Pakistan's First Online Hate Speech Report Is Out, And It Isn't Pretty

Hate Speech: A study of Pakistan’s Cyberspace. Click on the image to download the report

Hate Speech: A study of Pakistan’s Cyberspace. Click on the image to download the report (pdf)

Bytes For All, an advocacy organization in Pakistan has released the first ever empirical-based research report on online hate speech in Pakistan (here are some of their key findings). In this piece, Global Voices contributor Qurratulain Zaman interviews Shahzad Ahmad, the Director of Bytes For All.

Pakistan's first-ever hate speech study is an attempt to understand and quantify online hate speech in the country, by examining the actual hate content produced in the country's cyberspace, and build the first quantitative snapshot of who is targeted, who creates it and what forms of hate speech are out there.

Screenshot from the report

A screenshot from the report

Hate speech is a growing concern among many Pakistani online social media users. Innocent people and minority communities like the Ahmadis, are often the targets. The Islamabad-based think tank Jinnah Institute's blog gives some examples:

Pakistani media is an agent of CIA and RAW, Shariat ya Shahadat (Shariah or Martydom), Maslak-e-Deoband (Cult of Deoband) and Shias are unbelievers. This is not a list of slogans chanted by extremists on the streets of Pakistan. It is a very small sampling of the thousands of hate-fueled extremist Facebook pages that make up the Pakistani online experience today.

And exactly what do those Facebook pages share? The blog cites an example of the extremely popular page My Ideology is Islam & My Identity is Pakistan (MIMIP) which has more than 700,000 likes.

The page averages about one share every two minutes, up to 10 hours a day. What do these shares consist of? The latest statements by Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief (formerly Lashkar-e-Taiba) Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, generic religious messages, anti-Ahmadi hate speech, health tips, the faces of Pakistani TV anchors, politicians and senior members of the judiciary Photoshopped with dogs, demons or Hindu/Jewish symbols, anti-Hindu, anti-India hate speech, anti-Semitism, racist, homophobic content, calls for jihad and news updates.

Screenshot from the report

Screenshot from the report

There have been weak efforts at condemning rising hate speech online. A website called Nafrat Aggregator tried to name and shame those who post hateful messages online without much success. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s (HRCP) Expert Group on Communities Vulnerable suggested that strong action be taken against those instigating violence through hate-speech online. Earlier this year Islamic scholars in Pakistan pushed for a hate-speech ban.

The Pakistani government vowed to stem the flow of hate-speech by taking strict action against anyone who propagates sectarianism via social media or mobile phones. The provincial Sindh government is keen to ban instant messaging and voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) clients such as Skype, Viber and other communication networks because terrorists were reportedly using them to plot terrorist attacks. But nothing seems to deter the growing popularity of hate-filled social media shares.

Furhan Hossain writes on Twitter:

Shahzad Ahmad. Image by Rezwan

Shahzad Ahmad at Washington DC. Image by Rezwan

I have consulted with Bytes For All in the past and got to read their hate-speech report before it was released. I interviewed Shahzad Ahmad, the Director of Bytes For All, to get more details about the study for Global Voices (GV) :

GV: How do you define online hate speech?

SA: At Bytes for All, Pakistan, we align our definition of hate-speech with the recommendations of Frank La Rue, based on the work of Article 19, which lays out a series of parameters which form the basis of hate-speech which should be addressed by the law. Some of these parameters include the intention and intensity of any form of expression that either calls for or can lead to curtailment of human rights, discrimination, hostility and violence against any human being or group.

GV: Which community or group of people face more hate speech and what are the reasons?

SA: Groups which were observed to faced the most amount of hate-speech included politicians, media groups/individuals, women and LGBT, and religious minorities. Another visibly large amount of hate-speech was against ‘Indians’ and ‘Hindus,’ where the two terms were being interchangeably used as if both were synonyms.

GV: What are the key findings of your upcoming report?

SA: One of the most important finding of the research indicated that Pakistani internet users were largely unaware of hate speech laws in Pakistan, but were, in general, largely able to identify hate speech correctly. One trend observed in the survey results was the impact of income on views, attitudes and understanding of hate speech. In almost all cases, respondents in the high income bracket had progressive views on hate speech, expressed a greater understanding of the issue, and were better at identifying hate speech correctly, as compared to all other demographic groups. Conversely, respondents in the low income bracket showed the least understanding of hate speech and were markedly worse at identifying hate speech correctly as compared to all other groups.

