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March 07, 2019 - Comments Off on February 2019: DRF launches Ab Aur Nahin – a legal portal for survivors of harassment and abuse

February 2019: DRF launches Ab Aur Nahin – a legal portal for survivors of harassment and abuse

DRF is proud to launch it's latest venture Ab Aur Nahin which is a legal portal for survivors of harassment and abuse. The portal aims to help individuals stand up against abuse and help bring us closer to achieving our goal for creating safe spaces everywhere. The portal has a network of lawyers from across Pakistan who will be providing legal assistance to victims of abuse and harassment. The portal comes in light of current #MeToo movement in Pakistan and the growing number of cases of harassment that DRF has been receiving. Click here to read the details about the portal.

DRF releases a Policy Brief on Online Harassment in Pakistan

Policy Brief

In view of the increasing problem impacting all users especially women online, DRF has prepared a policy brief regarding online harassment through a gendered lens. The policy brief significantly expands the discussion on legal remedies available to the victims of online harassment and the lack of awareness regarding Information and communication technologies amongst masses. Click here to view the policy brief.  

Nighat Dad at ‘The Conversation’ held at IBA, Karachi

IBA, Karachi hosted an event for the BBC titled, ‘The Conversation’ where Nighat Dad also took part as a panelist. The panel also consisted of Pakistan’s football captain Hajra Khan, actress Mahira Khan and a comedian Faiza Saleem. The panel discussion was moderated by Kim Chakanetsa where the panelists probed into the challenges, frustrations and joys of being a woman in Pakistan. Ms. Dad, talking about DRF’s cyber harassment helpline, discussed that around 60 percent of the people that call for help comprise of women facing blackmail and dealing with sexual assault issues. She addressed the audience and highlighted the necessity of speaking up about mental health issues and cautioned them about the safe usage of social media and the internet. Click here to listen to the whole session.

DRF at ‘Imagine a Feminist Internet South Asia’, Sri Lanka

Sirilanka

Jannat Fazal represented DRF at ‘Imagine a Feminist Internet South Asia’ held in Negombo, Sri Lanka on 21st and 22nd February. The two-day regional conference brought together researchers, practitioners and policymakers from across South Asia for critical conversations seeking to answer the question: What opportunities does technology provide to question and, ultimately, start changing gender norms? The event focused on sharing research and findings around making a feminist internet.

DRF conducted series of seminars on “Fostering Open Spaces in Pakistan: Combating Gender-Specific Threats to Women's Activism Online”

The DRF team conducted a series of advocacy seminars entitled “Fostering Open Spaces in Pakistan: Combating Gender-Specific Threats to Women's Activism Online” in collaboration with International Media Support (IMS).

The Seminars took place in the four provincial capitals and Islamabad in the third and fourth weeks of February and will be followed by in-depth digital security trainings under the same head.

The envisioned aim of the seminars was to discuss the findings of the pilot study, and the recommendations drawn from the study and to glean insight and input from the participants regarding their experience of existing in the online sphere as women information practitioners in Pakistan.

 

Seminar held in Lahore

Seminar held in in Karachi

Seminar held in Islamabad

DRF at Social Media Festival

Shmyla Khan and Nighat Dad from Digital Rights Foundation participated in the second Social Media Festival 2019 at the University of Lahore on 22nd Feb. Nighat was the Keynote speaker for the session “Concept of Cyber Security and Modern Threats”. Shmyla represented DRF at the panel titled “Women in Technology Inclusion: Global and Local Perspectives” along with Nayab Gohar Jan, Fouzia Bhatti and Baela Raza Jamil.

Submission to UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Speech and Expression: Surveillance Industry and Human Rights

DRF made a submission to the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on call for submissions on the surveillance industry and human rights on February 15, 2019. In the report DRF calls for effective and human rights compliant national legislation on digital privacy and data protection that provides for robust safeguards against intrusion from surveillance technologies as well as international commitments from nation states for transparency around sale and transfer of surveillance technology. The submission can be accessed here.

Nighat Dad on Aaj News, Dawn and Geo News

Nighat Dad appeared on Aaj News, Dawn and Geo News to give her opinion on the recent social media crackdown happening in Pakistan. Earlier the Information Minister, Fawad Chaudhry, announced the federal government’s plans to initiate a comprehensive crackdown on “hate speech” on social media in Pakistan. She talked about how the crackdown would lead to further curb on freedom of expression and it has not been defined what constitutes as hate speech and what falls under free speech, making this crackdown even more problematic.

DRF at the roundtable consultation by UNESCO

DRF took part in a roundtable consultation on “Mapping emerging challenges for independent journalism and exploring solutions under the Sustainable Development Goals Framework” in Islamabad. The event served as a platform for sharing best practices, recommendations and to develop synergies between stakeholders to strengthen monitoring and reporting mechanisms to promote safety of journalists. Representatives of DRF urged that freedom of expression in online spaces should not be curbed and independent journalists and bloggers should also be able to exercise their fundamental rights.

