Pakistan PM Imran Khan  |  Photo Credit: IANS
- “Draconian” new rules direct social media companies in Pakistan to provide sweeping access to investigative agencies to any data or information
- Move will damage people’s ability to free and open internet, warned industry body AIC
- The new rules also stipulate that social media, tech or internet service providers could be fined as much as $3.14 million to failing to censor content deemed derogatory to Islam
Three out of the four biggest tech and social media companies have threatened to leave Pakistan after the government introduced sweeping new rules governing tech companies in the country.
The move is being seen as an attempt by the government to scuttle freedom of expression in the deeply-conservative Islamic nation.
Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) of which Google, Facebook and Twitter are part of, issued a statement expressing alarm over the scope of new rules.
The “draconian” rules titled, “Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules 2020,” have been framed under the country’s Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 (Peca).
“AIC members are alarmed by the scope of Pakistan’s new law targeting internet companies, as well as the government’s opaque process by which these rules were developed. The consultation that was announced in February never occurred,” says the AIC statement.
“The draconian data localization requirements will damage the ability of people to access a free and open internet and shut Pakistan’s digital economy off from the rest of the world”.
It’s chilling to see the PTA’s powers expanded, allowing them to force social media companies to violate established human rights norms on privacy and freedom of expression, the AIC statement added.
The rules would make it extremely difficult for companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter to make their services available to Pakistani users and businesses.
“If Pakistan wants to be an attractive destination for technology investment and realise its goal of digital transformation, we urge the government to work with industry on practical, clear rules that protect the benefits of the internet and keep people safe from harm,” the statement further said.
Under the new regulations, tech, social media and internet service providers could be fined as much as 3.14 million to failing to curb content which is deemed derogatory for Islam.