant need for more resources and attention directed towards Pakistan despite its complex socio-political situation. "I think the biggest areas where social media platforms are currently falling short is the fact that there are not enough resources being directed at Pakistan to address the very complex socio-political situation in Pakistan and the kind of content that is coming through,” she said. She also notes the language barrier as a substantial challenge, as much of the content is in languages other than English.

"A lot of the time, it happens that the content is not in English. Also, the content in Pakistan is very different from that in Western countries. This sometimes results in certain content getting taken down when it should not be and content that should be taken down remaining up. This leads to false positives and negatives," she further said. She emphasises that this is a pressing issue as social media spaces become increasingly polarised and contested in Pakistan. She also mentioned Pakistan’s tightening grip on these platforms.

"The state is also tightening its grip on these platforms, making it even more crucial to ensure that political content is not influenced by either the state or existing biases that these companies have. So, that is perhaps the root cause – a lack of resources but also a lack of understanding of the particularities of the Pakistani context. Khan further elaborates on the role of different social media platforms in Pakistan. "Twitter, for example, is almost absent in Pakistan in terms of its content moderation,” she said.

She refers to a famous incident where Elon Musk dismantled Twitter's content moderation safety team, leading to an unregulated space with minimal human intervention and a slow and unresponsive reporting system. She underscores the need for additional resources for content moderation that account for Pakistan's unique dynamics.

Khan notes that platforms like WhatsApp and Instagram have distinct characteristics and usage patterns in Pakistan. WhatsApp, for instance, is widely popular as a private messaging app with limited moderation. Meanwhile, Instagram offers its unique dynamics. Khan says that visual content has a more significant impact in Pakistan, making it a hotspot for spreading disinformation and misinformation. She says that it is more challenging to moderate visual content effectively. She suggests that these platforms need to play a more active role in addressing this issue.

Khan also talked about transparency in content moderation as another significant concern. She says it remains unclear which criteria are being applied. She highlights the need for greater transparency and accountability in this process. "I think transparency is a huge issue. We do not know exactly what content is being taken down, what content is being taken down on government request, what is being taken down - is it risks to policy or aviation policies of these companies and platforms and what criteria are being applied,” she added.

Khan acknowledges that there exists a delicate balance between combating misinformation and protecting political content. While preventing the spread of false information is essential, she cautions against granting social media companies too much power in regulating political content. She says that striking the right balance between safeguarding democratic values and ensuring the freedom of expression is crucial in Pakistan.

Combating Misinformation and the Role of Citizens

Muhammad Awais, a resident of Lahore and a lecturer at the University of Management and Technology, says he is extremely concerned about the misinformation and disinformation that political parties spread on social media before elections.  "I am concerned about misinformation. I am not concerned for myself but for those who live in villages. These days, everyone has access to social media. Everyone has Facebook, X, and everything. They cannot differentiate between factual information and misinformation, which is why it is so easy to spread propaganda about everything in Pakistan,” he said.

Awais's primary concern lies in the realm of elections. He points to a recent incident involving the anchor and columnist Orya Maqbool Jan, who shared an outdated picture of a rally and connected it to a recent rally of PMLN to suggest a decline in the popularity of the party.

"I am concerned about misinformation related to elections on social media. Yesterday Orya Maqbool Jan shared a post that the number of people in the jalsa of PMLN was less, but that was a picture of 2020. If a journalist gets involved in misinformation, then it is really concerning,” he said.

He says one should see the source of the information. If the source is coming from a credible source, then it is more likely to be true, but still, one needs to cross-check information from multiple credible sources near elections as even the credible sources could get biased at this time. "If the information is absent from credible sources, it likely isn't true, and there's a chance that someone has already published a fact check."

Awais says social media is the main source of information for people who do not have access to television channels and newspapers, such as overseas Pakistanis. "Social media is extremely important in these days. Many cases in the recent history of Pakistan have risen through social media, like that of the Zainab murder case. I take most of my information through social media. I have been living abroad for some years. So, overseas people always rely on social media to get their information. They do not have access to Pakistani television channels, so they rely more on social media because that is in access."

He commends the efforts made by platforms like X to combat misinformation. He says X publishes a note under a post that it is old or unrelated to the event being discussed. "X mentions under the post that this information is not true, and for factual information, go to this site. Once, I saw this disclaimer under Elon Musk’s tweet. Once under Biden’s tweet. I think that is the best strategy. The community notes on Twitter are very helpful. They say that this post is not related to the event being discussed, but it's related to some other event."

