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Revealed: Information Ministry’s New Rules To Curb Online Dissent Against Govt

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Information Ministry on Wednesday announced the new social media rules allowing Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to block service providers, social media companies and information systems for hosting the content against ‘public interest’.

Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules 2020 were unveiled after 42 days of federal government’s notification about it. The new rules have been implemented according to the section 37 of Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016.

The new rules empower PTA to remove content for “glory of Islam”, the “integrity, security and defense of Pakistan,” and against any information that “intimidates or harms” the reputation of any government body or public office holder, or “excites or attempts to excite disaffection toward the federal or provincial government”; content deemed to be a threat to the “public order, public health and public safety”; and “decency and morality.”

According to the rules, any person could file a complaint against anyone. PTA will keep the identity of complainant confidential. Moreover, PTA could also take action against anyone on its own accord.

The rules also state that PTA will have to take action on any complaint within 30 days.
They also grant PTA the authority to legal action against any company if it doesn’t remove the content within 24 hours.

Any social media company with more than 500,000 users will have to register with PTA within 9 months, establish a permanent office in Pakistan and appoint a focal person based in Pakistan to comply with the rules; and establish “database servers” in Pakistan.

The rules require social media companies to provide decrypted data of all its users to PTA.

The spokesperson of service providers rejected the new rules and said that it could move to court against the rules, Dawn reported.

The Asia Internet Coalition earlier said that if any draconian laws are implemented it would become extremely difficult for AIC Members to make their services available to Pakistani users and businesses.”

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Naya Daur