All Posts in Blog

July 15, 2019 - Comments Off on What to do if your sensitive information is leaked online

What to do if your sensitive information is leaked online


Earlier this year, a girl in Badin district of Sindh committed suicide.The reports revealed later that she was being blackmailed online by some local boys over her edited pictures. The perpetrators sent the edited images to her fiance and the engagement was called off. The blackmailing and shaming has been identified by the police as a cause of the suicide. 

These unfortunate incidents are not uncommon. A couple of years ago, Naila Rind a student at Sindh University, committed suicide following exploitation and blackmail by her ex-partner after the two exchanged photos of an intimate nature.

Blackmailing with sensitive images is a form of sexual violence that is derived by an intent to shame, control, humiliate, extort and terrorize victims. Being blackmailed with the threat of distribution of your pictures or discovering intimate images of yourself online posted without your consent can leave severe emotional damage and physical repercussions for a person. This has pushed so many people, mostly women, towards committing suicide in extreme case due to the cultural pressure of shame and guilt. 

It’s important that we are aware of our digital rights and the laws which exist to protect those rights. 

What does the law say about it? 

In reference to Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016:
Intentionally and publicly exhibiting sensitive images and videos which is harmful to a natural person or his reputation to take revenge, blackmail or create hatred shall be punished under s21 of PECA for a term which may exte nd to five years.

Even if the pictures or videos were shared were initially shared  with someone consensually they have no right to share it with other people or use them online.

Blackmailing people with their intimate and sensitive image and threatening to upload or distribute those pictures to the victim’s family is equally punishable under law.

What to do if your sensitive images or videos are leaked online? 

Don't Panic:

it's inevitable to feel anxious and overwhelmed at this trying time but try disengaging from these feelings for a bit and finding ways to get through it. It may seem hard but it’s not impossible.

Know your rights:

The intention of the perpetrator is to control you by trapping you into guilt or cycle of blackmail. Know that the only person who is guilty of offense is the person who is withholding your data without your consent and blackmailing you to distribute it to other people.

Look for online removal of your data:

If you discover your sensitive images or videos online, try to look for the reporting mechanism of the website and file a copyright complaint asking to remove your data. Social media websites already have built in mechanisms to deal with such privacy violations.

Report to law enforcement authorities:

There are more than 15 Cybercrime Wings of FIA working throughout the country to enforce the law. Go to your nearest FIA office and file a complaint. Make sure that you gather all the evidence and print it out before you go along with an application addressed to the Deputy Director of the relevant FIA office.

Help is just a ring away:

If you are unable to report sensitive information or get it removed, know that you can call us on our cyber harassment helpline and we will help escalate the process in getting them removed.
Even if you’re feeling emotional distress, you can call us and our mental health expert. This is a traumatic experience and it is completely normal for someone to feel violated.

June 21, 2019 - Comments Off on Journalists Safety, Welfare and Protection Bill: recommendations

Journalists Safety, Welfare and Protection Bill: recommendations

DRF held a number of consultations with its Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights (NWJDR) as well as other journalists to discuss the Journalists Safety, Welfare and Protection Bill and propose recommendations to the Ministry of Information. The recommendations are as follows:

  1. Impartiality and transparency
    1. If contributions to the safety fund can be made by any entity, there must be mechanisms in place to ensure that donors cannot assert their will as to where/how the funds are utilised.
    2. Some journalists believe that the funding sources ought to be regulated as it will be impossible for the council, prosecutor, fund etc to stay impartial if majority of the funding comes from a single source.
    3. Mechanisms must be in place to ensure that the council remains independent in fulfilling its duties.
    4. Mechanisms must be in place to ensure that the Special Prosecutor under the bill, who will make major decisions under the bill, including who to prosecute, is able to make these decisions without being swayed. This is especially important as some cases may be against state agencies.
  2. Scope and Definitions

    1. Although the bill is fairly inclusive, it should be more explicit in recognising freelance / independent journalists in order to ensure that key stakeholders, who are sometimes the most vulnerable, are not left out.
    2. Protections to apply to print, electronic and social media equally so that the right to freedom of expression is extended to all forms of media.
    3. Protection against criminal and civil action for defamation and reporting on issues of public importance.
  3. Enforcement