However, he believes that individuals must take responsibility for their media consumption habits. He says the social networking sites would only do a little as they have become huge giants. They need more audience, engagement, and content. An individual should increase its media literacy to differentiate between information and the one being circulated with wrong intentions.

Awais recounts how even close family members can sometimes fall prey to online misinformation. He shares an anecdote about his father accessing unreliable sources on social media. "My father would talk to me about the political scenarios when I would return home. I would ask him where you got this information from. He would say he got it from YouTube. I would tell him I can also make a channel on YouTube and can say anything. He would listen but the next day again, he would go on YouTube to get the information,” he said.

Despite Awais's attempts to steer his father towards more credible sources, the ease and convenience of social platforms meant his father kept returning to them for information. Awais says that digital media literacy is more important for this group of people. “I think the media literacy of people of this age group is so low. They become a victim of misinformation. Social media companies should act and give community notes or alerts that the picture or information being shared in this post is not related to this information but is old or irrelevant. So, the people who are not very media literate can understand it easily," he said. While social media platforms should take more responsibility, Awais believes the onus is also on citizens to be more discerning. He argues that increasing one's knowledge and media literacy is key to combating misinformation.

Dr. Shabbir Sarwar, a communication studies professor at the University of Punjab, explains how political parties and other groups use fake social media accounts to spread misinformation and attack opponents. While talking to Digital 50.50, Dr. Sarwar addresses a concerning phenomenon – the influence of fake accounts and trolls in shaping public opinion.

"This impression of public opinion or control of public opinion with the help of trolls, I mean some fake accounts created by vested groups like political parties, has happened. Whenever there is some critical analysis or comment, there is an attack using uncivil language and abuse to silence them." These fake accounts, according to Dr. Sarwar, are often used as tools for launching verbal and uncivil attacks on individuals who express critical views. "Whenever there is some critical analysis of a situation or a critical comment, there is an attack of verbal drags, argumentative attacks, not argumentative, rather the use of foul or uncivil language and an attack on the personality of that particular person. Sometimes, there is even the use of abusive language to silence or intimidate them."

Dr. Sarwar mentions specific instances of disinformation campaigns in Pakistan, particularly related to the country's politics. "There were multiple incidents when disinformation happened in an organised manner. First was when the PTI government faced a no-confidence motion, and there was an organised effort against the judiciary using manipulated images and hashtags."

Beyond policy measures, Dr. Sarwar highlights the need for more research and evidence-gathering on this issue. He points to a lack of comprehensive data on the impact of social media manipulation in Pakistan's political landscape. Dr. Sarwar states that filling this information gap is vital to truly understanding the scale and drivers of the problem. Fact-based insights can then inform solutions tailored to the Pakistani context. "PTA has not taken strict action against such coordinated manipulation of communication channels. In Pakistan's context, this is due to policy gaps, laws, and lack of implementation mechanisms."

He emphasised the need for a more comprehensive approach. "There is a gap in information and data in this particular scenario, and data is crucial to solving the problem related to social media manipulation in Pakistani politics, especially during elections," he added.

Dr. Sarwar suggests concrete policy and enforcement measures. He emphasises the need for the Election Commission of Pakistan to take the lead on this by laying down ground rules for social media conduct during the polls. Dr. Sarwar highlights that oversight cannot be biased and must apply uniformly to all political actors. Strict implementation mechanisms are required to ensure compliance.

"The Election Commission should ensure the formulation of a clear social media policy before conducting elections with input from various stakeholders. The implementation mechanism must be strict, non-partisan, and equal for all candidates and political parties," he stressed.

Elections can bring several challenges for any country and its people. The countries that prioritise democracy devise ways to develop robust policies and systems, coupled with a commitment from all stakeholders to uphold democratic principles to ensure the fairness and integrity of the electoral process. Living in a world where the virtual world carries as much importance as the real one, there is a need to demand social media companies ensure their platforms also follow the same democratic principles to help people make their decision to vote wisely.

In the case of Pakistan, it is highly important for social media platforms, regulatory bodies, and citizens to collaborate in striking a balance between combating misinformation and safeguarding democratic values. The future of Pakistan’s electoral integrity hinges on this collective effort, which would ensure that information in this crucial time is a tool for empowerment rather than manipulation.

