IGF 2022 Day 1 Networking Session #60 Safe internet use for all: Helplines working with communities

The following are the outputs of the captioning taken during an IGF intervention. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.



>> HYRA BASIT: Hello, can everyone hear me? OK. Great. So, hello, everyone. So, my name is Hyra Basit, I'm here from Digital Rights Foundation joining remotely from Pakistan. I can now see the video is up on site. Sorry about the delay, I think we were just trying to figure out how to conduct the session. There were some technical problems.

If everyone is ready, I can just introduce my purpose in this session and what I hope to gain from it, and hopefully all of you will gain the same benefits.

>> Yes, Hyra, we can hear you, and we are ready to begin.

>> HYRA BASIT: Great. OK. So, like I said, I'm representing Digital Rights Foundation. We work here in Pakistan, and I am the program manager for the cyber harassment helpline here. Our purpose behind this helpline was to provide direct support to people, primarily women and young children, whenever they face online harassment. So this is a very big issue here, especially because of our cultural context. People may have access to laptops and cell phones, and when they use the Internet, they're never really taught how to protect themselves online or what are the dangers that they might face online.

Especially when we used to go around doing training sessions at schools and colleges, a lot of girls would come up and ask us with questions about how they're being blackmailed or threatened online, when their pictures are shared without their consent or have been taken without their consent. They don't even have to be intimate pictures really, because Pakistan is such a conservative society, even sharing just a person's face, you know, a young woman's face can be very harmful for her reputation. She can be stopped from attending school, coming to work.

In some cases, young women also have been killed for just having an online presence or having their pictures put up online without their consent. So someone else has taken a picture and they've been put online, and, for some reason ‑‑ well, not for some reason, but -- the blame somehow always lands on the woman, of course.

So I can start my video. I just realized I haven't done that. So our purpose behind starting this helpline was so that women who thought they didn't have anywhere to go or they didn't have any support or help, or anyplace to ask questions, we would be able to provide that direct support.

So they could call in on our helpline and anonymously, confidentially, they could ask any questions they want, we could provide the support that the -- the best practices that they could adopt to protect themselves online. So once they are facing online harassment, and even to preemptively protect themselves.

Luckily, in 2016, Pakistan passed the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, which isn't perfect, but it's still something, it's still a good start, and a specific law enforcement agency was designated to investigate cybercrimes, and specific sections were identified to protect women -- well, protect everyone from online harassment.

So sharing pictures, child pornography, stalking, sharing personally identifiable information such as ID cards or birth dates, anything that could be used to identify, so these are some sections that have been highlighted in the act, which really helped us, because we started our helpline around the same time, and it helped us because we knew that we had legal backing.

So if we wanted to provide legal help to any young woman or girl who reached out to us, we could tell them, "These are the laws that protect you; this is the agency that protects you, that you can go to for help instead of going to the police."

And we recognize and understand your reservations about going to the police, because it's not always easy. There's always that fear that they will create some public drama, our story will end up on the media, our family will be involved.

Designating a separate investigation agency and hearing about it from us through the helpline really helped those women feel more secure in seeking legal help.

At this helpline, we also provide mental health support, because a lot of times ‑‑ and we've heard this multiple, many times at the helpline -- we hear that "we can't go to our family for help, we cannot go to our friends for help," because there's always that element of victim‑blaming and they just feel like they're not secure. One, maybe they weren't even allowed to be online in the first place, so they can't go and tell their families. Or if they go to their friends, they won't understand.

So there's this feeling of isolation that comes with online ‑‑ with facing online harassment, so that we provide mental health support in those cases if people are feeling very ‑‑ if they're depressed, if they're feeling anxiety, if they're feeling alone.

Our first step, our first concern is to provide the victim some sort of consolation, is to provide them some sort of support, a network to make them feel like they're not alone, that they can seek help, that they're not completely alone here, that there will be help available for them.

