Thursday September 29, 2022

'Immoral content' on social media will now be punishable

Amended rules would give Pakistani consumers "full freedom of expression", IT minister says

By Web Desk
October 14, 2021
— AFP/File
— AFP/File

The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication on Thursday issued Social Media Rules 2021 under which authorities will take action against any individual posting "immoral content" on social media platforms.

Federal Minister for Information and Technology Amin-ul-Haq, in a statement, said the amended rules would give Pakistani consumers "full freedom of expression" under Article 19 of the Constitution, however, the promotion of "immoral and obscene" material would be considered a felony.

The rules will act as an important bridge between Pakistani users and social media institutions, while the companies will have to abide by local laws and ensure the rights of users, the federal minister said.

The rules will ban live streaming of extremist, terrorist, hateful, obscene, and violent content, Haq said, adding that social media outlets would be required to remove content that violates Pakistan's "dignity and security".

The federal minister said that in view of the new rules, negative content against people and content related to the private life of others will be banned.

Similarly, content against Pakistan's cultural and moral values, children's mental and physical development will be banned, the federal minister said.

New rules direct social media companies to ensure the following in three months of them coming into force:

  • Register themselves with the Pakistan Telecommunication (PTA);
  • Appoint an authorised compliance officer, based in Pakistan, for ensuring compliance with the provisions of the Act;
  • Appoint a dedicated grievance officer based in Pakistan for the redressal of grievances received by him against online content.

'Unnecessary layer'

The director of digital rights firm BoloBhi Usama Khilji said the new rules add yet another "unnecessary layer" to the government's social media management, as he slammed the move.

"The composition and chairing of this working group is telling of the state's view of social media matters: headed by the national security advisor, missing the human rights ministry, sidelining the IT Ministry, which should be responsible for coordinating these matters, and ignoring the government's heavily funded digital media wing," he added.