Govt decides to review proposed rules to regulate social media platforms

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan presided over an important meeting to review the proposed rules to regulate social media platforms.

The meeting was attended by the officials from the Ministry of Information, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Law, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and other relevant authorities.

Speaking on the occasion, PM Imran Khan said that the purpose of the law on social media is not to suppress positive opinion or political differences, but the main purpose of bringing the law is the protection of the citizens.

The meeting reviewed reaction to the regulations and its impact on freedom of expression and reaction to the proposed social media rules.

The prime minister will be briefed on the pros and cons of the newly-formulated social media regulations.

On Wednesday, the federal cabinet while approving new social media rules made the registration of all global social media platforms in Pakistan mandatory within three months.

According to the documents available with Dunya News, all companies, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Tick Tok, are required to register and establish an office in Islamabad within three months.

On the other hand, the global social media platforms and companies have been conditioned to appoint a focal person in Pakistan and they will have to build a data server in Pakistan within a year.

With the new rules, action could be taken against those who speak out against national institutions and national sovereignty.

The government will appoint a National Coordinator (NC) within 15 days after the commencement of these rules, who will be responsible for coordination, advising the federal and provincial governments, and engaging with social media companies. He will also have the power to summon focal persons of any company to discuss how they operate their businesses.

The Ministry of Information and Telecommunications or the National Coordinator can ask any social media company to remove, suspend or disable access to such content within 24 hours. Urgent situations will require action within 6 hours.

According to the Rules, the “interpretation or permissibility of any online content, by the Authority or the National Coordinator under law, rule, regulation or instruction, shall take precedence over any community standards or rules or community guidelines or policies or any other instruments devised by a Social Media Company.”

The rules also state that Social Media Companies “shall remove, suspend or disable access to such accounts, 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.”

Companies will also be required to provide any requested information in a “decrypted, readable and comprehensible format or plain version,” bypassing the legal process currently outlined in PECA.