    1. The bill should include provisions that make it mandatory for media houses to maintain certain workplace standards including separate bathrooms for men and women, maternity leave, reporting mechanisms for harassment, regular training for journalists’ physical security
    2. The bill should directly penalise media houses that do not maintain these standards.
  4. Digital Safety

    1. Seeing as digital spaces have created large scale expansion of the mediums of expression used by journalists, the bill ought to include digital safety and security of journalists (as online violence can lead to physical violence).
    2. Journalists should not be barred from using VPNs.
    3. Reporting of online harassment cases should be streamlined through the National Response Center for Cyber Crime (NR3C), FIA taking up cases with urgency.
    4. Withdraw notification on regulating encryption-based communication.
    5. Guidelines and regulations for media houses to implement digital security and safety of their employees.
  5. Accessibility

    1. This Bill should be applied to the peripheral regions of Pakistan, such as Gilgit-Baltistan.

June 19, 2019 - Comments Off on 5 Tips to Keep in Mind Before Using Uber and Careem

5 Tips to Keep in Mind Before Using Uber and Careem


Ride-hailing apps like Uber and Careem has, undoubtedly, made it much more convenient to move around the city, especially for women. But it comes with its own risks.

Recently, in a facebook video, a case emerged where a driver robbed the rider of his phone in a careem and ran away. After investigation it was found that the person who was driving at that time was not a registered driver at careem. He used a blocked ID and got it reactivated somehow. This raises a lot of privacy issues in the way we use technology.

Over the past few months, law enforcement agencies have also seen an increased number of crime reports ranging from robbery to harassment from these transport services. It is imperative that one has to share personal data with the application and with drivers while calling a cab;including name, location, and phone number, the handling of real-time data. Due to this, concerns regarding privacy, have also been raised and fingers have been pointed.

Wondering how you can keep your safety intact without having to compromise on using these convenient services? Here are a few tips to make sure you are protected:

Maintain your anonymity:

Uber masks your number when you contact number when you connect with your driver but Careem offers both options. Always make sure that you call your driver anonymously than from your own number in careem as well.

Ride tracking

Always share the ride tracker with your family or someone you trust, especially when you’re travelling alone in the night. Moreover, turn your GPS on and track yourself on google maps to ensure that driver follows the right path towards your destination.

Double check the driver’s identity

Before you sit in the car, cross check the car’s registration number and the picture of the driver to make sure that it’s the same person careem and uber has registered.     

Always sit in the backseat

Sit in the back seat, especially if you’re riding alone. This helps ensure that you can safely exit on either side of the vehicle to avoid moving traffic, and it gives you and your driver some personal space

Call 15 in case of emergency

If you feel like someone is trying to make you feel uncomfortable, trust your intuition and call 15. With the help of CCTV cameras and tracking your phone’s location, dolphins will reach you immediately.

June 09, 2019 - Comments Off on DRF at RightsCon 2019

DRF at RightsCon 2019


DRF is proud to be heading towards RightsCon Tunis this week with a number of interesting sessions lined up especially for you! RightsCon brings together experts around the world to connect, strategize and come up with solutions regarding the evolving threats and issues individuals face online and offline.

We’d be part of interesting debates around fake news, surveillance, data protection, gender and privacy. We’re excited to bring our perspective to various emerging topics across the world and this year we will be laying a special emphasis on mental health and the stressors involved with the work that we do and how we cope with them. DRF’s Executive Director Nighat Dad along with the Program Manager of the Cyber Harassment Helpline Jannat Fazal will be speaking at various panels on throughout the week.


