The federal government has published the ‘removal and blocking of unlawful online content and announced new social media rules, 2020 in the gazette of Pakistan.
The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication has formulated the rules under section 37 of the prevention of electronic crimes act 2016.
A notification of the ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication stated that in exercise of the powers conferred-by sub-section (2) of sections 37 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, (XL of 2016), the Federal Government approved the rules prescribed by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority.
These rules provide for safeguards, process and mechanism for exercise of powers by the Authority under the Act for removal of or blocking access to unlawful Online Content through any’ information system.
According to rules every person or organization shall have the right to express and disseminate any Online Content on an Online. System as ensured and guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973: Provided that the Authority shall not restrict, disrupt the flow or dissemination of any Online Content unless it is necessary for the reasons as prescribed in Section 37( 1) of the Act: Provided further that, without prejudice to the generality of the powers in Section 37(1) of the Act, the removal and blocking of access to an Online.
Content would be necessary in the interest of: (i) “glory of Islam” if the Online Content constitutes an act. Which is an offence under chapter-Xi/ of Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 (Act XLV of 1860): or (h) “integrity, security and defence of Pakistan” shall’ bear the same meaning as given under Article 260 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic 0f Pakistan 1973, (iii) “public order” if the online Content constitutes an act which is an offence under Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 or the Online Content contains any fake or false information that threatens the public order, public health and public safety or the Online Content constitutes an act which ‘could lead to the occasions as described under chapter-Xi of the Code of Criminal/ Procedure, 1898 (Act V of 1898); or (iv) “decency and morality” if the Online Content constitutes an act which is an offence under section 292, 293,294 and 509 of Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 (Act XLV of 1860).
The rules and any directions issued by the Authority under these rules shall prevail and take precedence over any contrary Community Guidelines and any such Community Guidelines shall be null and void.
Obligations with respect to blocking and removal of unlawful Online Content-(I) A Service Provider, Social Media Company, owner of Information System, owner of internet website or web server and User shall, upon receiving’ any directions under Rule 6 by the Authority, in writing or through email signed with electron ic signature, ‘shall act with in twenty-four hours or in case of emergency within six hours to remove or block access to such unlawful Online Content. In case a Service Provider, Social Media Company, owner of Information System, owner of internet website or web server and User fails to abide by the provision of these Rules, the Authority may issue directions for blocking of the entire Online System, or any services provided by such Service Providers owned or managed by the Said Service Providers or Social Media Company.
A Social Media Company and Service Provider shall deploy appropriate mechanisms for identifying an Online Content as specified in sub- rule (2). The Service Provider and Social Media Company shall not knowingly host, display, upload, publish, transmit, update or share any Online Content, and shall not allow the transmission, select the receiver of transmission and select OF modify the information contained in the transmission as specified in sub-rule (2).
All social media companies such as TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter will have to put up community guidelines for its users. Platforms with more than half a million Pakistani users will have to get registered with the PTA and establish a registered office in the country within nine months of the implementation of the social media rules.
Within three months of the office’s establishment, a focal person will have to be appointed for coordination and a data server system has to be set up within 18 months. The rules will also be applied to internet service providers. All companies and providers have been instructed to restrict content that is against the security, prestige and defence of the country.