In terms of platforms, Facebook was highlighted as the most problematic, with 91% of respondents indicating they had come across hate speech on the social network. It is unclear whether this is the result of Facebook’s immense popularity in Pakistan, or the result of an endemic problem on the platform.

GV: Why is there a growing trend of hate speech and culture of humiliation on the Internet?

SA: Internet witnessed a steep rise during last 15 years in Pakistan. In a country where approximately 60% of population can be categorized as youth (less than 30 years of age), this new medium gave a new tool of communication to the youth. But the intolerance and conservativeness of society remained a problem even on the internet. Internet escalated this intolerance because it gave a platform to people to speak (and abuse), while maintaining any level of anonymity as per their desire. Lack of effective cybercrime laws and pro-people legislation, the intolerance of the society started reflecting on the internet more visibly. This is one of the reasons why we witnessing growing trend of hate speech on the internet in Pakistan.

GV: How do you think, this issue of online hate speech should be tackled?

SA: There is no quick way of tackling online violence, because what happens online is a reflection of the offline. While conventional peace building methods such as dissemination of online social etiquette are extremely important, Pakistani cyberspace is in dire need of pro-people cyber legislation to address the need of the day – holistic accountability of all individuals. Pakistan has had cyber laws in the past, when the ordinance lapsed, no one bothered to make sure that it remained a continuing process. Sadly, the past laws were anti-people and largely flawed, and the current proposed draft is also fairly problematic, although it can be improve after a multi-stakeholder process, which the government is always wary of.

Having said this, the role of corporations and intermediaries in dealing with online hate speech and other forms of violence cannot be sidelined. Activists have been protesting against the lax attitude of corporations such as Facebook and Twitter in addressing online abuse through various campaigns such as Take Back The Tech!, #FBRape and #OrangeDay for years. Similarly many policy advocacy efforts are underway, but more are needed. Most importantly, at the end of the day, unity against violence will reign supreme.

GV: It is seen that peace activists, lawyers and journalists are also being targeted and threatened online in Pakistan? The recent case of Raza Rumi is an example: he was sent graphic images of death threats on Twitter and Facebook and the accounts were deleted later. How do you look at this situation?

SA: ​This is a classic example of how dangerously malicious some people can be online. It highlights the importance of treating digital mediums with as much importance as offline mediums. While ​cybercrime legislation as well as corporate intermediaries can both address these issues of user generated threats and violence to some extent, one issue is often not given adequate attention; dangers of non-transparent and illegal surveillance conducted by the governments themselves.

Recent days have seen a massive increase in attacks on journalists and human rights defenders; all this, after governments have been exposed conducting illegal and invasive spying on everybody, which hints towards possible repeated misuse of such technologies even. It is no rocket science to understand that when governments force corporate intermediaries producing hardware and software to create back-doors into people's privacy, they create vulnerabilities in their physical well-being just as much. The lack of transparency in matters such as usage of dangerous technologies such as Finfisher is such that even after almost a year of filing a lawsuit against it, no progress into initiation of hearings has been made.

There is however a difference between trying to stem hate-speech and indiscriminately trying to stamp out differences of opinion and ideology. Unfortunately the first (Internet governance) often becomes an excuse for authorities to implement the latter (Internet censorship). Many secular, left-leaning Facebook pages from Pakistan found this out the hard way as they were allegedly removed and disappeared, almost magically. Let's hope this report is used positively to understand hate-speech and stem it's rise and not be used negatively to feed the demon of censorship.

Written in collaboration with Rezwan, Global Voices’ Regional Editor for South Asia. This piece was edited on June 7 at 19:56 GMT to include the author's prior association with Bytes for All, she has consulted with the organisation in the past,  but was not involved in the research or writing of this specific report. 