Jannat Fazal from DRF will be hosting a session on the 14th of June, Thursday titled, Where There Is Burnout There Is No Innovation: Managing stressors for a better physical and mental health from 2:15 pm till 3:30 pm. If you need further details about our session click on the link below:

DRF’s Executive Director Nighat Dad will also be speaking in 10 other sessions throughout #RightsCon. Keep a lookout for our sessions and here’s where you can find us:

12th June - Wednesday

Working it out - journalism in the digital area: why we need an international pledge for Information and Democracy now more than ever
9:00am - 10:15am
Host Organization: Reporters Without Borders

Global State of Data Protection
10:30am - 11:45am
Host Organization: Access Now

Discussion on the scope of responsibility when it comes to AI
12.45 pm- 1.45pm
Host: Article one and Microsoft Team
Landmark: Philanthropy in the 21st Century (Main stage)
2:15pm - 3:30pm
Host Organization: The Omidyar Group Philanthropy


Multi Stakeholder Models of Content Moderation: A global perspective
5:15pm - 6:30pm
Host Organization: Global Digital Policy Incubator (GDPi) - Stanford University, ARTICLE 19


13th June - Thursday

Changing practices of internet manipulation
9:00am - 10:15am
Host Organisation: The Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT) - Strathmore Law School

Warning! Access to the Internet Is Suspended for Security Reasons- A policy discussion on the effectiveness of internet shutdowns
2:15pm - 3:30pm
Host organization: Software freedom law center


Combating harassment of women journalists in extremism ridden online spaces
3:45pm - 5:00pm
Organiser: Committee to Protect Journalists


14th June- Friday

Online Dissidence in the Global South

9:00am - 10:15am
Organiser: Bolobhi


Moving Beyond the Problem: Pathways to meaningful consent online
10:30 - 11:45
Organiser: Human Rights Big Data and Technology Project - University of Essex

May 14, 2019 - Comments Off on Doxxing: What is it and How You Can Protect Yourself

Doxxing: What is it and How You Can Protect Yourself

"Ever come across personal advertisements online? Where personal numbers are posted for seeking sexual acts? Or just someone’s address randomly floating around?

“I got doxxed by a stranger and the online harassment took over my life.”

“I got doxxed, stalked and harassed by men I have never met in my life.”

“Strange men won’t stop calling me and responding to an ad I know nothing of!”

Such incidents are all too familiar in an online forum where a rule against publishing personal information is disregarded.The essence of doxxing isn’t simply the privacy of the information. It’s how it’s used.

The term dox comes from the idea of collecting documents or “docs” about an individual.

The collection and publishing of this private information online, is usually done with the intent of inciting harassment in real life. It can involve anything from personal photographs, telephone numbers, social security number, credit card/banking information, home address and social media profiles and so on and so forth. Doxing often uses personally identifiable information, or a combination of non-personal information that can be weaponised to reveal the identity of an individual.

Although this fad has been around in the hacker community since the 1990’s, it has now become a major threat to anyone who uses the internet. When you “dox” someone you are documenting their personal information. It's a weapon and it can be used for good or evil. However, it is mostly used as a method of attack.

Hackers have developed different ways to dox, but one of the most common methods is by finding the victim’s email. Once the email has been obtained, the hacker works to uncover the password and open the victims account to obtain more personal information.This leads to impersonation, identity theft, financial fraud and defamation. And once the hacker has the adequate amount of information they need it leads to online harassment and in many cases; stalking.

The internet is a giant engine for uncovering and disseminating information. That can definitely  be an amazing tool for holding people accountable. But it can also be a way to ruin people’s lives- be it their jobs, money and even their families!

Doxing can potentially be one of the most violent things a person can do to someone from a distance.

It's an effective tool for bad actors, because the internet can cough up a shocking amount of publicly available information about practically anyone.

People generally don't think about their online security, until it's too late. What people can really give about you is stuff that you've already given away about yourself.

While there are specific steps everyone can take to guard their privacy online, the stark reality is that anyone can be a victim of doxing, especially with the vast variety of search tools and information easily available online. And while there's no perfect defense against it, there are ways you can prepare for it and help mitigate the fall out.