Students from Beaconhouse School System Bahria Town Branch at DRF

Students from Beaconhouse School System Bahria Town Branch visited DRF's office to discuss violence against women for their project. The girls asked our team questions regarding the threats that women face in online and offline spaces and how it is each individual's responsibility to challenge the patriarchal norms that have been set in the society and preach of equality and due justice by adopting more feministic approaches in life. While they visited they talked about how they'd like to be part of the Aurat March.

Seminar on Cyber Harassment at Gender Studies Department, Punjab University

Nighat Dad conducted a session at Punjab University with students of the Gender Studies Department. The discussion involved an overview of the laws relating to online harassment and other Cyber Crimes, as well as basic issues relating to online privacy. It was an interactive discussion in which the students actively engaged with the topics in focus.

DRF at the launch of Pakistan Forum for Democratic Policing - Punjab Chapter\

DRF participated in Rozan’s launch and first meeting of Pakistan Forum for Democratic Policing (PFDP) -  Punjab Chapter on February 28. The event focused on the need and importance of police reforms, progress and commitment of the current government towards improving the situation of gender-based violence and the role of civil society in promoting gender-sensitive society and police.

DRF at Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi

DRF conducted a seminar entitled “Our right to safe online spaces” in collaboration with UN Women in Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi on February 14. The aim of this seminar was to mainstream digital rights in public discourse and to discuss the gravity of cyber harassment and its implications in cultural context.

DRF participated at the Rapid Response Network for Women Human Rights Defenders

DRF participated as a key stakeholder in the meeting arranged by Shirkat Gah - Women’s Resource Centre (SG) and Punjab Commission on the Status of Women’s (PCSW) Rapid Response Network (RRN) in Lahore on February 4th, 2019. The objective of this network is to secure and provide immediate relief to human rights defenders across Pakistan working on freedom and empowerment of women.

February 15, 2019 - Comments Off on The State Vs Usman Sohail Butt

The State Vs Usman Sohail Butt

Charge

The accused, Usman Sohail Butt, was charged under the following sections of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 (“PECA 2016”):

  • Section 3 (Unauthorised access to information system or data)
  • Section 4 (Unauthorised copying or transmission of data)
  • Section 20 (1) (Offences against dignity of a natural person)  
  • Section 21 (c) (Offences against modesty of a natural person)

Complaint

The complaint was filed by the brother of the victim against Usman Butt. He stated that the victim was married to the accused for two years before the marriage was dissolved. Subsequently, the accused hacked the victim’s Facebook account and used it to post ‘objectionable pictures’ of her along with her phone number. After receiving the complaint, the requisite officer at the FIA obtained data from Facebook headquarters and confirmed that the account was in use by Usman Sohail Butt. Thereafter, a mobile phone and tablet were recovered from the accused. Upon gaining possession of Usman Butt’s mobile phone, the officer noted that the accused was logged in to the victim’s Facebook account. This was confirmed through subsequent forensic analysis of the phone.

Judgment

The learned Magistrate of the District Court held that the Prosecution had proved its case beyond reasonable doubt, and convicted the accused for the following offences under PECA 2016:

  1. Section 3-Unauthorised access to information system or data with imprisonment of 2 months
  2. Section 4-Unauthorised copying or transmission of data  with imprisonment of 4 months
  3. Section 21 (c)Offences against modesty of a natural person—Intimidates a natural person with any sexual act, or any sexually explicit image or video of a natural person with imprisonment of 30 months.

The charge under  s.20(1) (Offences against dignity of a natural person) was not proved and thus set aside.

Analysis

This was a clear-cut case involving hacking and intimidation through dissemination of sexually explicit material through the hacked account. The conviction was based on statements of six witnesses, corroborated by documentary evidence.

With the cooperation of Facebook, the FIA was able to confirm that the account was in use through Usman Sohail Butt’s mobile phone, and the internet connection was also traced back to him. This shows the importance of cooperation with international entities that can aid such cases by providing data in a timely and efficient manner.

The Court also noted the seriousness of the crime, stating “whenever any objectionable image of a person is transmitted through the information system it can never be fully erased and these images continuously pass from one person to another for an indefinite period”. It further acknowledged the long term impact on victims due to ostracisation from society as a result of such crimes.

This post has been authored by Namra Gilani.








February 07, 2019 - Comments Off on DIGITAL RIGHTS FOUNDATION LAUNCHED LEGAL PORTAL “AB AUR NAHIN”

DIGITAL RIGHTS FOUNDATION LAUNCHED LEGAL PORTAL “AB AUR NAHIN”

Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) has launched 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.

In light of the #MeToo movement worldwide and the national conversation around harassment, an unprecedented number of women have been coming forward to share their experiences of gender-based violence and abuse.