November 12, 2023 - Comments Off on Nighat Dad becomes a member of UN’s new Artificial Intelligence Advisory Body

Nighat Dad becomes a member of UN’s new Artificial Intelligence Advisory Body

nighat Digital Rights Foundation’s (DRF) Executive Director Nighat Dad has joined the United Nations Secretary General's high-level advisory board on Artificial Intelligence (AI) along with esteemed distinguished individuals from across the globe. The board will address the overarching theme of addressing global governance of AI.
https://press.un.org/en/2023/sga2236.doc.htm
https://www.un.org/en/ai-advisory-body

Press Coverage:
Geo TV https://www.geo.tv/latest/516314-pakistans-nighat-dad-joins-un-chief-antonio-guterres-high-level-ai-advisory-board
Samaa TV https://www.samaa.tv/208733373-nighat-dad-joins-un-s-advisory-board-on-artificial-intelligence
We News https://en.wenews.pk/nighat-dad-joins-unsgs-high-level-advisory-board-on-ai/
Voice pk https://voicepk.net/2023/10/nighat-dad-joins-un-secretary-generals-high-level-advisory-board-on-artificial-intelligence-ai/
The Express Tribune https://tribune.com.pk/story/2443255/nighat-dad-joins-un-secretary-generals-advisory-board-on-ai
The Nation https://www.nation.com.pk/27-Oct-2023/nighat-dad-joins-unsg-s-high-level-advisory-board-on-artificial-intelligence
Arab News https://www.arabnews.com/node/2398681/pakistan
The News https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/1123585-pakistan-s-nighat-dad-joins-un-chief-s-high-level-ai-advisory-board
Dunya News https://dunyanews.tv/en/Pakistan/766036-Nighat-Dad-joins-UN-Secretary-General/%27s-advisory-body-on-AI
Dawn https://www.dawn.com/news/1784356/nighat-dad-joins-un-chiefs-ai-advisory-board
Pakistan Observer https://pakobserver.net/nighat-joins-unsgs-advisory-board/
Yahoo Finance https://finance.yahoo.com/news/openai-google-digital-anthropologist-un-140258678.html?guccounter=1
Business Plus https://businessplus.ie/news/abeba-birhane-un/
Associated Press of Pakistan https://www.app.com.pk/national/nighat-dad-joins-un-secretary-generals-high-level-advisory-board-on-artificial-intelligence/
Bol News https://www.bolnews.com/videos/nighat-dad-became-part-of-un-ai-advisory-board-big-achievement-for-pakistan-breaking-news/
Digital Rights Foundations signs an MOU with DC Lahore to conduct Digital Safety and Literacy Sessions for Young Adults

Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) and Deputy Commissioner (DC) of the Lahore District Administration Rafia Haider signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to collaborate on a series of upcoming digital safety and literacy sessions for young adults titled, ‘Hamara Internet Mahfooz Internet’.

 

 

Press Coverage:

The Urdu Point https://www.urdupoint.com/en/pakistan/mou-signed-to-conduct-digital-literacy-and-sa-1761880.html
Voice PK https://voicepk.net/2023/10/digital-rights-foundation-hamara-internet/
Dawn https://www.dawn.com/news/1784554/digital-safety-sessions-at-public-schools
Digital Rights Foundation, along with many other Civil Society Organizations signed the  petition to 'Stop War Crimes in Gaza'

Policy Initiatives:

World Development Information Day

On #WorldDevelopmentInformationDay, DRF reaffirmed its commitment to empowering human rights defenders, especially women, in the digital realm.

In Collaboration with Coalition Against Online Violence

DRF with the support of Coalition Against Online Violence (CAOV), produced 6 animated videos, arranged a play and developed a comic book to highlight the lived experiences of the most marginalized people in Pakistan. Keep a lookout on our campaign with the hashtag #SaanjhiKahaniyan.

World Mental Health Day

Digital Rights Foundation collaborated with Tiktok to produce and publish content regarding World Mental Health Day (WMHD).