Here are some ways you can protect yourself and ensure this doesn’t happen to you

  • Be aware of how much personal information you are sharing. Make sure that the details you share cannot be pieced together to create a completely identifying profile.
  • Never share personally identifying information. If you have posted your address, phone number, or other information that could be used to identify you, you would want to reconsider putting it up.
  • You may know people who have thousands of “friends” on Facebook. While the internet is a great way to connect be mindful of the information that is made accessible to these people once you accept their friend request. Only allow people who you trust on Facebook.
  • Avoid posting details about where you work. Don’t write about where your children go to school; it is safer to enforce a policy of not posting photos of your children and ask anyone else who takes pictures of them at events not to post them online.
  • Make sure google does not have any personal data about you. Simply google your name and number to see if you’ve revealed who you are on internet forums. Delete any information you may find.

Realistically though, hiding all of your personal information and becoming anonymous goes against the very point of social media. But it does makes sense never to post your address, phone number, or birthday online, but people can infer a lot about you based on seemingly innocuous posts even little details like where you work and where you ‘check in” while you’re out.

Deleting old posts and making sure to be careful in the future is an option, or you could go nuclear and delete your social media accounts altogether, but most people won’t be bothered to do so. So just please don’t post your debit card online!

If you feel like you are being doxxed and don’t know what to do, here are some pointers to keep in mind:

  • Remember to save everything. If you must delete, take a screenshot first, deleting might impact your ability later if you need to take legal action.
  • Your safety is the No.1 priority. Remember to breathe and think clearly. Whatever negative stories are uploaded, please note that this is not your fault. You are not alone. People will step up to help in any way possible. You deserve it and this way, there's somewhat of a witness present.

The large majority of doxxing incidents are just people collecting your personal information from social media sites, not any actual computer hacking. It’s hard to stop it from happening because people generally share way too much info freely online, and even relatively private people could fall victim to it.

If you have been doxxed, where your personal information which you consider to be private and sensitive has been published online and you interpret this dox to be an explicit or an implicit threat, you can use reporting mechanisms within the social media website or and call us on DRF’s helpline on 0800-39393 between 9AM to 5PM.


Written by: Zinnoor Butt

April 26, 2019 - Comments Off on Flirting vs Harassment: How To Spot the Difference

Flirting vs Harassment: How To Spot the Difference

A playful text message. A quick side hug. Staring from across the room.

The line between flirting and harassment is thin and often a blurred one.  What could feel good to one person may be an unwelcome act to another. How would you spot the difference between the two? The answer is summed up in one word - consent.

Sexual Harassment as a term is commonly defined as requests for sexual favours, unwelcome sexual advances, or even any physical or verbal conduct of a sexual nature in public, at the workplace or anywhere else.

Any act without consent would be considered as harassment and any sexual activity without consent is considered as sexual assault. An activity whether casual or sexual requires consent  and the level of comfort and its extent should be clearly communicated or else there could exist a possibility of it qualifying as a a form of harassment.

Harassment is degrading, demeaning, unwanted and often has a power dynamic involved .  There is no grey area when it comes to consent and an affirmative. Enthusiastic and specific answer is the way to follow . Yes is yes and no is a clear no.  Consent should be explicit and there should be no room for assuming that the other person feels the same way as the other. No assumptions should be made regarding consent and it is essential for it to be clear cut and explicit.

What positive consent looks like:

- An affirmative “yes” or “I am okay with this”
- Clearly communicating and asking “Would you agree/be ok to this?”
- Consent is without any sort of threat, intimidation, fraud or violence
- Has boundaries which are well defined and very specific

What consent does not look like:

- Pressuring someone or constantly insisting to welcome any advances even when the other person says no or looks uncomfortable
- Assuming that yes once is a yes every time
- Being in a committed relationship with  someone doesn’t mean you have their consent forever and on everything

Always remember that consent is always offered by the person’s own free will and without any  influence of anything and/or anyone.

Take consent as FRIES

F- Freely Given , R- Reversible , I- Informed, E- Enthusiastic, S- Specific

If you feel pressured into sharing your pictures and doing acts which make you feel uncomfortable and you need any advice or are feeling distressed, you can call on the Cyber Harassment Helpline on 0800-39393 from 9AM to 5PM.