And the second thing that we do is provide digital security support. So, like I was talking about before, we provide tips and advice on how to preemptively, you know, help protect yourselves online.

So, just very basic, because again, like I said before, people aren't really taught how to protect themselves online, so even just giving them tips like, you know, going through your privacy settings, or how to turn on two‑factor authentication, or -- you know, basic things like that, or maybe ‑‑ we have digital security experts as well, so if we need some higher level of digital security advice, we transfer it over to them. But, you know, very basic tips, we provide them to anyone who calls to the helpline.

The third thing that we do is provide legal help, which I also talked about a bit before. And I don't want to go into too much detail, because I really want to hear from everyone else who has joined us. I want this to be like a very open group, and instead of me just talking and talking. But I will mention that we also have escalation channels with various social media companies such as Meta, YouTube, Google, Twitter.

So whenever, if you require, if you want some posts to be taken down, some accounts to be taken down or recovered after they've been hacked, this direct escalation channel with them, with these companies really help us out, especially, especially when we're talking about ‑‑ I know I've been stressing on women and young girls before this, but we also work a lot with journalists, human rights defenders, lawyers, because they, you know -- more vulnerable populations who face an even much greater threat, because it affects their work, it affects, you know, their physical security, so whenever these escalation channels really help us in providing that help to people who work in these vulnerable occupations.

So this is the setup that we've started here in 2016. In fact, tomorrow, we'll have completed six whole years, and in these six years, we've received about more than 13,000 cases, new cases that come to us from all over Pakistan and from all over the world too.

So, because we're available through e‑mail, through our help desk e‑mail and social media channels as well, we get a lot of requests from people all over the world.

So this is -- again, it's not perfect, which is why I wanted to introduce what we're doing here in Pakistan, and I also want to hear from everyone else about what you all have been doing, if you have been providing any sort of direct assistance in your respective regions, and what you think we can do even further. Because the one thing that I have noticed that I really want to work on is cross‑border collaboration. Online harassment isn't just contained within one area, right? We get a lot of requests where the perpetrator or the harasser might be in another country, and then that's where the block comes in. We can't really cross borders to identify the perpetrator or make them ‑‑ you know, if they have someone's pictures, for example, we can't contact law enforcement there to help us get those pictures removed from their possession.

So these are some of the problems that I've seen. I would really like to pass it on to anyone else who would like to introduce themselves and the work that they've been doing or just any concerns that they've been noticing in this particular field, and... yeah.

So anyone who would like to participate, I'd love to hear from you.

>> Anyone who would like to participate and contribute to Hyra's session, the mic is roaming. So if you just show me where you are, I could bring the mic to you.

>> Thank you, Hyra Basit, Ms. or Mrs., anyway, Hyra Basit, thank you. My question is the protection. When you protect children online against online harassment, are you using Internet filtering? Of course, if you use Internet filtering, this will definitely override privilege to access, or giving them the opportunity to know more about online activities, what is your mechanism to protect these online -- Thank you.

>> HYRA BASIT: I'm not sure I completely understand your question. Are you talking about protecting children's images online?

>> Let me clear my question. When protecting children, are you using on the Internet site or Internet filtering, or are we teaching them more about how to use the Internet? That is my question. Is it not clear?

>> HYRA BASIT: OK. So, we have mentoring sessions with children, we go to schools and colleges, or mostly schools, to provide training and awareness sessions for kids of all ages. A lot of schools invite us over to their ‑‑ you know, to interact with the kids directly.

But, for online, I mean, if someone is actually facing such an issue, we don't do anything ourselves. We use online resources, such as the IWF Portal or the Revenge Porn Helpline, The StopNCII.org -- well, StopNCII is mostly for 18+. But there's the IWF Portal. We also try to reach out to ‑‑ I mean, in a personal capacity, we try to reach out to any host sites or any of the websites that are hosting these kinds of pictures or, you know, material with children in them and try to get them taken down, and we have been successful pretty much so far, especially when you mentioned the word "child" and you present the complaint to host sites such as Cloudflare, they do take the complaints seriously and they do try to get the pictures taken down as soon as possible.

