What Happened? – The Government of Pakistan approved new social media rules and regulations. However, it welcomed a lot of backlash with it.
Opponents say that these new rules ‘stifle dissent and free speech.’ Moreover, social media companies will be obliged to help law enforcement agencies access data as well as to remove online content deemed ‘unlawful’.
Not just that, those who do not comply with these new rules face a risk of being blocked online according to a copy of the regulations seen by Reuters news agency.
What were the regulations? – Pakistan’s federal cabinet approved a new set of regulations on social media called “Citizens Protection Rules (Against Online Harm) 2020” on January 28, 2020.
The regulations require social media companies to establish representative offices in Pakistan, to remove any ‘unlawful content’ within 24 hours, to prevent live streaming of any content “related to terrorism, extremism, hate speech, defamation, fake news, incitement to violence and national security.”
If a company does not comply, its services can be blocked and face fines of up to 500 million rupees ($3.24 million). The officials say that the law was not meant to restrict online platforms but in fact “to invite them to register in Pakistan and expand local footprint.”
What’s next? – Because of the massive backlash, the government has decided to halt the implementation of these rules and reconsider. Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) wrote to Prime Minister Imran Khan to express their concerns and disapproval.
In the letter, the coalition threatened that Facebook, YouTube, and Google will withdraw from Pakistan if the regulation is not withdrawn. Sticking to these regulations means that this decision could impact 70 million people in the country and their freedom of expression and speech may be compromised.
However, Dr. Arslan Khalid said there is no truth in such claims, he says that Facebook, Google, and Twitter have threatened to leave Pakistan.
In the letter to PM Imran Khan, Asia internet Coalition (AIC) expressed its reservations over the new set of rules. It called for public consultation to ensure wider participation and that is exactly why the committee has been formed. There’s no mention of any threat by any social media company of leaving Pakistan -Dr Khalid told Gulf News
“The letter clearly says that AIC was not against regulation of social media and in fact offered Government of Pakistan to work in collaboration towards solutions.”
What do people have to say? – Nighat Dad, a social activist who runs a non-profit Digital Rights Foundation in Pakistan told Reuters:
The worrying part for me is that the definition around extremism, religion or culture is so wide and ambiguous and that means they have these unfettered power to call any online content illegal or extremist or anti-state.
Farieha Aziz, the founder of Bolo Bhi a digital rights advocacy group shared:
This is the kind of overreach we were worried about,” she said. “They’re trying to go beyond the ambit of the law, trying to go above and beyond what the law allows them to do.
Now What?- Prime Minister Imran Khan had directed the Ministry of Information and Technology to form a 4-member committee to oversee all developments. This committee will be led by Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) Chairman, Amir Azeem Bajwa and will collaborate with other stakeholders along with AIC to find common ground.
The committee will present its progress report to PM Khan after two months.
Stay tuned to Brandsynario for more news and updates.
Source: Gulf News