The Ministry of Information Technology notified social media rules title “Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules 2020,” which have been developed under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 (PECA).
All stakeholders including the internet service providers as well as digital rights activists, have rejected the rules labelling them as draconian and in violation of cyber laws of the country.
Some said that the new rules will hinder development of the information technology sector in the country and push it two decades back when competing with other regional and global peers.
The new rules have treated both the internet service providers (ISPs) and social media companies as the same and have set the requirements of the social media platforms for the ISPs as well.
Rules direct all ISPs and social media companies to comply with the community guidelines.
“Such community guidelines shall inform the user of the online system not to host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit update or share any online content that belongs to another person and to which the user does not have any right. This is blasphemous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, invasive of another’s privacy, violates or affects religious, cultural, ethical sensitive of Pakistani or harms minor in any way, impersonates another person or threatens the integrity, security, or defence of Pakistan or public order or causes incitement to any offence under PECA.”
Digital rights activists have said that the rules curb the freedom of expression on internet users and will increase the curbs on expression(s) of all forms on social media.
Meanwhile, the vague nature of definitions on how the government or relevant departments will define what falls under the ambit of national community guidelines have also put the applicability of laws in question.