Written by: Asma Parvez

April 24, 2019 - Comments Off on What Gender Based Bullying Looks Like in Pakistan

What Gender Based Bullying Looks Like in Pakistan

The Pakistani society is strictly hierarchical – power and control structured around various factors including gender, race, religion and sexual orientation. This hierarchy eventually manifests itself in online spaces as well. It then reproduces and exerts the power and control over women and minorities through technology. Technological advances and the growing use of the internet has nevertheless provided us with many opportunities to have our voices heard and stories shared beyond physical space. However, it has also resulted in the same online platforms becoming a medium for men to bully, harass, humiliate, attack, shame and silence women.

One of the cases of technology-facilitated gender based violence and bullying that we came across at our Cyber Harassment Helpline was of a girl who was targeted by a group of men online. The complainant joined a Facebook group of sport fans where she would actively engage just like any other member. The group was male dominated who started to bully her in the comments section for having an interest in sports– a stereotypically men’s interest. They trolled and abused her with gender based slurs intending to “show her the space she belongs to i.e. kitchen and/or fashion”.

However, the bullying did not stop here. They stalked her Facebook profile and not only attacked her with lewd comments and messages but also started posting her pictures in the same group with sexually offensive captions.This ordeal went on for several days and took a serious toll on the complainant’s mental health which led to her deactivating her Facebook account.

The cultural factor of toxic and hegemonic masculinity took no time in seeping into the online spaces and neither did the stereotypical gender norms and expectations. Even though the offline culture of a society shapes its online culture, but the repercussions of online bullying or harassment can be equally traumatizing and have the tendency to translate into an offline threat. This creates a vicious cycle of violence against women curtailing their visibility in online spaces.  The power dynamics in these spaces make them a lot less safer for women, however, in today’s day and age, cutting oneself from internet means cutting oneself from the opportunities and knowledge that the world brings.

Written by: Maria Arshad


March 07, 2019 - Comments Off on What is a Helpline and When You Should Call One:

What is a Helpline and When You Should Call One:

In order to deal with the problems that accompany today’s highly digitalized age, the Digital Rights Foundation has initiated a Cyber Harassment Helpline. This helpline aims to guide the people and provide emotional support to people of Pakistan through any obstacles they may be facing, whether big or small.
Here are a couple of frequently asked questions to clear any doubts that you might have about our helpline and helplines in general.

What is a helpline?

A helpline is a telephone service, which offers advice and aid to people of all ages and gender status. Helplines aim to provide an non-judgemental listening ear to any caller who is facing trouble and address them with the best possible path they can take in ending their concern.

Why call a helpline?

We are all well aware of the multitude of challenges that people face daily when it comes to the digital world. Often times you need guidance to help us navigate through the obstacles you face. You may not feel comfortable sharing them with family or friends out of fear of being shunned or criticized, and that is okay. This is where public helplines comes in.

Helplines can be very valuable to you due to the free support that they offer. Not only are most helplines free, but certain helplines also guarantee 100% confidentiality. Trained agents listen to any issue you face, albeit emotional or otherwise, and guide you in the best way possible, customized specifically to your individual needs. If further aid is necessary, agents will point you in the right direction and get you in touch with those aids closest to you.

Is a helpline only for life threatening situations?

Contrary to popular belief, a helpline does not exist solely in the case of life threatening situations. For example, our Cyber Harassment Helpline is available in case of any form of help or information an individual may need regardless of whether the issue is incredibly pressing or not.

You may call on behalf of yourself as well as on the behalf of others you may feel are in need of help. The help line is also available as a source of emotional counseling to those facing distressing situations. However, if we do feel that your issue is out of our hand we will direct you to other professionals who will be able to better help your case.

Can DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline only help me through phone?

The Cyber Harassment Helpline not only provides help through the means of our number 0800-39393 from 9am to 5pm, but you may also email us at if needed.

What problems can I call a helpline for?

Our helpline services cover a wide range. The agents at the helpline will try and assist you with all forms of digital crime, such as:

  • Impersonation/Fake accounts
  • Blackmailing
  • The contraction of malicious software known as malware which harms data and devices
  • Social media hacks and spamming
  • Cyber stalking
  • Cyber bullying etc

If you are going through a similar situation, need advice or just someone to talk to, don’t hesitate to call on 0800-39393 between 9am to 5pm.

