Freedom House, an international freedom advocacy group and research organization has come up with a report named “Freedom on the Net 2021: The Global Drive to Control Big Tech”. This Washington-based company listed down the details of cyber freedom in different countries throughout the world and ranked Pakistan Seventh among the “abusers of internet freedom”.
From the last few years, Pakistan was considered among 10 countries where internet freedom has been on the decline. This time Pakistan’s position has once again raised concerns and has started a debate regarding the proposed rules by the country that are damaging the cyber security in the state and taking away the right of communication from the people on the internet.
Internet freedom on a decline in Pakistan: report
The report weighed different indicators of internet freedom and it also enlisted the reasons for the given ranking of each country. It gave examples of different countries where data sovereignty is used as an excuse for surveillance. It gave examples of different countries and highlighted Pakistan where the government has introduced new regulations for internet users and service providers.
“In some cases, such data localisation requirements have been introduced in the context of content regulation,” said the report. “Pakistan’s proposed Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules, the latest version of which was published in November 2020, outline requirements for social media companies to establish one or more data servers in the country.”
The report also revealed that the new proposed regulations in the country will leave a negative impact on social media companies and users and since it takes away the freedom of speech, it can lead to extreme consequences in future.
“Pakistan’s proposed rules have raised alarms about their impact on end-to-end encryption. The draft requires social media companies and service providers with more than 500,000 users to hand over personal data in a decrypted and readable format when requested by the Federal Investigation Agency,”
Mainly, Internet freedom in Pakistan has declined due to increased blocking of political, social, and cultural websites by the government, beefed-up operationalization of an undeclared policy of connectivity restrictions, and increased disinformation and weaponization of the cybercrime law as a tool.
The report also mentioned that the greatest decline in internet freedom was documented in Myanmar, Belarus, and Uganda, where state forces launched crackdowns amid electoral and constitutional crises. It blamed the government in multiple parts of the world for clashing with tech companies when it comes to users’ rights. It referred to 48 countries where new rules were enlisted by the government for companies.
“With a few positive exceptions, the push to regulate the tech industry, which stems in some cases from genuine problems like online harassment and manipulative market practices, is being exploited to subdue free expression and gain greater access to private data,”.
This report poses an alarm on the government policies regarding the internet and calls for better implementation and procedures to cope with it. Pakistan being in the top 10 worst countries with Internet freedom for the consecutive 13 years shows that not much is done regarding it.
In order to read the full report, click here.