“The #MeToo movement has opened the floodgates for women’s testimonies and stories; it has also shown us the true scale of the problem as it stands in Pakistan as well as around the world. Institutional support and resources are needed to provide both legal and mental health support to survivors of harassment.” - Nighat Dad, Executive Director, Digital Rights Foundation

The aim of this portal, “Ab Aur Nahin”, is to help women who want to take legal action against their harassers but are discouraged to do so due to inaccessibility of resources. The portal (https://abaurnahin.pk/) currently has over 42 lawyers from across Pakistan out of which 26 are women lawyers and the portal hopes to expand its database to include more professionals with the passage of time. We realise that support for survivors of harassment and gender-based violence should be holistic, which is why we also provide resources for mental health counselling on the portal.

Our network of lawyers is built across Pakistan to ensure that women from different geographical destinations can approach them without any hassle. The Cyber Harassment Helpline established by DRF in 2016 has received 2302 calls over a period of two years regarding incidents of gender based violence and harassment. We saw that a large number of women wanted to proceed against the harassers legally but were either financially restrained or did not have access to a lawyer. Keeping in mind these profound reservations of women, this portal is an attempt to cater to their needs so as to serve as a helping hand to these incredibly strong women who did not only vocalize their stories but wish to pursue their cases legally.

Digital Rights Foundation is a registered research-based advocacy non-governmental organization in Pakistan. Founded by Nighat Dad 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.

Contact person:

Nighat Dad

Executive Director, Digital Rights Foundation

Nighat@Digitalrightsfoundation.pk

January 08, 2019 - Comments Off on Digital Rights Foundation launched “Cyber Harassment Helpline: Two Year Report”

Digital Rights Foundation launched “Cyber Harassment Helpline: Two Year Report”

Report

Digital Rights Foundation’s (DRF) Cyber Harassment Helpline marked it’s two year milestone by launching the “Cyber Harassment Helpline: Two Year Report”. Helpline received 2302 complaints from December 1, 2016, till November 30, 2018,  with an average of 91 calls each month. 59% of the calls at the Helpline were by women, whereas 41% of the callers were men. The Helpline team also put forward recommendations for victim-centric reform to ensure that online spaces are safe for all.

Launch of report titled "Participants of female politicians in Pakistan's General Election 2018" in Islamabad

letter 2018

DRF held a seminar to launch its report titled “Online Political Participation of Female Politicians in Pakistan’s General Election 2018” on December 7, Friday in Islamabad. The event was organized in partnership with Democracy Reporting International (DRI) and the report has been supported by Heinrich Boll Stiftung Pakistan (HBS). The keynote address was delivered by Senator Sherry Rehman, where she highlighted the need for a terms of engagement with regards to social media and conduct. She also urged political party leaders to lead by example, “party leadership has to lay down the law regarding statements that demean women; degrading other women demeans us all”.
The seminar commenced with an introduction by Javed Malik, Country Representative at Democracy Reporting International (DRI). This was followed by a panel discussion titled “Social media for female political engagement: a tool or a curse?” The panel was moderated by Nighat Dad and the panelists included Senator Faratullah Babar, Senator Quratulain Marri, PMA Sumera Shams, MNA Shandana Gulzar, journalist Amber Shamsi, civil society member Nosheen Khurram from TDEA, activist Usama Khilji from Bolo Bhi and Mavra Bari  from HBS. Click here for more details.

Nighat Dad on Hum News and Geo News

Nighat Dad, on Hum News and Geo News, talked about the trends and findings that came through of DRF’s recent report which analyses the use of social media during 2018 General Elections in Pakistan. The report focuses on the online hate and harassment faced by women politicians and issues related to elections in the digital age. Ms. Dad talked about how the experience of women politicians is qualitatively different, where the harassment is gendered and is marked by sexist and abusive comments online.

DRF released ‘Experiences of Online Harassment in Pakistan: Case Studies from the Cyber Harassment Helpline’

newone

DRF released its study documenting the experiences of Pakistani women with online harassment during the 16 days of Activism Campaign. These case studies capture the experience of Pakistani women in digital spaces and puts forward recommendations based on these lived experiences. These cases highlight the seriousness of online violence against women and the challenges women face in these spaces. Click here to download the report.

Talk on privacy and global responses at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)

Shmyla Khan delivered a talk at the annual LUMS Model United Nations (LUMUN) Conference on December 31. The talk was regardings the right to privacy in the digital age and the implications that can have for international law and regulatory authorities. Students from across Pakistan participated in the event.

DRF continued it’s #16Days of Activism Campaign

DRF continued it’s 16 Days of Activism campaign in December which focused on the theme of gender based violence at the workplace this year. During the campaign, which started on 25th November, DRF collaborated with the Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights who shared their experiences and challenges from the field of journalism. Moreover, a study documenting the experiences of Pakistani women with online harassment was released during the 16 days Campaign. Blogs and video testimonials were also shared of journalists to highlight the importance of taking measures to tackle violence against women in all fields.

Policy dialogue for protecting the democratic space for women

policy dialogue

On account of 16 Days of Activism Campaign, Department for International Development (DFID) and DRF held a policy dialogue on protecting the democratic space for women. Emphasis was laid on the how should the private sector, government and civil society best support the securing of safe digital spaces for women and girls in Pakistan through regulation, data and advocacy.

