Digital media giants warn to halt services

Staff Report

islamabad: A coalition comprising digital media giants Facebook, Google and Twitter (among others) have spoken out against the new regulations approved by the Pakistani government for social media, threatening to suspend services in the country if the rules were not revised.
In a letter penned to Prime Minster Imran Khan on February 15, the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) comprising Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon, Apple and other tech giants called on the government to revise the new sets of rules and regulations for social media.
“The rules as currently written would make it extremely difficult for AIC Members to make their services available to Pakistani users and businesses,” reads the letter, referring to the Citizens Protection Rules (Against Online Harm).
The new set of regulations makes it compulsory for social media companies to open offices in Islamabad, build data servers to store information and take down content upon identification by authorities. Failure to comply with the authorities in Pakistan will result in heavy fines and possible termination of services.
The AIC questioned the way the rules were approved by the government, stating that it had not taken into confidence stakeholders before introducing the regulations. The AIC said that the regulations were causing “International companies to re-evaluate their view of the regulatory environment in Pakistan, and their willingness to operate in the country.”
Referring to the rules as “vague and arbitrary in nature”, the AIC said that it was forcing them to go against established norms of user privacy and freedom of expression.
The AIC further said that it was not against regulation of content on social media but was concerned about internet freedom.
“We are not against regulation of social media, and we acknowledge that Pakistan already has an extensive legislative framework governing online content. However, these Rules fail to address crucial issues such as internationally recognized rights to individual expression and privacy,” read a line from the letter.