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Saturday July 20, 2024

Amendment ready to make PECA more effective against propaganda

Social media rules will reportedly be amended to enhance the authority of the PTA and FIA to check fake news.

By Muhammad Saleh Zaafir
July 14, 2023

ISLAMABAD: To counter dissemination of fake news and propaganda, the government has decided to amend the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act of 2016 (PECA) and the relevant laws are being studied for this.

Last year, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had constituted a committee under Law and Justice Minister Senator Azam Nazeer Tarar; the committee has now nearly completed its task with the assistance of the Ministry of Information Technology (MIT), Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

Well-placed sources told The News here on Thursday that fake news targeting the reputation and image of a particular person or group of people, organization or other entity will be checked by all available means. Social media rules will reportedly be amended to enhance the authority of the PTA and FIA to check fake news. And to protect official portals, an ‘e-safety law’ is being introduced. Further, a new section will likely be included in PECA to empower the authorities concerned to take stringent action so that culprits are punished on account of their offence.

The PTA authorities are of the view that PECA, 2016 doesn’t provide adequate assistance to take action against those who are spreading fake news. There is a view that as a result the FIA is helpless in almost all such complaints where fake news was pointed out and action sought.

In recent months, complaints have increased manifold that a group of people is engaged in damaging the reputations of particular organizations and persons. While the complaints were seen as genuine, the authorities couldn’t take any action against the perpetrators.

Social media companies will be required to operate from Pakistan or set up their offices in the country so that they are answerable for the content on their sites. If they fail to act, their platforms could be blocked or the offensive content removed on receipt of complaints.

It is likely that the law will be ready before the expiry of the mandated period of the National Assembly and end of term of the current government. Sources also say that in case of a glitch, the law could be turned into an ordinance that would be promulgated even after the end of the current government, by the caretaker government.