Session in Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan on Peace Building and Cyber Security Measures

session

Digital Rights Foundation in collaboration with Shaoor Foundation spoke at the Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan on cyber security and data protection on 10th December 2018. An interactive session took place with students around ethical practices online and the implications of the online world on one's offline life. The session also focused on how internet at times could be used as a radicalization tool by terrorist groups and how it is important to maintain healthy practices online.

Session in Bacha Khan University, Charsadda on Peace Building and Cyber Security Measures

bacha khan

Digital Rights Foundation in collaboration with Shaoor Foundation spoke at the Bacha Khan University, Charsadda on cyber security and data protection on 11th December 2018. A much needed debate around safer use of the internet took place with the students. The conversation also focused on how the internet should be used responsibly and how some groups use it for radicalization purposes which needs to be put to an end.

DRF at the Women Judges Summit

judge summitjudge summit

Nighat Dad, the Executive Director of DRF, spoke at the Women Judges Summit on December 22, on cyber security and what the judiciary can do to promote a culture of online safety. The event, which was held from December 21 to 23 was hosted by the U.S. Department of Justice and the purpose was to bring together women judges from across the country, to discuss, among other things, barriers to access to the justice sector and barriers to advancement within the legal profession. The judges also shared their experiences from their respective provinces and formulated possible solutions to counter bias and other impediments to the justice system, while building bridges between the senior and junior judicial leadership.

Amongst the many other points raised by her, Ms. Dad stressed upon the importance of the members of the judiciary keeping themselves abreast of the technological advances, reminding them that every case related to the cyber was unique in its own way  and called for judicial education to include a section on cyber crime, given its relevance in this day and age.

DRF at Child Protection Awareness Campaign

child

Nighat Dad spoke at the closing ceremony of British Council’s Child Protection Awareness Campaign held on 18th December. She talked about how children can protect themselves online and how parents can make sure their children use the internet safely. The event was organized to educate school teachers and coordinators on child neglect and child abuse so as to reduce the impact of abuse on present and future generations. The closing ceremony acknowledged the role of principals and teachers to empower children in their own protection and also to promote school based child protection mechanism to prevent and respond to child abuse. The ceremony began with a keynote address by the Country Director British Council, Rosemary Hilhorst. Other speakers from civic organisations also gave more insights on child protection policies and practices.

Workshop on Ethical Journalism and Digital Rights for Journalists, Karachi

workshop

On 21st December 2018, DRF conducted a workshop for journalists in Karachi on ethical journalism and digital rights. The workshop consisted of an awareness raising session on digital rights and the legal landscape that governs digital platforms for freedom of media and journalists. This was followed by a discussion on whether the existing media ethics are suitable for the evolving digital media landscape or new and different standards are needed. The deliberations also focused on actions needed to tackle the spread of fake news and disinformation online. This was found particularly important by the participants as digital misinformation is extremely potent in Pakistan, owing to a large segment of the population lacking digital literacy and being vulnerable to all kinds of online and digital propaganda. The participants were also given hands-on training and specifically designed toolkits to guide them on how they can make online spaces safe for themselves.

Workshop on ethical journalism and online safety with Digital Broadcast TV, Islamabad

On 26th and 27th December 2018, DRF conducted a two-day workshop with the staff of DBTV in Islamabad. The workshop was part of DRF’s initiative of conducting online safety trainings with media houses considering the increasing importance of cyber security, particularly for media organisations, whose most valuable assets are their content. Two interactive sessions were conducted on ethical journalism and fake news in the digital era, which the participants found quite useful. Effective tools and protocols for online safety were also discussed to safeguard the highly sensitive information of media houses and how to maintain its privacy.

DRF at Indus News discussing social media in 2018

news

On December 25, Jannat Fazal discussed the ongoing social media trends that have been observed in the year 2018. One of the major trends noticed was the increase in scam calls that lead to online harassment. An example of such scams is WhatsApp hacks which have exponentially increased specifically in the past three months. One of the major pitfalls in these scams is language barriers and gullibility of the user that traps them in this uncanny fraud.

DRF at GEO News discussing the Impact of Social Media

On December 31, 2018, Jannat Fazal spoke on the potential impact of social media on children and how it affects their mental health. She talked about how excessive use of social media leads to mental illnesses but no cause and effect relationship has been identified through research. Mental illnesses have different determinants, social media can be one of them but there is not enough research to posit it as a cause.

Members of Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights continued to pen articles and blogs

rights

Members of DRF's Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights continued to share articles and blogs on digital rights issues which can be found on the Hamara Internet website here. The Network advocates for women and other minority groups to have safe access to online platforms, where they can exercise their constitutional right of free speech without facing constant threats. The Network members pen articles to document these threats, bring forward issues in the implementation of legislation to prevent and protect women journalists from gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment both online and offline, and also advocate their access to effective remedies.

