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Pakistan imposes strict conditions on social media companies (Demo)

The Pakistan government has approved a new set of rules imposing strict conditions on all social media companies, which includes an order to provide data and information requested by the country’s investigation agencies.

According to the document titled “Citizens protection against online harm 2020” released on 12 February, social media companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Tik Tok and Youtube, are directed to register with the Pakistan government and establish their offices in Islamabad within three months.

Digital media companies have also been directed to appoint a focal person in Pakistan to coordinate with a National Coordinator, who will be designated by the Minister of Information Technology and Telecommunication within 15 days of the commencement of these rules.

The companies have also been instructed to set up more than one database server to record and store data within a year. As per document, the national coordinator will advise the federal and provincial governments and engage social media companies to deal with the issues identified by the government. He will also have the authority to summon focal persons of any social media company to inquire how they operate their businesses.

According to the document: “The National Coordinator will have the sole authority in determining the situation of emergency. The social media companies will be asked to take notice of religious, cultural, ethnic and national security sensitivities of Pakistan. The social media companies “shall remove, suspend or disable access to such accounts, online content of Pakistani citizens living abroad and posts online content that are involved in spreading of fake news or defamation.”

The National Coordinator has the authority to suspend any social media account on the complaint of harassment or objectionable content. The National Coordinator can also ask the company to remove or restrict access to such content within next 24 hours or within six hours in emergency situations.

The committee will be permitted to take action against any Pakistani citizen found guilty of targeting ‘state institutions’ at home and abroad on social media. The law would also help law enforcement agencies obtain access to data of accounts found involved in suspicious activities.

Action will be taken against social media companies if they don’t remove content and their services will be suspended. Moreover, if they do not comply with the rules, a fine up to Rs 500 million (US$ 3.2 million) would be imposed on them.

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