Thursday, December 2, 2021

Diminishing freedom - Newspaper - DAWN.COM - DAWN.com

Last updated Friday, October 15, 2021 22:15 ET , Source: TopWireNews

DESPITE the serious reservations of digital rights activists and tech companies, the federal government has steamrolled its way to notifying its amended but still draconian social media rules. The IT ministry notified the rules this week, after cabinet approval was given for the amendments. The IT minister in a statement said the rules would require social media companies to abide by Pakistani laws. Ironically, Minister Aminul Haque also claimed that Pakistani internet users will have the “full right to freedom of expression”, even though the rules portend the opposite ie the space for free expression will continue to shrink.
A closer look at the amended rules reveal what is so troubling. Though it appears that the government has eased its stringent requirements for tech companies, the ‘relaxations’ are cosmetic and the threat of censorship, internet surveillance and morality policing remains ever-present. Cosmetic measures include, for instance, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority now giving 48 hours, instead of 24, to a social media company to remove or block access to online content. Moreover, the government now requires social media companies to establish brick-and-mortar offices in Pakistan “as soon as possible”, as opposed to a nine-month deadline. Though these timelines have been ostensibly eased, the model being followed closely resembles that of the drastic rules put in place by the authoritarian government across the border. India, a key overseas market for...

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