So I think we try to balance both things. You know, give awareness sessions so that they don't fall into that trap, so that kids know how to prepare themselves. They know how to protect themselves online for the parents as well, because the parents also need to know how to ensure that their children are completely safe online, and while giving them the freedom to explore online spaces as well.

And then we try, in our own personal capacity, to ‑‑ we don't have a proper mechanism, but we try to do some research and see what can be done to try to undo some of the damage, if some pictures or information of children have been leaked online.

>> Uta Kohl: My name is Uta Kohl, I'm from the German Digital Opportunities Foundation working in child rights advocacy. Referring to the question that you have given, I would say the filtering software that we know so far can protect children only from accessing content that is not appropriate for their age, but there is no filtering software that could protect children from their images being disseminated, being abused in the Internet.

So I don't know whether you've heard about the general comment number 25 to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is dealing completely with children's rights in the digital environment. The general comments are very clearly that filtering software should not be used to restrict the access of children to resources that they need also for their development, but still we need to protect them from their images being abused.

>> ROBERT FORD: Thank you very much. My name is Robert Ford, from Rwanda. And I wanted to inquire from our presenter: does Pakistan, where she's presenting from, have a specific national child online protection policy? Because, at the national level, it should just start with that. Even without looking at a framework of an international setting, we need to look at our definitions, tackling this at the individual level.

Then, best on that, you can be able to anchor on to the different international frameworks and be able fetch resources that you think can fit within the context on a national level.

On one level, the policy does exist, and the implementation effort towards that policy has been underway for the past couple of years. And what we saw during the process is we identified the different forms of harm to not just children, but even post‑teenage age, what kind of harm actually is available online.

Things like sexting, online grooming, fake news and misinformation, explicit and inappropriate content, cyber‑bullying, online reputation, online pornography, self‑harm, radicalization, especially for extremist or governments that have segments of society that they're extreme because of religion, race, politics and stuff, then privacy and identity theft, and this is very, very common online. And then online commercialization where young children are being used for commercial purposes.

Now, there are different forms of how to mitigate this at the national level. For Rwanda, we have the National Regulatory (phonetic) Authority, especially for digital content like television and radio, and for anyone to be afforded a license, for example, there are certain thresholds that have to abide with, and some of them include protection of children.

So, if you have a dictator television, for example, you need to make sure that, within your broadcast, you have the procedure on how a parent can be able to follow certain commands and be able to set his decoder into the child online protection mode. There are certain things a child is not supposed to be able to see.

But there are also other efforts toward protecting children: making sure there's family time, making sure there's engagement, talking, and making sure they are friends, more friends to children, than just being guardians and control figures.

We can be available to share some of our content and some of the work we've done on the ground in Rwanda, to see if it can help in framing it into your context and see if it can be able to be of use to you and to any other country to be involved. Thank you.

>> HYRA BASIT: Thank you. I would be very interested in that, and I'm sure everyone else would find it very helpful too. And thank you for telling ‑‑ and you're right, looking at the national framework before we go into the international framework. Yep.

>> Do we have any more contributions in the room? Hyra, I think you can proceed on that basis.

>> HYRA BASIT: Sure. So again, my whole purpose in setting up this networking session was to just to hear from everyone else about what kinds of problems. So I know that we've talked a little bit about protecting children online, and I didn't even think about how they might be included into maybe ‑‑ drawn into, sorry, terrorist organizations or stuff like that. I was concentrating more on what was happening, what I've seen in Pakistan, which is why I wanted to hear from everyone else about what problems countries have been facing online, whether it's revenge porn, or child pornography, or incessant messaging, stalking, fake profiles.