  • Salman Kamran

    who start howling against terrorism, never try to analyse the generating
    factors, mostly silent, hidden and styled, behind the natural consequence of
    the hypocrite and conspiring evil minds.Human activists or any groups who are
    over-favourites of minority factions, must note that in Islamic Shariah full
    protection is assured to non-muslims yet minority factions under the name of Muslimsm, themselves know better like
    guilty conscience that they are on the false grounds and as such they go on
    hatching dangerous conspiracies, with the help of anti-muslim forces, aganst
    the muslim societies and nations to throw them in everlasting disruption that
    has been done to the highest level in this so planned moath-eaten country that
    was also the planning of the Westerners unwilling to leave India in peace.

    As Forwarded)I The article through the researches of the team work of learned
    and intelligent persons. Every fact of the subject is supported obviously and
    with undeniable proofs and references,opens the curtails of the bogus hands
    that passed away playing with the future of Crores of muslims and non-muslims
    in Pakistan,India and Kashmir whose past, present and future have been lost and
    that is why it has been made the pretext to spoil the image of muslims everywhere
    because of the most dangerous hypocrites in our lines whom we trusted as muslim
    leaders. Pl. read this repeatedly:

    Generally. to many students like us, always it strikes why this country is
    extremely ill-fated and has been passing the most miserable life like the
    patient not living nor dying as if everything had been wrong , fraud and false
    in the very foundation of it.

    Fortunately many of our minds in research field noted the following matter
    passed through various references. :

    Just read as under, with concrete proofs and references, and calculate and
    computerise as to whose land is this where the very first P.M. the foremost
    freedom fighter was assassinated for getting passed the OBJECTIVE RESOLUTION
    under the background of Kashmir Plot when there was no T of Taliban and no T of
    terrorism. This country is beyond your routine Mathematics.

    How miserably Pakistanies have been mostly stupefied that they utterly fail to
    realize who are their Friends and who

    Foes. The following eye opening comment was noted from a blog ;

    I have noted this REAL COMMENT from the appreciable blogs that reflect why we
    have remained BLIND for 67 years and passing the lives of slave animals in this
    most ill-fated country that has been now turned into nothing more than an
    International Beggar and always in BLOOD BATH.

    We some University Students have found the following comment exactly relevant
    to the present topic.

    ” Unfortunately, the Muslims of Pakistan don’t realize this fundamental
    principle so they find themselves nowhere. They just start generally following
    any intriguer, whether swipper, cobbler, hawker , drunkard, shia,khoja, bori or
    qadiani from whatever mean decendents or circles, who raise the slogans of
    Spicy and Fashionable Religion and Politics. Blinded by all the outward
    verbosity they didn’t think ‘WHO AND FROM WHOM WAS THAT JINNAH POONJA AND WHAT

    We, IT Unit Members through “Youths Research Union” have noted the following
    matter that the muslims of Pakistan have been suffering more and more due to
    the fact that, in this enlightened age of knowledge they have been still in the
    dark that in the British Era those so called Muslims who were the PET DOGS from
    public, working for British Regime, were used to be honoured as SIRS by the
    British Govt. and so was Sir Syed. The explicit proof is this lingering country
    itself that was created through the dangerous conspiracies of Freemasonry (
    anti-Muslim Jewish-Masonic conspiracy ) and Sabahi Decendents (Pharaohs
    believing themselves as the incarnation of GOD ) -Sultan Aghakhan who had
    highjacked the Aligarh Muslim University, made himself as “Founder Pro-Vice
    Chancellor” ( although he and his sect is absolutely anti-Islamic), confused
    Pakistan Movement with Aligarh politics and created from his sect, the so
    called Creator of Pakistan who was not jailed for a single moment nor suffered or
    sacrificed anything, whereas the genuine and real Pioneers, sunni muslims
    having sterling character and noble parentage with high education like Maulana
    Hasrat Mohani ( his wife was also educated ), Allama Mashriqi ( who broke the
    past records in Foreign University ), Bahadur Yarjung who with their party
    members had passed half of life in jail. Their partymen and some of the family
    members were killed . They were all sidelined through the underhand dealings
    between Western powers and Minority sects and generally the duffer Pakistanies
    hardly know anything about them. Jinnah Poonja, drinker of high quality wine
    and fond of pork dishes, (Biography Books) the carbon copy of an English man
    was made Founder of UK, US and Jewish planned Pakistan.In the later life he was
    converted as Shia according to Free Masonary Plannimg; to show aloofness from
    his Guru Aghakhan and to give foundation coverage to both these Sects so that
    they can do anything unhuman they wish. That is why from these and the allied
    antimuslim factions their dogs are commonly found in civil and military
    everywhere supposing themselves the only custodians of this country. Also from
    the very beginning, PAKISTAN GAZZETS ARE ALL TIME PROOFS that Jinnah, installed
    on all the Key and Commanding Posts whether civil or military his selected
    favourite persons from the minority
    sects. Sir Zafrullah, a Qadiani (the parallel sect of Aghakhanies) was the
    Foreign Minister in the Jinnah Regime then he was promoted to UNO as Pakistani
    Representative with Kashmir folio specially at his hand. Again he was elevated,
    through UNO to the status of the Judge of International court yet it is the
    self-proclaiming proof what is the tragic plight of Kashmir for the last 66
    years.( History of Pakistan)The problem of Kashmir was the diplomacy to make
    perpetual enemies and keep fighting India and Pakistan for ever.This policy was
    implemented through Jinnah.The partition of India was based on the principle of
    majority population but to make the Kashmir Problem perpetual, inspite of the
    high majority of Muslims, the twist of “The CONSENT OF THE RULING KING” was
    thrusted by the British and that too was accepted by their stooge, the
    HYPOCRITE JINNAH so that the Hindu Raja declined to join Pakistan and then
    Kashmir was indirectly divided through border war to keep on permenant enmity
    between Indo-Pak.