 

 

September 12, 2018 - Comments Off on August 2018 – A study on the Punjab Safe Cities Authority (PSCA)

August 2018 – A study on the Punjab Safe Cities Authority (PSCA)

 

SafeCitiesCovering

SafeCitiesCovering

Digital Rights Foundation’s research titled “Punjab Government’s Safe Cities Project: Safer City or Over Policing?” was launched which looked at the privacy rights implications of the Punjab Safe Cities Authorities and digital urban policing in general.

The study can be found here.


Guidebook on Ethical Journalism on Digital Platforms

Digital Rights Foundation published a “Guidebook on Ethical Journalism on Digital Platforms”. New digital forms of media are more interactive, immediate and always on, and the media landscape is evolving at a furious pace. This has led to professional journalists sharing the same online space with tweeters, bloggers and social media users.

The Guidebook looks at the question of whether the existing media ethics are suitable for this evolving digital media landscape or new and different standards are needed. It discusses how the growing use of digital platforms for the creation and dissemination of news and information and spread of hoaxes, rumors and disinformation through this medium has led to demands for consistent ethical standards for online spaces. The Guidebook can be found here.


DRF organized a workshop on ‘Ethical Journalism & Digital Rights for Journalists’

On August 1, 2018, DRF organized a workshop for journalists on ethical journalism and digital rights in Lahore. The aim of the workshop was to discuss whether the existing media ethics are suitable for the evolving digital media landscape or new and different standards are needed. The session also aimed to highlight what are digital rights and to create awareness about the legal landscape that governs digital platforms for freedom of media and journalists.

Around 33 journalists from print and media joined the session and actively participated in the workshop. They gave great recommendations on how to tackle fake news and disinformation online, considering how most of the population in Pakistan lacks digital literacy and is vulnerable to all kinds of online and digital propaganda.

The workshop was concluded by a digital training by DRF’s digital security trainers on how journalists can make online spaces safe for themselves by adopting various tools and resources available to them. The participants were eager to join such sessions in the future as they had very little knowledge about digital rights and the ways journalists can protect themselves online.

 


Consultation at Punjab Commission on the Status of Women

Digital Rights Foundation took part in PCSW’s consultation between civil society and law enforcement agencies held on August 2, 2018. Our members raised their concerns regarding online harassment and the gaps in government service delivery to address the issue.


Recommendations for the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018

DRF, along with Privacy International, submitted its recommendations and suggestions for the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018. The recommendations highlight the need for data privacy with reference to government institutions and sensitive data.

Our recommendations can be found here.


Nighat Dad as a Guest Speaker at Training organized by UNCRC

Nighat Dad spoke as a guest speaker at a workshop on August 17, representing Digital Rights Foundation, organized by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to talk about digital rights and security. She pointed out the intersection between child’s rights advocacy and digital rights.

news


Participation in APrIGF panel on “Internet Platforms and Online Abuse and Violence against Women”

Shmyla Khan from DRF virtually participated in the Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF) panel titled “Internet Platforms and Online Abuse and Violence against Women”. She highlighted issues of content moderation with reference to online harassment laws and experiences of Pakistani women.


Nighat Dad spoke about digital rights live on Subah Say Agay on Hum News  

On 21st August, DRF’s Executive Director, Ms. Dad spoke live about digital rights on Amber Rahim Shamsi’s show on Hum News. She talked about the importance of social media platforms and how they ensure fundamental rights and access to information. She also added that banning social media platforms in this digital age would not be a very wise move as mass censorship goes against democratic values.

For the complete interview click here.


Nighat Dad as a panelist at the launch of the ‘TRANSition’ project

CSC Empowerment & Inclusion Programme along with its partners - The Gender Guardian and Go Green Welfare Society, launched their ‘TRANSition’ project on 17th August. Nighat Dad was part of a panel discussion on ‘Policy level changes for acceptance of Transgenders’, to create awareness on the vulnerability of transgenders in our society and to highlight the efforts made on an institutional level. The keys of motorbikes were also distributed by the panelists to ten of the transgenders, to make mobility easier for them. Click here for more details.

 

State v Sarmad Liaqat

p

In continuing its project of ‘Mapping PECA’, a new designated section that has been created to overview the judicial development of the Act, DRF’s legal team has prepared another report on a recent judgement that has come from the court of Special Magistrate Aamir Raza Baitu and which looks into convictions under s.20(1), 21 and 24 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016. It is available for your perusal here.


Network of women journalists continue to share articles and blogs

Members of DRF's Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights continued to share articles and blogs on digital rights issues which can be found on the Hamara Internet website here. This is part of DRF's initiative to record women journalists' voices, particularly relating to digital rights and security issues.

In August was the month preceding the General Elections of Pakistan, Network members wrote extensively on the issues related to cyber bullying of journalists, social media and middle class elitism, and censorship policies.