I know that, other than Pakistan, we have heard the Revenge Porn Helpline in the UK, we've heard -- I know that India has started a helpline there as well, and if there are any -- you what, guidance. So I know that there's advocacy efforts that we try to do through the helpline as well.

Because we have numbers, because we have solid, direct contact with people who are actually facing online harassment, we also feel it's our responsibility to advocate for people here in Pakistan, in South Asia, and to explain to social media companies and to tech companies which are mostly based in the U.S., in the West, and don't understand our cultural context. Maybe they're not as willing to understand our cultural context. How they need to develop and implement their policies in a different way or a in better way, to make sure that those policies are beneficial for us as well, not just for the people in the West, because we have different ‑‑ we just have different requirements.

And because we are ‑‑ just because we use their platforms, because we use Facebook, and Instagram, and Twitter, they have to adapt to us. We shouldn't have it adapt to how they work. They have to learn, because they bring the product into our countries, they have to make sure that they understand how people here think, what dangers we could face.

One possible thing that I've seen is the definition of Internet images, for example. That definition varies according to the U.S., for example. It might be that certain parts of the clothing, or certain body parts have to be visible, or certain clothing isn't there, or it has to be two people, et cetera, et cetera. But the definition of intimate images over here might be very different.

It could just be a bare shoulder showing, which wouldn't fit their criteria, which wouldn't fit their definition, but it would have very serious repercussions in this part of the world, maybe. And it's very difficult to try to get everyone to understand that, at the very core of the issue is the very same, but just because you've outlined, you've used specific words in your policies, in your community guidelines, that doesn't mean that it doesn't apply here. So OK.

So yeah, helpline work doesn't mean just assistance, it also means advocacy work, so -- yeah, I'd like to hear.

>> We have a contribution in the room as well.

>> VITOR: Good morning, everyone. Let me introduce myself. I'm Vitor, from Mozambique. I speak Portuguese, but I'll try to translate it in English.

My contribution is, I think that network security, or Internet use should not be done simply by filters implemented by NIT. It should have education that start in house, from parents. How to use the network tools, how to use the program, it starts at house. Thank you.

>> I come from Uganda. I'm a librarian in a public library. I have a bit of a challenge with regards to Internet security, to children. Deep in the rural area, you'll find that parents and guardians have the smartphones, and what they use it for is just to make a call, but they have these children at home who are very, very enthusiastic in finding new things.

They go online, sign up, download funny photos and videos without the knowledge of their parents. So I think the parents, my colleague, he's talking about the elite community, but the rural, poor communities do not know how to ‑‑ they don't know anything about Internet, but they have the gadgets.

I think my call, my appeal goes to the service providers. They should find a way of making it difficult for underage children to sign up, because if it is very easy to sign up, they'll always find a way of accessing the Internet.

>> Uta Kohl: Thank you. Uta, from Germany, again. I wanted to answer to the question about parents' education, but I cannot more agree to what the librarian said, that it's not only we don't only have parents who feel responsible, who have the knowledge, so we also need training for parents to know what their children are doing online.

But nonetheless, we have to call for responsibility from the platform providers. For example, in Germany, we had an amendment to the Youth Protection Act, which makes obligatory for providers to take precautionary measures. That would mean that they have to know how old their users are, that they have to set more private settings for the younger users than for the older users.

Of course, children then have the right to override these settings and to have more content, but when they start, it's like closed surroundings, and with these precautionary measures, and then when they have learned and get acquainted with all the possibilities to have their privacy settings, for example, then they can go a step further and descend further. Thank you.

>> I'm from Ethiopia. I have just a concern on the child protection, that the children are the more vulnerable ones in this digital era, which child pornography, the cyber‑bullying, the cyber stalking, the cyber harassment is more -- the more concerning one is the children, because they are not the one with the ability to stand up for themselves.

So my question for you is the law enforcement, or after the crime is committed, or the cybercrime is committed on those children, the law enforcement or the perpetrator should come to justice, how can we handle the evidentiality or the other elements to enforce such laws and to bring those perpetrators to justice? How can we use other experiences from other countries, experiences you can maybe share some?