    Aghakhani Jamatkhana,Kharadar was built on THE LAND OF PORT TRUST THAT IS
    LEGALLY NOT USABLE BY ANY PUBLIC CIRCLE.( An aghakhani Habib Rehmtullah was the
    first K.D.A. chairman ) All the main financial concerns whether Govt. or
    private were monopolized to Habib Bank of Shias, Timber market and Tram Company
    to mostly Bories, Jubilee Insurance, Empress Market to mostly Aghakhanies.
    These are the few apparent examples ( with the start there were few countable
    big concerns ) , greater may be the inside mysteries..

    It is before all that in such modern times, Billions of Rupees of this BEGGAR
    COUNTRY are wasted on the security of the wild processions with the roadside
    show-business which is absolutely reverse to Islamic Ideals and civil
    discipline whereby NO Muslim is permitted to hinder any public passage or daily
    necessities of even any non-muslim for offering even the obligatory prayers
    like-NAMAZ. Strange to strange are the facts that the homes and earning places
    of the people are converted to SUB-JAILS and they are not allowed to outside
    workings !!! These processions of Junglies, with totally unauthentic history of
    false fiction stories of Karbala as now proved, ( for which only and only their
    fore-fathers and ancestors, the first and main enemies of Ahl-e-bait from Iran
    and Iraq, were completely responsible as the Irani Empire of King Worship was
    shattered after Islam),are deliberately led through the areas, (e.g. Binnori
    Masjid ) where there is no shia population or any concern, to add fuel to the
    fire. This jungle-raj is going on since the sectarian dogs of Jinnah have been
    sitting on high places. The Sectarian Terrorists, believing the wildness as
    under some heavenly command, put forward openly arms display that were used in
    the recent incident of Rawalpindi for the butchery and setting fire of the
    innocent children.

