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IT ministry notifies controversial Social Media Rules 2021

14 اکتوبر 2021
All social media companies will have to abide by Pakistan's laws. File photo
All social media companies will have to abide by Pakistan's laws. File photo

The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication on Thursday notified the amended social media rules which empower the government to take action against people posting "immoral content" on social media platforms.

The “Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules, 2021”, have been framed under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (Peca), 2016.

Federal Minister for Information and Technology Aminul Haque said in a statement that all social media companies will have to abide by Pakistan's laws.

Under the new rules, there would be a ban on the live streaming of terrorist, hateful, obscene and violent content, and "social media companies will be liable to remove content against Pakistan's honour and well-being".

Also in the new rules, the PTA can proceed against any service provider or a social media firm for failing to remove or block access to content or comply with PTA's directions within a specified timeframe.

Moreover, spreading "immoral and obscene content" will also be a punishable offence after the passage of the rules.

The new rules ban live streaming of terrorist, hateful, obscene and violent content, and "social media companies will be liable to remove content against Pakistan's honour and well-being."

Posting "immoral and obscene content" will also be a punishable offence.

Social media companies will have to open offices in Pakistan, a long standing demand of this government.

Digital rights activists have strongly criticised these amendments.

The Asia Internet Coalition -- an industry association of leading internet and technology companies including Airbnb, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo -- in 2020 wrote a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan about the lack of transparency in consultations over these new rules.

"We are of the view any industry consultation by definition must involve sharing updated policy drafts with stakeholders so there is common understanding on feedback solicited and the resulting revisions," the letter said.

Earlier, the IT minister had said that social media was being misused in the country.

“We have maintained our position in principle everywhere that Pakistan is a staunch supporter of any innovation and business development in the field of information technology. Our policies have huge incentives for foreign investors. We are also providing facilities and opening up vast Pakistani markets for huge profits. However, everyone will have to abide by the rules of Pakistan on national security, hate speech, and immoral data,” he was quoted in Business Recorder as saying.