What do you think about combating those perpetrators and to bring them to justice? Because those are children, they don't know about their rights, and they don't know their rights to their limits, or what's their limit or no, so how can we focus on the law enforcement or how can we protect them by bringing those criminals to justice for the children?

>> HYRA BASIT: I'm so sorry, there were some, I think, Internet problems. I missed most of your question. You were talking about children and bringing those perpetrators to justice. I'm not sure that I understood the whole question.

>> Let's take another question here and then get back to repeat the question. Or let's take the contribution and then we'll repeat the question.

>> Hi, good morning, everyone. Mine is a contribution, actually. I'm from Nigeria. Hyra initially asked what other countries are doing or have done regarding child online protection. For Nigeria, I'll say, starting from the 2020 guidelines that were released by the ITU, we were able to localize those guidelines, having them in different languages.

That is Pidgin. Pidgin English we call it, then Yoruba, and Hausa, and Igbo, which are the local languages spoken in Nigeria. And we did it in such a way that even a household or people who really didn't go to school can be able to read those guidelines and explain it to the children.

Then, aside from that, we do carry out sensitization campaigns going to schools. We also involve parents when doing sensitization campaign. We tag it Parenting 101 for digital citizens, because some of the parents are not as digitally literate as their children.

And in Nigeria sometimes you find that the child knows how to use the computer or his mobile phone way more than the parents, so they try to outsmart them. We try to explain to them, these are the privacy, some technical privacy issues that happens on the Internet, and aside that, all those security -- how you can be able to, like, set parental control measures when they try to access the Internet and all of that.

Then aside that, we also have child helplines whereby the children can call directly and relay their complaints, if they have any. And also we have a dedicated e‑mail address, whereby the children can be able to launch their complaint, if they happen to fall a victim of any online threats.

Then we also try to advocate for having child online protection clubs in secondary schools. Each time we go on carrying desensitization campaigns so that teachers and the children can sit, discuss, explain the hazards that have been faced online. Thank you.

>> Thank you so much. Hyra, we'll just repeat the question, then --

>> I think she got some points that I mentioned, but my question was how to combat the impunity. What I was mentioning was the fact of the cybercrime, the internationality, the dynamicity, and also the children are the more vulnerable group, that they don't know their enemy, and also they don't know about their rights and they are not even more familiar with how the international law work, so the factors of the collecting the evidences and the internationality of the crime. Also, such issues to combat the impunity.

If there's any experience that you can share or that anyone mentioned, or what would be the more favorable way to combat the impunity and to come to justice, the perpetrators come to justice.

>> HYRA BASIT: We haven't had much experience of that at the helpline, so I can't speak from experience. But yeah. I think generally, as far as I know, when the victims are children, law enforcement does look into it much more seriously.

But again, what I think the cross‑border collaboration that I was talking about earlier, it's especially needed when we're talking about children here. You know, countries, governments, law enforcement agencies based in different parts of the world need to have a proper system set up. They need to start thinking about it much more seriously just to ensure -- you know, to get rid of the bureaucratic barriers that come up, and look at the children who come first, the problem that comes first, and set up a system like that to make sure that they're able to catch perpetrators, no matter where in the world they are and to make sure that, whatever damage has been done, if there are pictures or videos online, or anywhere, if they are being distributed, that those are captured and destroyed eventually. And all this can be done discreetly so it doesn't harm the children in the future.

Yeah. If anyone else would like to answer her question or give any suggestions, that was it from my side.

>> Thank you so much, Hyra, and thank you so much, everyone. I think we'll close the session at this point. Invite everyone to go downstairs for the opening session. It's about to begin anytime now. Thank you so much.

>> HYRA BASIT: Thank you everyone for being here. Thank you so much. I really appreciated hearing from all of you. Thank you.