    The so called founder himself was the Greatest Sectarian !! By the time he
    became all in all. ( ANDHO MEIN KANA RAJA ). He was the Governor (no doubt of
    Britishers to serve their purposes), Party Head., Cabinet Head, Head of the
    constitution committee etc. As this country is the 8th wonder of the world, it
    is strange that the man, who is foolishly believed to be the Founder of this
    Islamic nation, could not make its Islamic constitution in spite of being all
    in all. After partition Shabbir Ahmed Usmani requested that Khoja to declare
    that the constitution of Pakistan would be Islamic, the Maulana was stunned to
    receive the Flat Reply that ‘this is NOT the time to talk such.( Pak Press
    Record) In this reference it is remarkable to note that THE FIRST CHRISTIAN
    (Pak Press Record ) It is also worth noting how he had stupefied the ignorant
    and duffer masses that whenever anyone would ask him about Islamic
    Constitution, he used to avoid the question by giving the airy reply that “Our
    constitution is already made up before 1400 years” At this the emotional fools
    used to enjoy that ‘What the nice reply ’ but the idiots could not understand
    what the NICE joke and fun it was! Similarly he used to issue ambiguous table
    statements ( generally prepared by western lobbies who had trained him during
    his self exile ) to let the fools be in useless complexity. It is quite
    understandable, in the light of the conspiracies against muslims that can any
    Aghakhani,Shia,Bori or Qadiani do anything for Muslims or Islam since the very
    first political movement against Islam, backed by Jews and Chrisians, emerged as Shiaism. They have made self addition in the very first and
    fundamental principle KALEMA that was never done by any ummas of all the former
    Prophets (A.S.) and also in AZAN and have created every difference from
    Alam-e-Islam and have always worked as the snakes of sleeves , the main enemies
    of Islam. Their salam is ‘ Ya Ali Madad ’ and ‘ Maula Madad ’ It means H. Ali
    is placed in place of Allah T’ala ( Astg’ferullah ) Although it is on every
    reliable historical record that the period of the Caliphate of H.Ali was quite
    a failure and miserable at the hands of Hypocrite Helpers who influenced him to
    transfer his Caliphate to Iraq and in this way they got him trapped and behaved
    with him rudely that is reflected through “ Nehj-ul-Balaga ”( The respectable
    book of Shias ) that he passed the rest of his life as the pessimist cursing
    his so called helpers and ultimately he was assassinated by one of them and
    then the dignity and splendour of Islamic Regime was lost that was
    re-established by H. Muaviah (R.A.), the first line companion of our Prophet
    (S.A.V. )(Any authentic Islamic History ) That is why Shias are most enemical
    towards H. Muaviah (R.A.) Yet they
    believe that ‘ Imam is superior to Prophet and he is the final authority to
    decide about the Prophethood.{ Usoole Kafi Book-1, p. 269, Inqilab-e-Iran
    Khumaini p.-52}( millions of LANAT,LANAT upon such pagans. Although H.Ali
    (R.A.) could not save himself, his son and his grand son against the evil plot
    of the Shias from Iran-Iraq. ’

    In the recent past ,at Iraq they joined their hands with American lobbies to come
    into powers. Taliban being highly successful to establish for five years the
    rule of law ending all sorts of corruption in Afghanistan, Aghakhanies invited US to come to save their
    Religious Fraud.(Pak Press) To create the Western planned Pakistan, the hypocrite sects under the plot through Sultan
    Aghakhan joined hands with their Western Masters. Again their followers being
    everywhere among us , serve the purpose more than that of US-CIA knowing every
    weakness to utilize at their advantage. Publically they undertake the welfare
    and philanthropic works such as establishing schools, colleges and Universities,
    hospitals, charity centres appearing peaceful and cultured, behind which they
    carry on anything against the Muslim Societies and any Nations for western
    KICKS OUT H.ALI’S SHARIAH AT ALL.The most disastrous fraud of 19-20th century
    in the name of All India Muslim League was also founded by this Sultan Agakhan
    and its first and foremost members were Sirs,Chaudharies,Vaderas, Khans and all
    the extreme minority sectarian elements for their specific motives and its main
    office was at Lucknow the home of extreme Shias. The full planning of the
    Founder Dog and his Masters was to overwhelm and enslave the vast Sunni
    majority and to stop Islamic Constitution to take shape. The Planners and
    Policy makers of this League were two Britishers who were posted, one after
    other as Principals of Aligarh Muslim University.( most authentic History of
    Independence Movement by Majumdar ) All such goonda –badmash,opportunist and
    selfish elements and their decendents have been continuously riding over this
    unfortunate country and its 66 years history shows that the figure of the
    muslims killed in this country is the highest in the world in comparision to
    any muslim or nonmuslim country. Why is it so?

    Ask the new Muslims who have converted from Aghakhani (or Ismaili) Khojas as to
    what Sultan Aghakhan and his heirs, ( who make their followers to bow down
    before their huge portrait ) have to do with Islam, Muslims or even Insan.

