Tech giants declare war over social media laws 2020

Pakistan: Social media giants have allegedly declared war against the recently announced social media laws in Pakistan. 

According to reports of Baaghi TV, Pakistan has created a program to regularize social media for which the government has declared that social media sites must set up their offices within the limitations of the states capital territory, Islamabad. If they fail to follow through, they will be forced to shut down their operations within Pakistan. Reportedly, social media giants namely Twitter, Facebook and Google have responded by saying that if they are coerced, they will do so and leave approximately 70 million internet users within Pakistan in the dark in this digital age.

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According to an Indian reporter in the New York Times, social companies united by the Asia Internet Coalition wrote a letter to the Pakistani Prime Minister, Imran Khan, warning them that if he did so, the rules followed by AIC members will make it extremely difficult to provide social media services to Pakistani consumers and businesses, respectively.

In this regard, the Pakistani government has been forced to withdraw from their decision after public reaction in Pakistan, pressures on civil liberties and threats of litigation by social sites as the laws are written in the books. Moreover, Pakistani officials have promised to review the law(s) this week and to consult with the civil society, and technology companies, accordingly in this regard.

Osama Khilji, director of Bolu Bhi, an organization working for the Internet rights in Pakistan’s Federal Capital, Islamabad, has stated that because there is no data protection law in Pakistan, the international internet companies are reluctant to obey the latest rules.

Standing against Pakistan's digital censorship law, which gives regulators the power to demand the removal of widespread content, is the latest confrontation in a growing global war.

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Facebook, Google and other major tech companies, which have long been making rules about allowing their services, are increasingly tangled up with the national governments in attempting to curtail internet content. It is being assumed that governments are taking the stance to consider harmful, annoying or merely a threat to their power the content provided on such websites.

New censorship guidelines are expected to be issued from India any day, including a requirement that secret messaging services like WhatsApp tell the government how certain messages are transmitted across their network. India has also proposed a new data privacy law that would ban the activities of tech companies by exempting the government from their privacy rules.

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Similarly, Vietnam passed its Cyber Security Law 2018, and a similar law is expected to be passed in Pakistan. The resistance of Facebook, Google, Twitter and other tech companies is extremely unusual in Pakistan. Companies often protest such rules, but rarely have they threatened to leave a country. On the other hand, a few days ago a petition was heard against the government’s proposed rules related to social media. Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court, Athar Mannullah, heard the request of Raja Ahsan Mehmood Saty Advocate, respectively.

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The Islamabad High Court has reportedly sought a response from the Information Technology and other parties within a period of 14 days. The lawyer has said that under the Rules 2020, the National Coordinator will be fined up to Rs 50 crore. Barrister Jehangir Khan Jadun said that even more powers were given than the National Coordinator quota. The National Coordinator is being deployed to implement the Social Media Rules 2020.

The petition was filed against the proposed rules for social media 2020 issued by the government. Lawyer for the petitioner has confirmed that the rules regarding social media 2020 have been challenged. Chief Justice, Athar Man Allah, while giving his remarks, said that such regulations are placed all over the world.

The lawyer further said that the government wants to control the social media in the name of the Regulations. The government should be quoted and asked what the status of the rules is. How will the coordinator be appointed? What will his/her education be? Undisclosed, the Social Media Rules contradict Articles 19 and 19A of the 2020 Constitution. The court issued notices to the parties seeking written response.

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Moreover, the Islamabad High Court rejected the request to issue injunction on social media rules 2020.

A petition has been filed in the Islamabad High Court against the proposed social media rules 2020 in which the Secretary Law and Justice, Secretary Information Technology and Chairman PTA have been made a party.

The petition urges that the Social Media Laws 2020 be declared void under the constitution and the government be stopped from implementing social media laws immediately. It was stressed that the proposed governmental rules on social media conflict with the constitutional rights of the Pakistani citizens.

The petition further stated that the constitution of Pakistan guarantees freedom of expression, proposed laws are in violation of Article 19, social media laws were introduced without the representative assembly of 20 million people.

Baaghi TV

Civil society and related social media companies were also not receiving feedback, while other social media sites, including Twitter, Facebook, are the main need of the hour.

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