Cabinet approves law requiring social media companies to register, open offices in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD ( MEDIA NEWS )

The federal cabinet on Wednesday approved a new set of rules and regulations through which social media platforms will be required to register and open offices in Pakistan, as proponents of internet freedoms worry that the legal document will be used to keep social media companies in check.

The rules and regulations have been included in the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 and that senior officials in the Ministry of Information Technology confirmed that the cabinet has given the green light to the legal document. Geo news reported.

IT ministry’s secretary Shoaib Siddiqui confirmed to Geo News that the federal cabinet had after the cabinet’s approval, the rules and regulations need not be presented in parliament for approval.

According to the law, all global social media platforms and companies will have to register in Pakistan within three months and open offices in Islamabad within three the same time frame.

The law requires the companies and platforms providing social media services to appoint a representative in Pakistan who will deal with a National Coordination Authority. The authority will be responsible for regulating social media companies.

It requires social media companies to make data servers in Pakistan within one year and makes it compulsory for them to provide data of accounts found guilty of targeting state institutions, spreading fake news and hate speech, causing harassment, issuing statements that harm national security or uploading blasphemous content, to intelligence and law enforcement agencies (LEAs).

Authorities will take action against Pakistanis found guilty of targeting state institutions within Pakistan and abroad on social media. The law will also help LEAs get access to data of certain accounts found involved in suspicious activities.

It will be the authority’s prerogative to identify objectionable content to the social media platforms for them to take down. In case the companies fail to act on directives within 15 days, the authority will have the power to suspend their services or impose a hefty fine of up to Rs500 million.

Last year, then information minister Fawad Chaudhry had said during a press conference that the government had come up with a mechanism to control hate speech on social media.

“We have to a great extent regularised hate speech on formal media. I am thankful for the cooperation of the formal media on this. I am happy to tell you that in the next step we have prepared a mechanism in which we will be able to control hate speech on social media,” he had said.

He had stressed the importance of regulating social media as “digital media is taking over formal media”.

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