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Cabinet greenlights law requiring social media platforms to open offices in Pakistan, get registered

Social media companies and platforms will be required to provide data of accounts found guilty in committing offences according to Pakistani law to intelligence agencies, LEAs

By Web Desk
February 12, 2020

ISLAMABAD: A new law approved by the federal cabinet on Wednesday makes it compulsory for social media companies and platforms to get registered in Pakistan and open offices in the country, Geo News reported. 

Shoaib Siddiqui, Secretary Ministry of Information Technology, confirmed to Geo News that the cabinet approved the legal document that required social media companies and platforms like Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, Dailymotion, Twitter and others to open offices in Pakistan and register in the country. 

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. Hence, the rules and regulations do not require to 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 timeframe.

The la 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. The law makes it compulsory for social media companies 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.

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. 

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.

"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 on the importance of regulating social media as "digital media is taking over formal media".