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New social media restrictions will further shrink freedom of speech in Pakistan

New social media restrictions will further shrink freedom of speech in Pakistan

By Raza Ruman

What will be the date of social media after the federal government has steamrolled its way to notifying its amended draconian digital media rules.

The IT ministry notified the rules this week, after cabinet approval was given for the amendments that would require social media companies to abide by Pakistani laws.

The laws will ensure that the space for free expression will continue to shrink.
“Threat of censorship, internet surveillance and morality policing remains ever-present.”
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority now giving 48 hours, instead of 24, to a social media company to remove or block access to online content.

The government now requires social media companies to establish brick-and-mortar offices in Pakistan “as soon as possible”, as opposed to a nine-month deadline. Though these timelines have been ostensibly eased, the model being followed closely resembles that of the drastic rules put in place by the authoritarian government across the border. India, a key overseas market for tech companies, earlier this year made similarly stringent demands which were criticised as encouraging internet platforms to over-censor, requiring dangerous content regulation tools and retaining a large amount of data to be handed over to the government.

According to the laws, if a tech company fails to respond to the PTA’s request for removal or blocking of content within 48 hours, the authority can send a notice, and later “degrade the services” of the service provider for a limited time. If the company still doesn’t respond, its information system can be blocked or it could face a fine of Rs500m.
This draconian laws must be reviewed before implementation. PAK DESTINY

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