March 20, 2018 - Comments Off on Cambridge Analytica Scandal and How to Secure Your Data

Cambridge Analytica Scandal and How to Secure Your Data

This weekend news broke that a data breach of 50 million Facebook profiles was used by the data analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica, to assist the Donald Trump campaign. The news is worrisome for several reasons, and it speaks to a problem that digital rights and privacy advocates have been advocating against for years--the need for stronger user data protections and accountability for social media companies.

Facebook users’ personal information, such as likes and status updates, were used to build profiles of users in order to predict their electoral behaviour. The data breach happened through a personality test app called “thisisyourdigitallife”. Like most apps we connect to our social media, it was far from innocuous as the intrusive application, once given permission, harvested personal data of users. Furthermore, the application also collected information of the test-takers’ Facebook friends. The ostensible justification for collecting the data was to improve the user experience and was allowed by Facebook’s “platform policy”.

We all volunteer a lot of information on social media, however there is a serious lack of transparency on how this information is being collected, stored and used. One of biggest sources of data breaches are the applications we give permissions and access to--they are a source of constant collection and surveillance.

The following is step-by-step guide on how to secure your social media accounts and prevent third-party applications for harvesting your data:

  1. Login to Facebook with your username and password

    1

  2. Click the drop down icon next to the Help icon

    2

  3. On left side Click Apps. You will be presented with apps that are currently using your Facebook credentials to sign in

    3

  4. Clicking on any app you will be presented with the settings of that app. In this example, we will use Careem and see what sort of settings are available

    4

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The options presented by Careem are as follows. Some details of these options are:

  • App Visibility. This setting simply allows the audience for the app. In the screenshot it’s selected to “Only Me” meaning only the owner of the profile can see that the app is being used. If changed to “Friends” then only friends will be able to see that the owner of this profile uses this app

  • Public Profile. This app is currently accessing my Name, Profile Picture, Age, and Gender which is required by the app for registration purposes. You can see this information in Careem app as well. Your basic info is being picked directly from your profile when you sign up for the app using your Facebook credentials.

  • Email Address: Email address accessed by the app for signing in purposes.

  • Notifications are enabled if I use Careem directly from Facebook app.

    5. To revoke access simply click the “x” sign and click on remove button


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Authored by Shmyla Khan and Hamza Irshad

March 06, 2017 - Comments Off on Fake News, Obscenity, and Cyber Harassment: February ’17

Fake News, Obscenity, and Cyber Harassment: February ’17

February 2017 wasn't an easy ride for digital rights here in Pakistan. As we still await one of the five missing bloggers to return home, the law enforcement has been busy taking away citizens' rights to speak online under the draconian laws, poor journalism ethics ruled the TV screens and caused chaos in the country, and Digital Rights Foundation's Cyber Harassment Helpline completed its 3 months of operation. Here's a round up of the incidents that had out attention!

Samar Abbas: Still Missing

While it came to light at the end of January that 4 of the missing activists had returned home, Samar Abbas still missing remains missing. Samar’s disappearance has been linked to the series of enforced disappearances of activists and bloggers at the start of January--Samar was reported missing 11th January, 2017. Given the lack of information by the state authorities and the returned activists themselves, there is no clarity on why the activists were picked up or the reason Samar in particular remains missing.

Samar’s wife, Najamus Sahar, has spoken about the emotional toll the disappearance has taken on her family.

IMG-20170112-WA0030 (1)

In a petition directed at the missing bloggers, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, through a single bench at the Islamabad High Court, ordered the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority to block pages or websites containing blasphemous material on social media. It is unclear how this order will be interpreted by the PTA. Furthermore, if the PTA chooses to follow the order what criteria is being used to determine content as blasphemous? While the PTA is at it, it would be great it they can also remove material containing hate speech against minorities and marginalised communities.

The Trend of Fake News and its Aftermath

The term “fake news” has been weaponised by the current US president to target any news outlet that dares to fact-check him, however it has also become a referential point of analysis for pervasive news items and rumours that are demonstratively wrong, yet are still shared on social media and even picked up by the mainstream media. In times of mass confusion and lack of trust in official statements, fake news can become an agent of panic and paranoia. In the aftermath of the Lahore Defence bomb blast/cylinder explosion (there is still no clarity on which of these is fake news), panic gripped the streets of Lahore as social media, mainstream news channels and WhatsApp groups were inundated by the news of a bomb blast in Gulberg. 31 news channels were initially served a notice by PEMRA in the wake of this incident, out of which 29 news channels are fined and asked to air an apology on March 6th, 2017 between 6:00 PM and 7:00 PM in the same magnitude as the fake news was aired.

PEMRA Apology notice

For more clarity on fake news and how to counter it, read Hija Kamran’s post “F is for Fake News!” for DRF here.