Press Coverage:
MM News https://mmnews.tv/tiktok-pledges-to-foster-mental-health-awareness-in-pakistan/
The Nation https://www.nation.com.pk/11-Oct-2023/tiktok-promoting-mental-health-awareness-in-pakistan

Press Coverage:

Jhoot Such Segment | PTV News

DRF’s Program Lead Seerat Khan was featured on PTV News Jhoot Such program where she talked about looking beyond the headlines especially in the time of rampant misinformation.
https://youtu.be/lpGp4hwrWaM?si=rSHTxDbN5JnL6oyi

Online, unsafe and censored | The News | Big News Network

The Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), in this article where women journalists share how they’re met with threats, abuse and harassment in online spaces, reports that, in 2022, its helpline received 75 complaints from journalists, with 51 of them related to cyber harassment, emphasizing the pressing need for secure online spaces for female journalists. The report highlights that Punjab accounted for the highest number of complaints. Despite the alarming rise in digital violence, women often hesitate to report incidents to law enforcement agencies, citing a lack of confidence in the seriousness of their complaints.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/tns/detail/1114300-online-unsafe-and-censore
https://www.bignewsnetwork.com/news/273986143/online-unsafe-and-censored

Resilient media voices | IFEX

IFEX member Digital Rights Foundation hosted a gathering which recognized the role of the nationwide network of women journalists in building a “safe space where women turn to each other for support and solidarity in the absence of support mechanisms.”

'They're afraid of joy': Pakistan's trans community fights hate | The Manila Times

Digital Rights Foundation, a nonprofit that also runs Cyber Harassment Helpline, has recorded 74 complaints registered by the trans community since the start of the hate campaign.

https://www.manilatimes.net/2023/10/10/world/asia-oceania/theyre-afraid-of-joy-pakistans-trans-community-fights-hate/1914105

Online freedoms | Opinion | Dawn

Nighat Dad, the Executive Director of the Digital Rights Foundation, emphasized the alarming use of AI by governments for digital repression and misinformation, as highlighted in the Freedom on the Net 2023 report. She called for global collaboration, autonomous oversight, and prioritization of data protection to address the escalating challenges to internet freedom.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1781020

OurNet: The Internet Is Ours | The Internet Society

According to Nighat Dad, the adverse effects of Internet fragmentation disproportionately affect marginalized communities, lacking access to resources or knowledge to safeguard their digital rights. As a human rights lawyer and digital rights advocate, she asserts that the offline gender gap in Pakistan is mirrored online, motivating her to tirelessly offer a platform for marginalized voices to be amplified.

OurNet: The Internet Is Ours

Mobilising for Data Justice | The Alan Turing Institute

In the concluding episode of the Advancing Data Justice series, Shmyla Khan discusses the myriad complex and systemic challenges on the path to data justice. She also shared insight into the transformative activism and advocacy efforts, revealing the actions required to disrupt longstanding structures of inequity as individuals and communities worldwide pave a hopeful path toward data justice.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0nCU9ptWqc

Human rights organizations call for an immediate physical and digital ceasefire in Gaza | Global Voices

Global Voices, alongside 140+ civil society organizations and activists, has joined the call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and Israel amid the escalating crisis. Digital Rights Foundation has signed on for this collective plea that emphasizes the urgent need to halt violence and prevent further loss of innocent lives.

Human rights organizations call for an immediate physical and digital ceasefire in Gaza

Events:

Digital Rights Foundation at United Nations’ Internet Governance Forum 2023

Digital Rights Foundation actively participated in the United Nations’ Internet Governance Forum held in Kyoto, Japan from 8 to 12 October. Starting off with the pre-events, DRF was one of the co-organizers of the day-long Gender at the GDC conference, which was attended by civil society members as well as representatives of various governments. On Day 0, DRF hosted a lightning talk titled ‘Global South Perspectives on Governing AI’ which comprehensively covered the AI policy in consideration in Pakistan and a comparison with other AI policies introduced around the world. On Day 3, DRF was part of a panel and networking session hosted by NDI titled ‘Networking for Information Integrity in Asia and Globally’, in which we gave an overview of our extensive work on promoting information integrity. The second session of the day was titled ‘Viewing Disinformation from a Global Governance Perspective’. Nighat Dad was invited to the panel by APC, and she spoke strongly about the effects of disinformation on democracy and regulating disinformation.

Hamara Internet, Mahfooz Internet Session at Public School

The first session of 'Hamara Internet Mahfooz Internet' was a success, with the Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) engaging students and educators in public school. This milestone marks the start of DRF's impactful journey to provide essential tools for online safety, ethical social media use, and resilience against digital threats to the youth.

