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Pakistan's New Social Media Rules Allows Govt To Block Online Content & Impose Hefty Fine

Pakistan's IT Ministry announced fresh social media rules that warrant telecom regulators to block any website or platform on court and government directions.


Image: Pixabay, AP

In a breaking development, Pakistan's Ministry of Information and Technology on October 14 announced the latest social media rules that warrant the telecom regulator to block any website or platform on the directives of court and federal government or under any statutory provision. Additionally, the fresh set of guidelines ought to be deployed not only by the social media entities but service providers through online information systems and mechanisms to ensure prompt blocking of live streaming of terrorism, hate speech, pornography and anti-national security matter upon receiving inputs from Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). 

Pakistan issues fresh social media rules; empowers PM Imran Khan-led government

Under the new rules titled the 'Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules, 2021', the social media companies are required to register with the PTA within a stipulated period of three months and establish offices in the country 'as and when feasible', Dawn reported.

"PTA can give 48 hours to the service provider, social media company, significant social media company or user to comply with the directives of PTA for removing or blocking access to the content," Dawn added. 

Pakistan govt to grant 12 hours to firms before blocking access to online content

Notably, in emergency cases, the body can give only 12 hours to the respective user or social media company to remove or block access to online content. But the body will have to specify reasons for the 'emergency' in writing. According to the fresh rules, social media firms can be subjected to a punitive amount of up to Rs 500 million for violation of and contradictions to new social media rules in Pakistan.

Pakistan's social media rules fuels tensions

Also, the fresh rules state that social media companies are required to induct an authorised compliance officer and grievance officer stationed in Pakistan. Previously, in November 2020, a maiden version of social media rules and guidelines were notified and in the aftermath, various quarters, including civil society activists, media and social media companies and even the internet service providers. 

Internet giants in Pakistan had conveyed their disapproval and carried out protests claiming the revised drafts of social media rules, as compared to initial drafts, appeared more 'regressive'. Moreover, they contended that the contentious clauses remained unaltered.

In June 2021, Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) Managing Director Jeff Paine had said, "Despite repeated feedback from industry over several months, the draft rules still include a number of problematic provisions, such as data localisation and local presence requirements that undermine the country's digital growth and transformation agenda."

Image: Pixabay, AP

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