Arrest of Nasir Khan Jan and "Obscenity" as a tool for Censorship

Social media celebrity Nasir Khan Jan is known for his videos and covers. However on 8th February, 2017 was arrested and detained by the Police on grounds of “obscenity”. While he was granted bail by a lower court in Lower Dir on 11th February, 2017, his case has been referred to the Cyber Crime Wing of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

nasir

The police has informed the media that he was arrested under Section 107 of the Pakistan Penal Code, which deals with “instigation” of others. It is unclear what exactly the police are accusing Nasir Khan Jan of doing. This is a clear violation of his right to freedom of expression in online spaces and a case in which the vague terminology of obscenity is being used to intimidate online personalities.

Read DRF’s statement condemning the arrest here.

Cyber Harassment Helpline completes in third month!

DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline has marks 3 months of successful operations. Launched on 1st December, 2017, the Helpline has handled over 358 complaints in the short span of its operations. The Helpline Team hopes to expand and improve its services and outreach. Several innovative approaches towards outreach have already been taken.

The detailed report on the Cyber Harassment Helpline's first 3 months will be launched in coming days.

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February 08, 2017 - Comments Off on Internet Freedom, Public Threats, and the Year Ahead

Internet Freedom, Public Threats, and the Year Ahead

January 2017 was one eventful month at Digital Rights Foundation. From protests for and return of the missing activists to hate speech by an acclaimed TV host on live television, from the launch of anti-harassment mobile application by Punjab Government to blocking of a satire website - DRF team has been busy at work throughout. And here's a round-up of all the activities that had our attention:

Missing Activists:

The month of January started out with the troublesome news that five activists had gone missing from Pakistan. Salman Haider (Islamabad), Ahmed Raza Naseer (Nankana), Ahmed Waqas Goraya (Lahore), Aasim Saeed (Lahore) and Samar Abbas (Karachi) all disappeared in the first month of the new year. The reason for their disappearance is still unclear but it is likely that they were targeted on the basis of their online speech. Civil society activists conducted protests all across Pakistan in the wake of these disappearances, and international pressure was also mounted on the government. Digital Rights Foundation also took part in the protest in Lahore.

IMG-20170112-WA0030 (1)By the end of January, reports surfaced that the missing activists had made contact with their families. There are several unanswered questions regarding the disappearances and many of the returned are reluctant to speak out about their ordeal. One of the activists had left the country following his release.

Another worrying aspect of these disappearances were the concerted social media campaigns to malign these missing activists, one that was backed up by the mainstream media and presenters, such as Amir Liaquat.

Amir Liaquat, Free Speech and PEMRA

Amir Liaquat is the host of the program “Aisa Nahi Chalay Ga” on Bol TV. In the month of January, has been accusing several activists and journalists of anti-Pakistani activities as well as levelling blasphemy charges against progressive voices.

After thousands of complaints from citizens, PEMRA (the regulatory agency for electronic media), issued an order banned Amir Liaquat’s appearance any TV channel:

PEMRA's Order to BOL TV

PEMRA's Order to BOL TV

Bol TV however did not immediately comply with PEMRA’s order and continued to air Amir Liaquat’s show despite the hate speech and incendiary content of his speeches.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has come down hard on Bol and the channel signed an undertaking pledging not to air Amir Liaquat’s show until further notice by the court.

Khabristan Times Blocked in Pakistan

KT

Pakistan’s satire publication, Khabaristan Times (KT) has been blocked in Pakistan since January 25.

Digital Rights Foundation strongly condemned the ban in its official statement and stands in solidarity with the publication.

 

Statement by KT

Statement by KT

Initiatives by the Punjab Government

16684669_1189689211129997_672714307_nThe Punjab government launched its Women Safety Smart Phone Application. The app was launched on January 4, 2017 by the Punjab Safe Cities Authority (PSCA) in collaboration with the Punjab Commission on Status of Women. This application allows allows users to send notifications to the Police Integrated Command, Control and Communication (PPIC3) if there is an incident of harassment and security forces will be dispatched to the location immediately. The application also allows users to mark places and locations as “unsafe”, which will help authorities in planning activities and other users as well.

Digital Rights Foundation attended the launch event for the application. We shall follow up with the developers and the authorities regarding our problems with permissions and privacy policies of the application. The fact that the application gains access to a lot of personal data as displayed in the permissions section, the onus is on the authorities to assure citizens about why the data is collected and how it is securely stored.
WhatsApp Image 2017-02-08 at 13.03.23 (1)WhatsApp Image 2017-02-08 at 13.03.23

The Punjab government also launched around 192 hotspots in three big cities of the province, including Lahore, Rawalpindi and Multan. According to reports, in order to log in citizens will be required to given their name, date of birth, profession and mobile number. Digital Rights Foundation is also concerned about the information that this required for this service and the monitoring of online activity with users are logged into the service.

Internet Shutdown persists in FATA

Digital Rights Foundation was recently alerted to the fact that internet services in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have been suspended since June 12, 2016. This denial of internet access to a large segment of Pakistan’s population has gone unexplained by the authorities, and DRF will continue to highlight the issue until services are adequately restored.
You can read our blog post on the issue here.