Resilience Workshop

The Digital Rights Foundation recently organized a Resilience Workshop in late October. The workshop had a transformative objective of strengthening interpersonal and employer-employee relations within our workplace. The session, facilitated by an experienced professional, was designed to enhance communication skills, support mental well-being, cultivate trust, and encourage collaboration. Everyone actively participated in interactive exercises, acquiring practical tools to effectively navigate workplace dynamics. The workshop has garnered positive feedback, with attendees expressing a newfound sense of confidence in effectively managing day-to-day challenges.

Lincoln Corner Workshop with Fatima Jinnah University

DRF’s Senior Project Manager and Digital Security Trainer conducted a ‘Securing Digital Spaces’ workshop with Lincoln Corner Pakistan. It aimed to empower women by significantly enhancing their digital security prowess, fostering a safer and more confident online presence.

Training of Trainers Workshop | Digital Safety Awareness Sessions for Marginalized Communities | Lahore

DRF's Communications and Engagement Manager and Digital Security Trainer led a training of trainers workshop for marginalized communities' digital safety. It included a digital security roadmap as well as reporting and legal mechanisms for protecting oneself online. Participants came from a variety of backgrounds and actively participated and provided constructive feedback.

Freedom on the Net 2023 | Report Launch

The Digital Rights Foundation's Executive Director, Nighat Dad, spoke at the Freedom House event to launch "Freedom on the Net 2023: The Repressive Power of Artificial Intelligence." The event aimed to shed light on key findings from the 2023 report against the backdrop of increasing scale, speed, and efficiency of digital repression driven by advances in artificial intelligence. The event, which featured eminent speakers such as Michael J. Abramowitz, Allie Funk, Audrey Tang, Teresa Hutson, and Kara Swisher, provided a thorough examination of global trends, country-specific developments, and best practices to protect internet freedom in the face of evolving challenges.

DRF’s Online Safety Training Session at Maati TV

On 5th October, DRF’s communications manager and digital security trainer gave a training at the Interactive Resource Centre for Maati TV residency workshop Digital Storytelling and Social Media Advocacy. They talked about digital safety  content creators from all over Pakistan.

Gender Sensitive Campaigning during Elections Workshops for Simorgh

DRF in collaboration with Simorgh held Gender Sensitive Campaigning during Elections Workshops in Kasur from 12th to 13th Octobar, 2023 and in Tob Tek Singh from 18th to 19th Octobar, 2023. The workshop aimed to explain to the political party members the concepts of elections and democracy, emphasizing the importance of conducting fair elections in the country. In addition to this, the trainers delved into discussion differentiating between gender and sex within the framework of patriarchy, emphasizing the need for women's participation in politics and elections for the country’s welfare.

Further, a detailed discussion was held regarding Pakistan's election-related laws as well as its legal obligations to the international community. Toward the end of the workshop, all participants engaged in an activity of making manifesto points for women, disabled, Khawaja Sira, children, and religious minorities.

Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights (NWJDR), Digital Well-being and Safety Fellowship 2023

The Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) in collaboration with the Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights (NWJDR) conducted a three day Digital Well-being and Safety Fellowship, of which second day was spent on focusing the legal dimensions of journalism. The fellowship featured insightful sessions by the DRF legal team on 31 October, 2023,  focusing on defamation laws and the PECA Act of 2016, along with in-depth discussions on the correlation between freedom of expression, hate speech, and responsible reporting. This initiative aimed to empower journalists, especially women, equipping them with the necessary legal and ethical knowledge for safe and ethical digital reporting in today's media landscape. The fellowship fostered impactful conversations and collaborative solutions for challenges in the digital journalism sphere, highlighting the commitment to a safer and more responsible online environment.

Insta live - Launch of Legal Toolkit

DRF conducted an Instagram Live to launch our "Countering Digital Threats" Toolkit. In the Instagram Live, along with our Legal intern, Ali Abbas Gillani, we talked about the growing need for an easy-to-read toolkit in the current landscape of social media usage, providing accessibility to online users on how to safeguard themselves against digital threats and approach online safety redressal mechanisms as well as know more about the legal recourse available to the public.

DRF conducted two workshops with the journalist community on Capacity building on Gender Sensitive reporting in the Media

As part of DRF’s ongoing work on online safety, DRF conducted two workshops in October with the journalist community to build their capacity to use online space safely and effectively. The workshops titled ‘Capacity building on Gender Sensitive reporting in the Media’ were held on the 16th and 26th of October and were attended by 24 and 29 journalists respectively. The workshop was focused on enhancing the ability of journalists to better utilize online platforms for their work.

