In a statement, the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) which encompasses global digital media giants like Google, Facebook, Amazon etc. denounced the process through which the “Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Content (Procedure, Oversight, and Safeguards) Rules” priorly called the “Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules” were drafted and brought into force.
AIC Spots Lack of Transparency in the Formulation of Pakistan’s New Digital Rules
The new rules commanded all social media firms including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok to register within 3 months and establish their offices in Pakistan. Also, the social media companies will have to build a data server in Pakistan within one year and block any account or content that “violates or affects the religious, cultural, ethnic or national security sensitivities of Pakistan” and is “involved in spreading of fake news or defamation”.
AIC told that the lack of transparency conflicts with the PM Imran’s February statement that asked the consultation committee to “undertake extensive and broad-based consultation” with all related stakeholders. The coalition and its members are showing keen interest to make Pakistan realize its digital economy ambitions. According to the coalition,
Our members have invested significantly in supporting public health, digital literacy, and economic growth in the country.
Though, the process calls into question the incumbent government’s commitment to public-private dialogue that is required to realize Pakistan’s digital policy goals. The lack of transparency is also causing international firms to re-evaluate their opinion of the regulatory environment in Pakistan, along with their willingness to operate in the country. Keeping that in mind, a spokesperson of AIC said,
We strongly urge the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication to reconsider its approach in working with Industry and to adopt policy approaches that will support, not impede, the growth of Pakistan’s digital economy. We request that the Ministry release the latest version of the Rules. We also request that the Government hold the “extensive and broad-based consultation process” that the Prime Minister himself called for.