The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government in centre has approved a new set of rules to regulate social media, requiring companies such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and even TikTok, to register themselves and open offices in Pakistan to provide the government data of accounts found guilty of targeting state institutions, spreading fake news and hate speech, engaging in harassment, issuing statements that harm national security or uploading blasphemous content, Geo reported.
But similar to claims of proponents of internet freedom, who fear that the legal document would be used to keep social media companies in check and curb dissent over the internet, is your freedom over the web really at risk?
According to reports, the rules and regulations have been included in the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, and senior officials in the Ministry of Information Technology have confirmed that the cabinet has already given green light to the legal document.
Further, IT & Telecommunication Federal Secretary Shoaib Siddiqui confirmed that after the cabinet’s approval, the rules and regulations need not be presented in the parliament for approval.
According to the law, all global social media platforms and companies would have to register in Pakistan within three months and open offices in Islamabad within the same time period. The law requires digital media companies to appoint a representative in Pakistan to deal with a national coordination authority, which would be responsible to regulate content on social media platforms.
It further requires the companies to set up data servers in Pakistan within a year and makes it compulsory for them to provide data of accounts found guilty of various crimes — including targeting state institutions, spreading fake news and hate speech, engaging in harassment, issuing statements that harm national security or uploading blasphemous content — to intelligence and law enforcement agencies (LEAs).
It, however, is safe to say that only time would tell if the government can actually convince any digital media outlets to actually operate under these new regulations.