Twitter space:  Artificial Intelligence and Bias

DRF organized a Twitter Space where we delved into the themes of the 3rd edition of Digital 50.50, focusing on 'Artificial Intelligence and Bias: Implications for Women and Minorities.' We were honored to host three distinguished contributors, namely Anmol Irfan, Zunaira Rafi, and Sadia Mazhar from Digital 50'50, with the aim of expanding the reach of their insightful articles. This engaging session took place on October 17, 2023.
You can access the recorded session here.

A session with Tech Sahelis

Digital Rights Foundation conducted a workshop on online harassment, the consent model, and the legal framework around harassment in Pakistan. This four-hour session includes an in-depth segment on digital literacy and security skills necessary for youth. The workshop were held on the 10th and 11th of October and was attended by more than 100 students.

Community session on Legal Certification of Digital Evidence

On 19th October, Minahil Farooq from the DRF Legal team participated in an online community session hosted by Digital Defenders Organization. This session was centered around sharing best practices for the legal certification of digital evidence to use in legal proceedings. This session aimed to foster discussion on how various feminist helplines handle digital evidence that they receive and to exchange insights on the processes, requirements, tools, platforms, methodologies, and strategies used in different countries. During the session, Minahil presented how the Legal team at DRF handled evidence received from its helpline and its effective use in legal proceedings.

DRF Updates:

Cyber Harassment Helpline

The Cyber Harassment Helpline received 190 complaints in total October, with 87 complaints by men. If you’re encountering a problem online, you can reach out to our helpline at 0800-39393, email us at [email protected] or reach out to us on our social media accounts. We’re available for assistance from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday.

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

StopNCII.org

Meta along with Revenge Porn Helpline (RPH) has launched a portal to support victims of Non-Consensual Intimate Image Abuse (NCII). NCII is a free portal for reporting cases of sensitive or sexual content existing online. Once you report a case, the necessary steps will be taken to block the images from the platform.

https://stopncii.org/

November 2, 2023 - Comments Off on Digital Rights Foundation relaunches ‘Ab Aur Nahin’, a pro bono online portal for women seeking legal representation

Digital Rights Foundation relaunches ‘Ab Aur Nahin’, a pro bono online portal for women seeking legal representation

Lahore, November 2, 2023: Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) is relaunching ‘Ab Aur Nahin’, a pro bono online portal for women seeking legal representation and psychological counselling in cases of harassment and gender-based violence. The website works by linking victims/survivors to helpful resources and connecting them with qualified and experienced pro bono lawyers so they receive all the help they need to combat the cycle of violence and abuse.

The aim of "Ab Aur Nahin" is to assist women in taking legal action against perpetrators. Women are discouraged due to a lack of resources and victim-blamed for reporting repeated gender-based violence they face in online and offline spaces. The portal Ab Aur Nahin currently has over 23 lawyers from across Pakistan, with diverse backgrounds. The portal will be expanding its database further in the future to include more lawyers from across the country. DRF recognizes the need for survivors experiencing gender-based violence to have holistic support, which is why the portal includes resources for mental health counseling.

DRF’s Executive Director Nighat Dad on the launch of the portal stated, “Women’s access to legal services and consultations are limited mainly due to shortage of funds and lack of institutional support. Ab Aur Nahin provides women the avenues to report and seek advice related to gender based violence whether online or offline to institutions. It is important that we provide support to survivors in their times of crisis and put an end to the ongoing femicide in the country.”

The Ab Aur Nahin portal has included lawyers from diverse backgrounds and geographic locations to ensure that access to legal services isn’t restricted and limited. DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline has been witness to the lack of institutional support and holistic support for women facing technology facilitated gender based violence in the country. The helpline since the six years of it’s operations has received a total number of 14,376 complaints with 59% of these complaints being from women. The Ab Aur Nahin portal is a step towards ensuring that women get effective legal representation and services when fighting against gender-based violence in Pakistan.

Digital Rights Foundation is a registered research-based NGO in Pakistan. Founded in 2012, DRF focuses on ICTs to support human rights, inclusiveness, democratic processes, and digital governance. DRF works on issues of online free speech, privacy, data protection and online violence against women.

