The National Assembly standing committee on Information Technology on Monday observed that banning social media companies under the guise of Citizens Protection Rules 2020 may result in embarrassment at intentional level, besides hampering digital growth in the country. The committee met under the chairmanship of Ali Khan Jadoon here on Monday where the ministry gave briefed regarding the Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules 2020 sought briefing from the Law Division on these rules
Secretary Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (IT&T) and Chairman, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) briefed the Committee on recently notified social media rules by the federal govbernment regarding “The Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020” under Sections of “The Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-Organization) Act, 1996 and “The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016”.
Committee observed that even US senate could not banned social media companies and if Pakistan ban these companies, the country would have to face embarrassment at international level. The committee members also observed that these rules may hamper digital growth, besides there is a perception of controlling freedom of expression.
Citizens Protection Rules 2020
Ministry officials rejected the notion while saying that these rules are made only to ensure prevention of online content related to terrorism, extremism, hate speech, defamation, fake news, incitement to violence and national security.
The members of the committee were told that a national coordinator for over viewing social media activities would be appointed by the federal IT ministry.
“Under the rules, the social media companies are bound to remove illegal material from their sites within 24 hours of the complaint,” the briefing said adding that they would be further directed to open their offices in Islamabad and establish their data bank within the country.
The national coordinator of the social media company will be fined upto Rs 500 million for violating the rules, the IT officials said while shedding a light on the rules prepared by a ministerial committee led by secretary law.
He said that the cabinet has already approved social media rules on January 28. Asked as to why a national coordinator could not be appointed, the secretary IT cited the delay due to the absence of the federal minister owing to his resignation from the post, which is yet to be approved by the premier.
The Committee was not satisfied by the briefing of the Secretary Ministry of IT&T and Chairman PTA. While briefing, several questions were raised by the committee members about the Citizens Protection Rules, 2020. The Members were of the view that said rules should be discussed in the National Assembly and then same should be referred to the Standing Committee on IT&T for its further deliberations/clarification.
The above mentioned rules should also be referred to the House after recommendations of the Committee. The Committee deferred the agenda and directed the Ministry of IT&T, Ministry of Law and Justice, PTA, NACTA, NTC and FIA to further brief the Committee in detail in its next meeting.
The Committee also deferred the agenda items regarding “Complete details on all the vacant positions (post wise) in the Ministry of IT & T and its attached departments; promotion/seniority due of the incumbents training programmes for fresh graduates subordinate organizations” and “As per Government policy on NFTP, discussion on the inclusion of short subsidies online courses (e-skills) as a possible training option for free Lance Programs” till its next meeting.
The meeting was attended by Sahibzada Sibgatullah, Sher Ali Arbab, Makhdoom Zain Hussain Qureshi, Muhammad Abdul Ghafar Wattoo, Javairia Zafar Aheer, Kanwal Shauzab, Nusrat Wahid, Muhammad Hashim, Malik Sohail Khan, Ali Gohar Khan Romina Khursheed Alam, Maiza Hameed, Shamim Ara Panhwar, Mahesh Kumar, Malani, Naz Baloch, Ayesha Rajab Ali and Syed Mehmood Shah, MNAs. The meeting was also attended by senior officers of the Ministry of IT & T, PTA, NACTA, NTC and FIA.