PTA proposes framework to tighten control on social media, digital platforms

PTA wants the OTT services to seek a 15-year authorization to maintain legal operations in the country

It also wants them not to store the personal data of local consumers beyond Pakistan’s territory


The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has developed a regulatory framework for over-the-top (OTT) services, including social media, digital streaming platforms and popular messaging apps, with the aim to exert greater control after eliciting feedback from stakeholders and finalizing it.
The PTA has posted a 14-page document containing all the provisions along with a list of questions for feedback.
The framework specifies three different kinds of OTT services, dealing with communication (such as Skype, WhatsApp and Facebook Messengers), application (like LinkedIn and X) and media (including YouTube, Netflix and Spotify).
It mentions the OTT authorization that these services will have to obtain from the PTA to maintain legal operations in the country.
“This OTT Authorization shall be valid for a period of fifteen (15) years,” it says. “The Licensed OTT Service Provider shall be required to enter into agreement with the TSPs [telecom service providers] licensees.”
It also mentions data localization, saying these services will not be able to store the personal data of local consumers beyond the country’s geographical territories without the PTA’s approval.
Additionally, it highlights the responsibility for the blocking of unlawful online content in accordance with “Section 37 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 and/or as determined by the Authority from time to time.”
The PTA has taken actions against platforms like TikTok, YouTube and Facebook in the past, citing reasons related to immoral, indecent and blasphemous content and even blocking these services.
This has also been criticized by free speech activists in the country that described such official decisions as a form of censorship and to stifle free expression and open access to information.
The final deadline for stakeholders to share their feedback with the telecom authority in July 10.