Pakistan implemented a new rule about digital content regulation, and Facebook, Google, Twitter threaten to abandon the nation.
The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, approved the country’s Telecommunication Authority to ban or remove digital content that would threaten the government. It will also block content that can hurt the security of the nation.
The scope of the new law alarmed the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC). The group consists of Facebook, Google, Twitter, Apple, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Grab, and many others.
It’s not the first time that these tech behemoths expressed their concerns over censorship law. The Khan’s ministry proposed the law in February 2020.
The coalition threatened to leave when the Pakistani government announced the proposal. The country retreated and promised to conduct an extensive consultation with the tech companies and civil society.
But no consultation happened.
According to the coalition, the “draconian data localization requirements” will shut off the country’s digital economy from the rest of the world. The people there could no longer access free and open Internet.
“It’s chilling to see the PTA’s powers expanded, allowing them to force social media companies to violate established human rights norms on privacy and freedom of expression.”
How New Rules Will Affect Tech Companies?
Because of the new rules, they make it challenging for the group members to allow their services available to the users and businesses in the country. The group urged the Pakistan government to work with the tech industry and provide clear rules to protect the Internet.
With the new rules, the local authorities would have the power to demand the tech platforms to get rid of questionable content within 24 hours. The country may create a National Coordinator office solely to monitor these services.
Furthermore, the new rules will prevent live streaming of any online content that tackles hate speech, terrorism, fake news, and extremism.
After implementing the new rules, tech companies must have permanent offices in Pakistan. They must have local servers to store data in that country.
The tech companies must also agree to suspend or remove accounts of Pakistan citizens living outside the territorial boundaries.
They must also terminate accounts that spread fake news or defame religious or “national security sensitivities of Pakistan.”
Critics said that the new rules would minimize free speech. They also impose censorship.
The coalition wants to work with the government, but the country must provide suitable answers to online data without imperiling its digital economy.
As these tech firms threaten to leave the country, it might pressure the government to revise the proposed rules. If not, the government will face objections from its citizens and business owners.
But Pakistan is not alone in proposing new censorship rules that could also curb free speed. India also proposed a set of new regulations, but it has yet to publish the new guidelines.
Will these tech companies leave the country if the government will start to execute the new laws? The country has around 75 million Internet users. The exit of these tech companies will affect these millions of users in the said nation heavily.