March 05, 2019 - Comments Off on 5 Ways You Can Stay Safe on Social Media as a Minor

5 Ways You Can Stay Safe on Social Media as a Minor

Are you under the age of 18 and an avid user of social media? We know how difficult it is to imagine a life without the internet. Born in a world run by technology and ruled by the Internet, you have experienced a fast paced and integrated world like no prior generation. However, spending several hours on social media platforms can also be a major concern.

The global increase in social media crimes, such as online threats, stalking, cyber bullying, hacking, fraud, and identity theft has made sense for this to be such a concern. It is therefore essential that you as children are educated about how to make proper use of social media.

Social media is not the enemy, but rather some users of social media are. Here are 5 important tips about how you can stay safe on social media:


Þ    Use a strong password that is long and incorporates numbers and signs.

Þ    Your safety is more important than a popularity contest so make sure to be selective about who you accept as a friend on social media. Verify an account before accepting their request, as there are many fake accounts online as well as stalkers.

Þ  Make sure not to share too much information online. Some basic things not to share would be your birthday, phone number, home address, or passwords.

Þ   Majority of social media sites allow you to customize your privacy settings, such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. This allows you to limit access to your personal information and control who can see your posts.

Þ    You can protect your devices by installing an antivirus program and consistently updating your software. Be very cautious about links sent by unknown numbers and even from friends on social media as they can be infected with a virus as well.

In truth, there is both beauty and terror in social media. It connects us to people and experiences all over the world. Social media, to quote from the Roman Historian Livy, is a “record of the infinite variety of human experiences”. So, use the internet, but with caution!

Written by: Rayyah Iqbal

December 19, 2018 - Comments Off on Cyberbullying In Children and What You Can Do

Cyberbullying In Children and What You Can Do

Cyber harassment or cyberbullying is a form of harassment using digital means. It has become extremely common, especially among teenagers. Harmful bullying behavior can include posting threat, rumors, a victim’s personal information, pejorative labels or sexual remarks.  This can have a negative effect on a child’s social life and self esteem.According to the statistics of Digital Rights Foundation, the Cyber Harassment Helpline has received 58 calls from individuals under the age of 18 who were a victim of cyber harassment and bullying, This number is not only increasing but raising concerns about the safety of our children in the online sphere.

Common Signs of Cyberbullying:

Avoiding socializing
If you notice that your child is being private and secretive about his or her digital life or is showing anti-social behavior and is avoiding gatherings, you might want to check in on him or her and ask if everything is okay.
Bad behavior and bad performance in school
If you feel like your child has been acting out more than usual and notice that she or he is not performing well in school, that might be an indication of your child being harassed online.
Wanting to stop using phone/computer
If you notice that your child has not been using social media, phone or his/her computer as often as he or she used to you might want to check up on them.
Displays signs of emotional distress
If you’ve noticed that your child is showing emotional distress (eg. crying easily, not eating properly) or reacts to certain situations irrationally, there is a chance they might be a victim of cyberbullying.
What parents/Older siblings and schools can do
As parents, the most important thing you can do is to discuss cyberbullying with your children. Building a conversation and an open ground for support is always effective. It’s a good idea to start talking about cyberbullying when they start using social media sites, or when they get a mobile phone. However, you should make sure that you do not interfere to the extent that your child starts keeping you out of the loop entirely, it is important for your child to know that you trust them.

Maintain honest and open communication and build a relationship so they confide in you easily. Don’t forget to ensure that their phone and social media apps are password protected. Schools can adopt a zero-tolerance policy for all types of bullying. Make it clear that any harassment, intimidation or threatening behavior will be dealt with seriously and appropriate action will be taken.

If you have any more questions or if you wish to talk to a representative, call us at the Cyber Harassment Helpline from 9 AM to 5 PM (7 days a week) at 0800-39393. We would encourage you to call if you are feeling emotional distress or depression of any kind.


Author: Qirat Gill