Cabinet approves new rules to regulate social media

Cabinet approves new rules to regulate social media

–Social media companies will have to register in Pakistan within three months, set up offices in Islamabad

ISLAMABAD: In a bid to regulate social media, the federal cabinet on Wednesday approved a new set of rules, imposing strict conditions on digital media companies.

According to the document titled “Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020”, social media companies, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, will have to register with the government within three months of the coming into force of the new rules.

They will be required to establish a permanent registered office in Pakistan with a physical address located in Islamabad within the same period.

Digital media companies will have to appoint in Pakistan, a focal person based in Pakistan for coordination with the National Coordinator and the concerned authority within three months of the date of coming into force of these rules.

They will have to establish one or more database servers in Pakistan within 12 months to record and store data and online content, within the territorial boundaries of Pakistan for citizen data privacy.

The companies will be required to remove, suspend or disable access to such account, 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 and violates or affects the religious, cultural, ethnic, or national security sensitivities of Pakistan.

Moreover, if communicated by the authority that certain online content is false, the companies will be required to put a note to that effect along with the online content.

The social media company shall provide to the investigation agency designated or established under Section 29 of the act, any information or data or content or sub-content contained in any information system owned or managed or run by the respective social media company, in decrypted, readable and comprehensible format or plain version in accordance with the provision of the aforesaid act.

Authorities would be empowered to take action against Pakistanis found guilty of targeting state institutions at home and abroad on social media. The law would also help the law enforcement authorities obtain access to data of accounts found involved in suspicious activities.

It would be the said authority’s prerogative to identify objectionable content to the social media platforms to be taken down. In case of failure to comply within 15 days, it would have the power to suspend their services or impose a fine worth up to Rs500 million.

The legislation, in addition, defines terms such as social media, social media company, law enforcement, and the law in this context. Matters highlighted by the authorities may be taken up in high courts in all four provinces.

The document further highlighted that in case a social media company fails to abide by the provision of these rules, the national coordinator may issue instructions for blocking the online system, social media application or services or OTTA owned or managed or run by the said social media company.

It is worth mentioning here that the parliament’s approval would not be necessary for these rules to come into effect.

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