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February 13, 2020

Cabinet approves new rules to rein in social media

Top Story

February 13, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet has approved new social media rules, making the registration of all global social media platforms in Pakistan mandatory within three months.

According to the documents available, all companies, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Tick Tok, are required to get registered and establish an office in Islamabad within three months.

Similarly, on the other hand, the global social media platforms and companies have been conditioned to appoint a focal person in Pakistan and they will have to build a data server in Pakistan within a year.

With the new rules, action could be taken against those who speak out against national institutions and national sovereignty or carry prohibited content.

The government will appoint a National Coordinator (NC) within 15 days after the rules. The National Coordinator will be responsible for coordination, advising the federal and provincial governments and engaging with social media companies. He will also have the power to summon focal persons of any company to discuss how they operate their businesses.

The National Coordination Authority, on complaint of harassment or objectionable content, will suspend a social media account. The Ministry of Information and Telecommunications or the National Coordinator can ask any social media company to remove, suspend or disable access to such content within 24 hours. Urgent situations will require action within six hours.

According to the Rules, the “interpretation or permissibility of any online content, by the Authority or the National Coordinator under law, rule, regulation or instruction, shall take precedence over any community standards or rules or community guidelines or policies or any other instruments devised by a social media company.”

The rules also state that social media companies “shall remove, suspend or disable access to such accounts, online content of citizens of Pakistan residing outside its territorial boundaries and posts on online content that are involved in spreading of fake news or defamation.”

The companies will also be required to provide any requested information in a “decrypted, readable and comprehensible format or plain version,” bypassing the legal process currently outlined in PECA. The new rules have been made part of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act.

If the social media companies does not remove content, action will be taken against them and their services will be suspended and in case, they did not comply with the rules, a fine up to Rs500 million would be imposed on them.