Safer Internet Day

DRF organized a workshop on account of international Safer Internet Day on the 7th of February in Beaconhouse School System Boys Branch. Seerat Khan, Jannat Fazal and Huda Jilani conducted the workshop with the enthusiastic secondary school students, which was based on cyberbullying and the safety measures children should adopt while using the internet. During the workshop, children also designed posters and wrote about how they felt about cyberbullying. The need of these workshops in schools was recognized and a survey was also conducted to understand the nature of cyberbullying in schools. DRF hopes to expand the project to more schools in the near future.
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English Works opening ceremony in Karachi

16142511_10154272452578870_7361294837987059840_nOn January 18, 2017, Hija Kamran - Communications Manager at Digital Rights Foundation, spoke to the students at English Works opening ceremony - a six month English learning course - organised by Evolution in partnership with the U.S. Consulate General Karachi. During her talk, Hija emphasized on the importance and need of Women Rights in Digital Spaces, Cyber Harassment, and how to counter the said harassment. Along with this, Hija also discussed the harassment that Qandeel Baloch faced, and the harassment that 22 year old Naila Rind faces for three months which ultimately led her to commit suicide in her hostel room.
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Seminar by Search for Justice - CAN Pakistan

Huda Jilani, Program Assistant at Digital Rights Foundation, was a speaker and panelist at a seminar conducted by Search for Justice (an initiative by CAN Pakistan) and the Social Work Department at Lahore College University for Women on January 18, 2017. The seminar focused on Online Harassment specifically in context of social media and ways and strategies to avoid it. Mr. Shahid Hassan, a representative of the FIA, was also a speaker at the event.
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Harassment as a Legal Concept in Cyber Law

Shmyla Khan, the Project Head of Cyber Harassment Helpline at Digital Rights Foundation writes,
"Harassment, unfortunately, is a fact of life for many women in spaces other than the place of work. Most public spaces are hostile environments for women. It is for this reason that street harassment is also criminalised under section 509 the PPC in Pakistan. It comes as no surprise that cyber spaces are no different when it comes to the experience of women and minorities. Out of the 3027 cybercrime cases reported to the FIA during August 2014- August 2015, 45% involved electronic violence against women (e-VAW)."

Read the full article "Harassment as a Legal Concept in Cyber Law" here.


 

December 17, 2012 - Comments Off on DAY 8 | LOVE LETTERS TO END VIOLENCE | SEND YOUR THOUGHTS

DAY 8 | LOVE LETTERS TO END VIOLENCE | SEND YOUR THOUGHTS

Image by Moon RhythmLetter writing can be a powerful form of storytelling. When we sit down to write a letter, we take the time to think about our life, and how it connects with the person we are writing the letter to. We share small details, events and anecdotes about the things that have happened to us that are at the same time unimportant but deeply meaningful because it says something about a moment captured and exchanged through a story.

We think about the person we are writing to, hold them in our mind, and put into words what they mean to us. We offer our attention, presence and time. Letters can contain all of these and be read again and again. Letters can contain a moment in history. They can move us into empathy, drive us into action, or be just the thing to stop us from stumbling into despair.

For today’s action, write a love letter to someone about ending violence against women. This can be a love letter to your daughter to share what you’ve learnt about dealing with sexual discrimination, or your best friend about acceptance of our own bodies, or to someone who shared her experience through a blog post or a story from our campaign map to let her know you are really listening and that you can find courage together, or to your Prime Minister to ask her/him to care enough to make a real difference, or even to a stranger.

 

 

Write it, post it, or leave it around the places you move around in today for people to find.

Scan or copy it and share it with us here (email, upload to site).

Or if you have come across inspiring open love letters, share them here or on send us the link on Twitter (#takebackthetech #16stories).

Offer your time, love and solidarity. Take Back the Tech!

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Here are two posts we would like to share with you as our love letter to individuals and activists who are committed to creating a world free from violence against women:

Here I sit, head bent, writing you an intimate letter. I sense your presence, even though I don't know your name. I envision you as a young woman, possibly a young man, somewhere between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five, but you may also be a decade older--or younger--than that. You may not yet be born.

Perhaps I am trying to speak to my own younger self. When I was coming of age--a process which is still far from over--no one ever spoke strong truths to me in a loving voice. When I was your age, I did not know what I needed to know in order to understand my life--anybody's life. Perhaps, in writing to you, I wish to correct that, to make amends... “

- Continue reading “Letters to a young feminist

“A year back, I became romantically involved with a man. It was a long distance relationship. When I met him, he seemed to be someone who was extremely liberal in his outlook even though he comes from a rather conservative background. He was everything I could ask for. Educated, established and outgoing. For me beauty is not about looks but how a person is at heart. Hence it does not make sense for me to comment on his looks here. But, physical beauty is the only thing he was looking for in me when I met him. This however, I understood much later...."

- Continue reading “Donna’s story”, submitted to us as part of this year’s campaign, which reads as a love letter to women and girls all over the world who has ever felt loss of control over their own bodies in the name of love, and regained it.