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Technology

Tech co’s could make their services unavailable in Pakistan amid new rules

  • As per the government, these rules provide for safeguards, process and mechanism for exercise of powers by the Authority under the Act for removal of or blocking access to unlawful online content through any information system.
20 Nov 2020

The Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), an internet body comprising of leading technology companies has expressed ‘alarm’ over Pakistan’s latest Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules.

“AIC members are alarmed by the scope of Pakistan’s new law targeting internet companies, as well as the government’s opaque process by which these rules were developed. The consultation that was announced in February never occurred,” said AIC in a statement.

“The draconian data localization requirements will damage the ability of people to access a free and open internet and shut Pakistan’s digital economy off from the rest of the world,” it added.

AIC was of the view that the Rules would make it extremely difficult for AIC Members to make their services available to Pakistani users and businesses. “If Pakistan wants to be an attractive destination for technology investment and realise its goal of digital transformation, we urge the Government to work with industry on practical, clear rules that protect the benefits of the internet and keep people safe from harm,” it said.

Just days ago, the federal government introduced the “Removal and blocking of unlawful online content (procedure, oversight and safeguards) Rules, 2020”. The rules were formulated by the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication under section 37 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016.

As per the government, these rules provide for safeguards, process and mechanism for exercise of powers by the Authority under the Act for removal of or blocking access to unlawful online content through any information system.

According to rules, every person or organization shall have the right to express and disseminate any online content on an online system as ensured and guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973: Provided that the Authority shall not restrict, disrupt the flow or dissemination of any Online Content unless it is necessary for the reasons as prescribed in Section 37( 1) of the Act: Provided further that, without prejudice to the generality of the powers in Section 37(1) of the Act, the removal and blocking of access to an Online Content would be necessary in the interest of: (i) “glory of Islam” if the Online Content constitutes an act. Which is an offence under chapter-Xi/ of Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 (Act XLV of 1860): or (h) “integrity, security and defence of Pakistan” shall’ bear the same meaning as given under Article 260 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic 0f Pakistan 1973, (iii) “public order” if the online Content constitutes an act which is an offence under Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 or the Online Content contains any fake or false information that threatens the public order, public health and public safety or the Online Content constitutes an act which ‘could lead to the occasions as described under chapter-Xi of the Code of Criminal/ Procedure, 1898 (Act V of 1898); or (iv) “decency and morality” if the Online Content constitutes an act which is an offence under section 292, 293,294 and 509 of Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 (Act XLV of 1860).

The rules and any directions issued by the Authority under these rules shall prevail and take precedence over any contrary Community Guidelines and any such Community Guidelines shall be null and void.