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Internet Coalition asks Pakistan to revoke new social media rules

The Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) has urged Prime Minister Imran Khan to revoke the new rules approved a few days ago to regulate social media.

“First and foremost, we wish to express our sincere concern that unless revoked, these rules will severely cripple the growth of Pakistan’s digital economy,” the AIC, an association that promotes the understanding and resolution of internet policy issues in Asia, told PM Khan in a letter.

Under the Citizens Protection Rules (Against Online Harm), all global social media platforms, such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok, will be required to open offices in Pakistan.

The new regulatory measures enable the authorities to initiate action against those who speak out against national institutions and post prohibited content. Similarly, the social media companies will have to remove the objectionable content from their platform within 24 hours after they are asked to do so.

The AIC said that the new regulatory measures in their current form could isolate Pakistan and deprive its users of the growth potential of the internet economy.

“The rules are vague and arbitrary in nature, which is a result of the absence of public consultation. The lack of such discussion is problematic given that the rules demand that social media companies deviate from established human rights practices concerning user privacy and freedom of expression,” the letter read.

AIC Managing Director Jeff Paine asked the government to consider the potential consequences of the rules in order to prevent unexpected negative impacts on Pakistan’s economy.

“We hope to have the opportunity to share more detailed feedback with the government of Pakistan in the near future,” Paine added.

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