The government has notified Citizens Protection Rules 2020 to ensure prevention of online content related to terrorism, extremism, hate speech, defamation, fake news, incitement to violence and national security.
The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication through a notification stated that in exercise of the powers conferred under clause (c) of sub-section (2A) of section 8, sub-section (1) of section 54 and clause (ag) of sub-section (2) of section 57 of the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organization) Act, 1996 (XVII of 1996) and the sections 35, 37, 48 and 51 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, (XL of 2016) the federal government is pleased to make the rules called the Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020 and would come into force at once.
Govt Notifies Citizens Protection Rules 2020 to Ensure Prevention of Harmful Content
The Minister in Charge of the Division concerned with Information Technology and Telecommunication will by notification, designate a National Coordinator within fifteen days of the commencement of these rules. National Coordinator will be assisted by a committee comprising such stakeholders as notified by the Minister.
The National Coordinator will perform the functions, namely: – (a) coordinate efforts of stakeholders for performance of functions related to regulation of Online Systems; (b) advise the Federal or Provincial Governments, and issue instructions to departments, authorities and agencies, in accordance with requirements of National Security in relation to management or regulation or functioning of social media companies. According to Citizens Protection Rules 2020, the departments, authorities or agencies would act in compliance of the said instructions. Such instructions may include actions related to blocking of unlawful online content, acquisition of data or information from social media companies, and other such matters; (c) engage with the social media companies on behalf of the Federal Government; and (d) direct concerned official representatives of any Social Media Company to appear before it in person to discuss any aspect related to operation of Online System.
Obligations on Social Media Company with respect to blocking and removal of unlawful online content.- (1) A Social Media Company will, upon being intimated about any online content by the Authority, in writing or through email signed with electronic signature, which is in contravention of any provision of the Act, or any other law, rule, regulation for the time being in force or instruction of the National Coordinator, will act within twenty-four hours to remove, suspend or disable access to such online content; Provided that in case of emergency, the Social Media Company will act within six hours to remove, suspend or disable access to such online content. For the purpose of this rule the National Coordinator will be the sole authority in determining the situation of emergency.
The interpretation or permissibility of any online content, by the Authority or the National Coordinator under law, rule, regulation or instruction, will take precedence over any community standards or rules or community guidelines or policies or any other instruments devised by a Social Media Company. A Social Media Company will take due cognizance of the religious, cultural, ethnic and national security sensitivities of Pakistan. A Social Media Company will deploy proactive mechanisms to ensure prevention of live streaming through Online Systems in Pakistan of any content in violation of any law, rule, regulation for the time being in force or instruction of the National Coordinator particularly regarding online content related to terrorism, extremism, hate speech, defamation, fake news, incitement to violence and national security.
A Social Media Company will;-
(a) register with the Authority, within three months of the coming into force of these Rules;
(b) establish a permanent registered office in Pakistan with a physical address located in Islamabad, within three months of the coming into force of these Rules;
(c) appoint in Pakistan, a focal person based in Pakistan for coordination with the National Coordinator and the Authority within three months of the date of coming into force of these Rules;
(d) establish one or more database servers in Pakistan by the Social Media Company, within twelve months of the date of publication of these Rules to record and store data and online content, within the territorial boundaries of Pakistan for citizen data privacy;
(e) will remove, suspend or disable 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;
(f) if communicated by the Authority that an online content is false, put a note to that effect along with the online content.
The Social Media Company will provide to the Investigation Agency designated or established under section 29 of the Act, any information or data or content or sub-content contained in any information system owned or managed or run by the respective Social Media Company, in decrypted, readable and comprehensible format or plain version in accordance with the provision of the aforesaid Act.
A complaint for blocking or removal of unlawful online content may be filed by,- (a) any person, natural or juristic, or his guardian, where such person is a minor, aggrieved by unlawful content; or (b) a Ministry, Division, attached department, sub-ordinate office, provincial or local department or office, a law enforcement agency or intelligence agency of the Government, or a company owned or controlled by the Government.
Any person aggrieved by any order of the Authority under these rules may file an application for review before the Authority within thirty days from the date of passing of the order. An appeal against the decision of the Authority in review will lie before the High Court within thirty days of the order of the Authority in review.