On October 13, the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication in Pakistan notified new rules to regulate Social Media platforms. The rules have been criticized severely by activists, journalists, and tech companies.
What are the New Regulations?
According to the new regulations, Social Media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok must register with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority within three months and set up their offices with a physical address, preferably located in Islamabad, and appoint a local representative.
Under the rules titled “Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content,” Social Media platforms can be blocked if they allow the publication of any post or event that is detrimental to the country’s national security and defense, or decency and morality, or culture and ethnicity, or the glory of Islam.
Any negative content related to any individual and their privacy will also be blocked.
Social media companies are required to set up mechanisms to block any post relating to terrorism and pornographic content or false information, and anyone who fails to remove or block any online content that violates the rules within 48 hours faces a fine of up to 500 million Pakistani rupees.
Moreover, the Social Media companies are required to develop a set of community guidelines that will inform users about content uploading and establish a database server. Furthermore, they must hand over the data to the Federal Investigation Agency in readable form.
Will the Tech Giants follow Pakistani rules?
Earlier, the Minister of Information Technology and Telecommunication, Aminul Haque said in a statement that under the rules, Social Media companies must follow the country’s laws to align themselves with international rules and regulations and ensure that everyone’s rights are protected.
“Pakistani consumers would have freedom of expression under the amended laws, and these rules will play a vital role in liaising between Pakistani users and Social Media organizations,” Haque stated.
“Live broadcasting of extremism, terrorism, hate speech, pornography, and violent content would be prohibited,” he said, adding that Social Media companies must remove any information that is offensive to Pakistan’s dignity and security.
On the other hand, some activists say that it’s a clear attempt by the government to win over the Social Media outlets to its side, which will give the government more power and less freedom of speech and expression to the digital world’s users. The activists have been doubting the PTI government intention, who in 2020 had promised a consultation with the companies, which never happened. They believe that the media has already reached a new level with restricting reports, shutting down shows, and job losses in the media industry.
” Now, it seems, it is the turn of Social Media as the government wants to restrict freedom of speech because it is against the national interest, “wrote the Pakistani blogger, Salman Ali
While some say that it is a necessary step in the time that Social Media platforms and content creators are ignoring the norms of society, others say that it protects the rights of ethnic and religious minorities.
Will Social Media platforms set up their offices in Pakistan?
According to Aminul Haque, the Federal Minister of Information Technology and Telecommunications, many Social Media firms are interested in setting up offices in Pakistan, but they have concerns. He continued, “I think, they are having discussions with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority. We’ll sit down with them, talk about it, and come up with a solution. “All of these companies should come to Pakistan at all costs,” he said, adding that their proposals should be taken into consideration. “Mutual consultation should be considered to establish rules and processes.
Meanwhile, a Facebook representative said in a statement that the company has no intention of establishing an office in Pakistan.
Will social media platforms establish their offices in Pakistan?
The establishing of Social Media Platform offices will enhance the role of the Information Technology and Telecommunication Ministry. Besides that, our youth will have the opportunity to experience developing a site plan, and control and operate systems that will help to build a strong community and bring the world closer together. Social Media platform offices usually hire a local representative and different employees, from engineers and developers to managers and directors. Most of the employees will be outsourced by different Social Media platforms handled by the original state. Hence, they can offer us the best services, such as providing solutions for users’ problems. Despite the fact that the rules and regulations will restrict freedom of expression, establishing offices will develop the country’s technology and create more and better jobs for our youth, especially for those who deal with modern tech companies.
What will happen if some Social Media Platforms get banned in Pakistan?
Social media has become an integral part of society and culture. It is a double-edged sword, For the last several months, the PTI government has banned TikTok and some dating apps due to their unlawful content. TikTok removed almost 6,495,992 inappropriate videos that included (sexual activities and nudity).
Even though the banning of TikTok was based upon the users’ and government requests, some content creators lost their livelihood, especially those who used to depend completely on their earning from this platform.
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Every time an account is blocked, or a platform gets banned, the content creators suffer the most. They had this platform that allowed them to rise out of poverty. Amid the new rules, Pakistani content creators fear loss of livelihood. For now, content creators remain anxious, ready to diversify their sources of income.