    He used Sir Syed, the fool with big beard and cap, as the Signboard by making
    that stupid so said Great Educationalist to implement the policies of his own
    sectarian hold and to brain wash of muslim youths. He had brought with him on
    one stage all the minority sects of ‘ya Ali-ya Hussain’. All Sectarian Heads
    drag away Billions,Trillions of dollars as Religious Tax from their idiot
    followers,as they charge Zaqat @ 12-50% from the Gross Income plus Kaffaras,Nazranas
    and Khums. According to them, for Ismailies there is no need of Namaz, Roza,
    Hajj, Wazoo, Taharat since they are supposed Jannati in advance. As said to
    them, Quraan-e-Karim is not understandable by the followers, only Imam can
    understand it. The followers are advised to read their sectarian book GINAN
    which was prepared by their Aghakhans and there is SO MUCH inside.

    Also this great intriguer wanted to establish his Land-Sovereignty in the
    regions ( in Gilgit, Chitral and Hoonza that he could NOT have been able to do
    in undivided India ) where his poor and ignorant countrymen as his
    followers are in majority (of course the Paid and Purchased Followers). With
    this mysterious black background , he knew well that if Pakistan would be really Islamic country.all the falsehood of
    his Imamat,Sabahiat, his Mass Wealth and Sovereignty will come to end. Every of
    the sectarian Heads is fully supported by the Western, UK-US and Jewish
    lobbies. That is why Jinnah Poonja who had nothing to do with Islam, Muslim or Insan,
    made the first part of Actorship as the ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity and
    taking the advantage of communal differences, started preaching and propagating
    against Hindu religion and culture to effect his Masters’ “Divide and Rule”
    policies and announced HIS HOME-MADE “ TWO NATION THEORY ” . Although our
    Prophet (P.B.U.H.) had never differentiated as Islamic and Non-Islamic
    countries like this and never He (P.B.U.H.) preached against any non-muslims as
    did Jinnah who crossed all the limits of disruption like his Guru Sultan
    Aghakhan. ( Ref. the lesson Pakistan Zindabad, Text-Book Class XI ) All about
    these research work, on the Press Record there is explicit proof that Sultan
    Aghakhan had got booked and leased very very vast land properties some 20-30-40-50
    years (actually inhebited by his followers ) before partition in the regions that were
    going to be shaped by UK-US as Pakistan which is so much different from what
    the real motivators and pioneers had demanded. It is quite clear that the
    present Pakistan is the product of underhand dealings and conspiracies between
    UK-US and Jewish lobbies on one side and on the other, Aghakhani,Shias, Bories,
    Qadianies; the sects that have nothing to do with Islam or even Insan since
    their such dangerous plots have killed millions and millions of non-muslims and
    muslims alike and millions are living UNDESTINED and it was the full planning
    to divert the Muslim Destiny that has been done. Jinnah Poonja was assured that
    India must and must be divided according to the plot
    prepared by UK,US,JEWS and SULTAN AGHA. This is how the trained and
    fully backed Monkey was dancing as the most steadfast and unpurchasable since
    who can bid above his masters and supporters ! International Political Game of
    US was to replace UK from the sub-continent by itself(US) that has been done 100% in Pakistan and 50% in India. Maulana Azad had shown red light against this before
    partition and all his forecasts have turned out to be true. It is hopeful that
    in the light of this, Pak Media accepted on the night of 23rd March,2012 that
    the partition was the conspiracy to break the Muslim unity and strength as the
    muslims of India were divided in FOUR fragments; East Pak,West Pak, India and
    Kashmir out of which the remaining Pak and Kashmir find themselves NOWHERE. The
    so said learned men of that time did not realize that in the near past, Kamal
    Ataturk of Turkey , like Jinnah was also manufactured in the Western Workshops
    to westernize and degenerate Turkey in the same way. To make the Aghakhani Jinnah a Hero
    , the “TUG OF WAR DRAMA” was set forth by his western masters like this
    “Masters: We will not allow you to separate and make Pakistan ; Jinnah : I will
    fight the case and will take it ” This was how he was made Hero and unnecessary
    and unwanted Advocate for the senseless masses who were trapped in the cunning
    plot as if receiving this country in the mode of merciful charity due to Jinnah
    and his black counterprts.


    CONCLUSION : It is the fact that if the mentally hypocrite Tyrants imerge as

    =========== leaders, the nations and societies will result as the extrimists

    terrorists just as the natural, reactionary consequence.

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