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

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Nighat Dad
[email protected]

Seerat Khan
[email protected]

Anam Baloch
[email protected]

 

October 29, 2023 - Comments Off on Digital Rights Foundation and Deputy Commissioner Lahore District Administration sign a MoU to conduct Hamara Internet Mahfooz Internet Digital Literacy and Safety Sessions

Digital Rights Foundation and Deputy Commissioner Lahore District Administration sign a MoU to conduct Hamara Internet Mahfooz Internet Digital Literacy and Safety Sessions

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PRESS RELEASE
October 28, 2023

Lahore: Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) and Deputy Commissioner (DC) of the Lahore District Administration Rafia Haider signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to collaborate on a series of upcoming digital safety and literacy sessions for young adults titled, ‘Hamara Internet Mahfooz Internet’.

As Pakistan's digital transformation accelerates, DRF has recognized the critical need for digital literacy amongst young adults. Millions of Pakistan's young people are active internet users and are unaware of the emerging digital threats they face on the internet.  These series of workshops come under the flagship project of Hamara Internet. Through these workshops DRF aims to educate and build the capacity of young adults particularly in public schools of Lahore. DC Lahore Ms. Rafia and DRF’s Executive Director Nighat Dad signed the MoU and shed light on the importance of this collaboration for public schools in Lahore’s district.

DC Lahore Ms. Rafia added, ‘This is a great initiative particularly for public sector schools since conversations around online safety and digital literacy are still relatively new and used to happen in private schools mostly. We hope these sessions will be a learning curve for students and teachers who we plan to engage through the Hamara Internet project.’
DRF’s Executive Director Nighat Dad added, ‘ This has been a passion project for DRF for quite some time now since we wanted to normalize conversations around digital rights for everyone and not just a few. We see this as the first step of many of educating people regarding their online safety and ensuring that hamara (our) internet is safe for all.’

Through this pilot project, DRF aims to work with the DC office to build the capacity of students and teachers alike on key digital literacy themes like online safety, ethics of using social media, misinformation and disinformation and support mechanisms in place for young adults in case of cyberbullying and harassment.

Digital Rights Foundation is a registered research-based NGO in Pakistan. Founded in 2012, DRF focuses on ICTs to support human rights, inclusiveness, democratic processes, and digital governance. DRF works on issues of online free speech, privacy, data protection and online violence against women.

For more information log on: www.digitalrightsfoundation.pk 

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Nighat Dad
[email protected]

Seerat Khan
[email protected]

Anam Baloch
[email protected]

October 27, 2023 - Comments Off on Nighat Dad joins UN Secretary General’s High-level Advisory Board on Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Nighat Dad joins UN Secretary General’s High-level Advisory Board on Artificial Intelligence (AI)

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PRESS RELEASE
October 26, 2023

Digital Rights Foundation’s (DRF) Executive Director Nighat Dad has joined the United Nations Secretary General's high-level advisory board on Artificial Intelligence (AI) along with esteemed distinguished individuals from across the globe. The board will address the overarching theme of addressing global governance of AI.

The AI advisory body’s interim recommendations by the end of the year will focus on three main areas which will be the international governance of AI and generative AI and shared understanding of risks and challenges associated deployment of these technologies. The body will also be addressing key opportunities and enablers for leveraging AI to accelerate the delivery of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations.

Nighat Dad shares her delight in being part of the advisory board. She highlights, ‘I am honored to serve on this high-level advisory board focused on the emerging field of Artificial Intelligence (AI), which bring opportunities yet presents significant challenges. I'm excited to bring a global majority world perspective to our discussions and emphasize the importance of recognizing the potential human rights issues that may affect marginalized communities worldwide as we embrace new technologies. My goal is to address real-time threats and vulnerabilities faced by these communities and shed light on emerging problems through an intersectional lens while considering global AI governance.’

The board will also bolster the need for member states to act deliberately and quickly on existing and upcoming governance structures on AI being adopted by states. The board will be developing AI governance mechanisms for member states and over the course of years assisting and facilitating in implementation of these governance mechanisms from a human rights and digital rights perspective. Global majority member states are still in the process of deploying AI-facilitated technologies at the time. There needs to be education and awareness of the implications these technologies would pose which the board will be addressing in its convenings and recommendations to member states.

Digital Rights Foundation is a registered research-based NGO in Pakistan. Founded in 2012, DRF focuses on ICTs to support human rights, inclusiveness, democratic processes, and digital governance. DRF works on issues of online free speech, privacy, data protection and online violence against women.

For more information log on: www.digitalrightsfoundation.pk

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Nighat Dad

[email protected]

Seerat Khan

[email protected]

Anam Baloch

[email protected]