Global tech giants threaten to leave Pakistan over new rules

    The warning from the Asia Internet Coalition, which represents global technology giants including Google, Facebook and Twitter, comes after the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan granted enhanced powers to government media regulators
    By AP
    | Updated on Nov 20 2020, 04:52 PM IST
    Under the new regulations, social media companies or internet service providers face a fine of up to $3.14 million for failure to curb the sharing of content deemed to be defamatory of Islam, promoting terrorism, hate speech, pornography or any content viewed as endangering national security.
    Under the new regulations, social media companies or internet service providers face a fine of up to $3.14 million for failure to curb the sharing of content deemed to be defamatory of Islam, promoting terrorism, hate speech, pornography or any content viewed as endangering national security. (REUTERS)
    Under the new regulations, social media companies or internet service providers face a fine of up to $3.14 million for failure to curb the sharing of content deemed to be defamatory of Islam, promoting terrorism, hate speech, pornography or any content viewed as endangering national security.
    Under the new regulations, social media companies or internet service providers face a fine of up to $3.14 million for failure to curb the sharing of content deemed to be defamatory of Islam, promoting terrorism, hate speech, pornography or any content viewed as endangering national security. (REUTERS)

    Internet and technology companies have threatened to leave Pakistan after the government granted blanket powers to authorities to censor digital content, a move critics say was aimed at curtailing freedom of expression in the conservative Islamic nation.

    Thursday’s warning from the Asia Internet Coalition, which represents global technology giants including Google, Facebook and Twitter, comes after the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan granted enhanced powers to government media regulators Wednesday.

    Also read: Looking for a smartphone? To check mobile finder click here.

    The coalition said it was “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.”

    Under the new regulations, social media companies or internet service providers face a fine of up to $3.14 million for failure to curb the sharing of content deemed to be defamatory of Islam, promoting terrorism, hate speech, pornography or any content viewed as endangering national security.

    Also Read: Pak PM takes aim at Macron; asks Facebook to ban Islamophobic content

    Social media companies are required to provide Pakistan's designated investigation agency “with any information or data in decrypted, readable and comprehensible format," according to Pakistan's DAWN newspaper. Pakistan also wants the social media companies to have their offices in the country.

    The coalition said the “draconian data localisation 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 said the new rules will make it difficult for its members “to make their services available to Pakistani users and businesses."

    There was no immediate comment from Khan’s government, which has repeatedly said it was not against freedom of expression.

    Khan's office had previously said the new rules were made after observing a delayed response in the removal of anti-Pakistan, obscene and sectarian-related content by social media sites since 2018, when Khan’s government came into power.

    Also Read: Pakistan to unblock social media app TikTok after it vows to moderate content

    Under the new regulations, social media companies are required to remove or block any unlawful content from their websites within 24 hours after being reported by Pakistani authorities.

    The latest development comes weeks after Khan’s government temporarily banned the video-sharing platform TikTok, saying it took the step after receiving complaints of “immoral and indecent” content.

    Follow HT Tech for the latest tech news and reviews , also keep up with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. For our latest videos, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

    First Published Date: 20 Nov, 04:52 PM IST
    NEXT ARTICLE BEGINS
    keep up with tech