Asia Internet Coalition Opposes Local Database Servers Under Online Protection Rules

The Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) has opposed the establishment of local database servers under the “Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020”, saying it would create latency and technical challenges, it is learnt.

 Chairman Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), Amir Azeem Bajwa held a meeting with Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), a representative body of tech companies and social media platforms, via video conference.  The meeting was in continuation of the ongoing consultation process over Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020.

Asia Internet Coalition Opposes Local Database Servers Under Online Protection Rules

 Sources revealed that it was an introductory meeting where Chairman PTA and representatives of AIC exchanged views on transparent, multi-faceted and progressive consultation process and further engagement opportunities.

 According to the rules, social media companies like twitter, facebook, Youtube and others would be required to establish one or more database servers in Pakistan, within twelve months of the date of publication of the rules to record and store data and online content, within the territorial boundaries of Pakistan for citizen data privacy.

The companies would require removing, suspending or disabling access to such account, online content of citizens of Pakistan residing outside its territorial boundaries and posts on online content that are involved in spreading of fake news or defamation and violates or affects the religious, cultural, ethnic, or national security sensitivities of Pakistan.

Sources revealed that AIC raised question on the proposed establishment of local servers while saying that it would create latency and this needs to be reviewed. It further stated that overstated power in the rules needs to be reviewed to ensure that these rules may not hurt the digital economy and its prospects in future, sources added.

The AIC further proposed that instead of holding joint meeting, the representatives of social media companies should be called on separately to take their input on the rules, the official added.

 The government is ready to review the controversial “Citizen Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules 2020”, but also wants binding on foreign social media giants frame uniform rules for blocking accounts and show respect to the country’s laws, religious sentiments and norms.  

 The government has opened formal broad-based consultation on the controversial rules, following massive backlash from different segments of society, foreign social media companies as well as the United States. Chairman PTA has stated that government has neither intention of wrong doings nor designed the rules to restrict freedom of expression or hurt fundamental rights of anyone.

 “No doubt there is a greater challenge of fake news, defamation, blasphemy and pornography, said chairman PTA, adding that the rules are framed and would be further reviewed if deemed necessary to ensure prevention of online content related to terrorism, extremism, hate speech, defamation, fake news, incitement to violence and national security.

 Approved by the federal cabinet on January 28, 2020, the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication notified the Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020, to ensure prevention of online content related to terrorism, extremism, hate speech, defamation, fake news, incitement to violence and national security. However, after facing severe criticism the government suspended the rules and decided to hold consultation with all stakeholders.

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