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Unlawful content on social media: 32 depts given access to PTA portal to take action

Top Story

October 14, 2019

ISLAMABAD: As many as 32 federal and provincial government organisations that were counted as stakeholders have been given direct access to the electronic-portal developed by the authority to lodge complaints relating to different categories.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has broadcast 16 SMS alerts through all cellular networks operating in the country to restrain the public from sharing unlawful content on social media platforms.

“Sharing of blasphemy, pornography, terrorism and other unlawful content on social media is illegal. Users are advised to report such content on [email protected] for necessary action,” said an official document shared with APP by PTA official.

Besides, he said, the PTA has published nine advertisements in major national English and Urdu newspapers for creating awareness about illegal content and public were asked to report such content to the authority.

He said the authority has posted advisory on its official website to make aware internet users about lodging of complaints directly on social media platforms.

In response to a query, the official said, social media platforms are extending cooperation with the authority for blocking of reported content. However, some difficulties were faced with Twitter and to resolve the issues efforts were underway.

To another query, he said if the reported Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) were hosted on an unsecured platform, it was blocked through local Internet Service Providers (ISPs). If it was hosted on a secured platform, then the administration of the concerned website was requested for removal of the said content.

With the assistance of stakeholders, general public and conducting self-search, he said, the PTA has processed over 900,000 URLs for blocking. "Collective efforts were required to combat this menace as millions of WebPages were uploading on daily basis," he added.

About the procedure of complaints handling, he said, complaints were received through dedicated cell namely ‘Web Analysis Cell’ and the content was blocked or removed after conducting proactive search.

According to the law, the PTA is liable to proscribe websites when it receives complaints against controversial materials by the people or the government, and if the crime is committed on social media, the PTA refers the case to FIA for criminal proceedings. The sources said the people have to register complaints against cybercrimes to the FIA because the law clearly defines the boundaries of PTA and FIA.

The FIA is assigned to control the cybercrimes while PTA is a state-owned regulatory body to establish and maintain telecommunication services in the country, and section 37 of the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act (PECA), 2016 gives mandate to block any controversial site without having anyone's consent.

According to Daily Jang correspondent Sajid Chaudhry, under PECA, the PTA has continuously been blocking websites having controversial material, including immoral, indecent, hate-speeches, anti-religious, blasphemous, contents against judiciary and state through the Web Analyzed Directorate (WAD) for the last several years. He said as many as 831,000 pornographic websites were blocked by the PTA.

He said according to the Article-37 of the PECA Act 2016, PTA only acts on the complaints of the people or the government and is responsible to identify controversial websites, to channelise and to block them. The authority also has the mandate to block any website containing controversial materials.

According to the PTA officials, if someone wants to take action against any specific website or person, then he or she has to contact the FIA. The PTA has run an online portal for concerned organisations to register complaints against the controversial websites or contents, then PTA immediately blocks that site or removes controversial contents. The authority has solo mandate to proscribe child pornography and blasphemous websites and does seek any permission.

The sources said under the PECA Act 2016, the FIA could not act without any proper complaint and the people have to contact FIA themselves to complain against any committed crime. The PTA has blocked 51,813 anti-religious, 2,350 blasphemous, 6,035 anti-judiciary, 12,603 anti-state, 10,196 proxies, 10,751 hate speeches, and 4,453 various kind websites or URLs under the PECA Act, 2016.

According to Daily Jang correspondent Ayub Nasir, when the Additional Director Legal FIA Cyber Crime Jawad Shah was contacted, he said the FIA is responsible for controlling cybercrimes but it needs to access the criminals sitting at their homes in the country and outsides. He added that the FIA personnel have the right to act against any controversial content on internet. The FIA official said his organisation is solely responsible to act against the cybercrimes according to the prescribed law and the people should immediately register complaints against any controversial content to the FIA Cyber Crime Circle.