Pakistan to bring social media giants under local regulations

In this file photo, Pakistani pedestrians wait for transport as they stand in front of an advertisement for a cellular telephone in Rawalpindi on May 14, 2010. (AFP)
Updated 06 December 2019

Pakistan to bring social media giants under local regulations

  • Law ministry vetting the draft bill in this regard, says PM’s adviser on digital media
  • Twitter suspended 396 accounts of Pakistani users in recent days

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is drafting new laws to ensure that social media companies, including Twitter and Facebook, operate under local rules and regulations, the prime minister’s adviser on digital media said on Friday, adding that the government also wanted to bring these organizations into the tax net.
The move comes after the government faced numerous legal challenges in recent months to negotiate with the micro-blogging websites to get offensive posts removed, restore suspended accounts of hundreds of Pakistani users, and ensure other digital rights of its citizens.
“The draft bill is currently being vetted by the Ministry of Law,” Dr. Arslan Khalid, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s focal person on digital media, told Arab News. “Once enacted it will help us make social media websites follow our local rules and regulations.”
He said that all relevant ministries and government departments had given their input during the preparation of the draft law which would “hopefully come into force soon.”
Pakistan is one of the major markets for social media platforms where around 70 million people are internet users in a population of 208 million, and the broadband penetration, including 3G and 4G, is rapidly increasing with the improved telecom infrastructure and reach in the country’s remote areas.
“The new laws will also help us bring social media platforms within the ambit of taxation,” Khalid said.
In the absence of local laws for social media platforms, Pakistani users frequently fall victim to the account suspension policy of these platforms. Owing to a lack of proper legal framework, he added, Pakistan was currently negotiating with social media companies on “request-based applications only.”
Twitter recently suspended 396 accounts of Pakistani users which the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s (PTA) spokesperson, Khurram Mehran, said was “against the set principles of freedom of speech.”
He continued that the PTA had reported the suspended accounts to Twitter administration, but only 66 of them had so far been restored. “Twitter has suspended accounts of Pakistani users without any warning and on unsubstantiated grounds,” he told Arab News.
However, the social media giant said the suspension of Pakistani users’ accounts was in line with the company’s policy.
“Platform manipulation, including spam and other attempts to undermine the public conversation, is a clear violation of the Twitter Rules,” a spokesperson for Twitter said on Thursday in response to email queries by Arab News.
“We take proactive action against millions of accounts each week for violating our policies in this area,” the spokesperson said.
The PM’s adviser on digital media admitted that some Pakistani users’ accounts may have been suspended for violating the company’s community guidelines as “there is a need to increase digital literacy in the country.”
Digital rights activists and cyber-security researchers have urged the government to formulate a comprehensive cyber-security policy to deal with all the modern and technological challenges.
“Until and unless our government formulates a cyber-security policy that is in line with the international conventions, we cannot hold social media platforms accountable,” Mubashir Sargana, a cyber-security researcher, told Arab News.


Bangladesh’s Mushfiqur Rahim declines to visit Pakistan

Updated 17 January 2020

Bangladesh’s Mushfiqur Rahim declines to visit Pakistan

  • Bangladesh will play three Twenty20 internationals in Pakistan starting January
  • International cricket gradually returned to Pakistan in the last four years after 2009 terror attack on Lankans

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s wicketkeeper-batsman Mushfiqur Rahim has declined to visit Pakistan for the forthcoming series, a team official said on Thursday.
“Mushfiq(ur) rang me today to inform that he will not go to Pakistan. We are now waiting for his formal letter. Once he does that, we will leave him out of the series,” chief selector MinHajjul Abedin told AFP.
Bangladesh are scheduled to play three Twenty20 internationals, two Tests and one one-day international in Pakistan between January and April.
Mushfiqur’s absence could be a blow for Bangladesh who are already without suspended all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan.
MinHajjul said they are likely to announce the squad for the series in a day or two.
International cricket has gradually returned to Pakistan in the last four years after it was suspended in the wake of terrorist attacks on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore in March 2009.