Tech giants threaten to leave Pakistan over censorship rules
Technology and internet companies have threatened to leave Pakistan after the government gave authorities general powers to censor digital content, a move that critics say was aimed at restricting freedom of expression in the conservative Islamic nation.
Thursday’s warning from the Asia Internet Coalition, which represents global tech giants, including Google, Facebook and Twitter, comes after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government granted enhanced powers to government media regulators on Wednesday.
The coalition said it was “alarmed by the scope of Pakistan’s new law targeting Internet companies, as well as the government’s opaque process by which these rules were developed.”
Under the new regulations, social media companies or internet service providers face a fine of up to $ 3.14 million (approximately Rs. 23.28 million rupees) for failing to curb the sharing of content that is deemed defamatory of Islam, promoting the terrorism, hate speech, pornography, or any content deemed to endanger national security.
Social media companies must provide Pakistan’s designated investigative agency with “any information or data in decrypted, readable and understandable format.” according to The DAWN newspaper of Pakistan. Pakistan also wants social media companies to have their offices in the country.
The coalition said that “the draconian data location requirements will damage people’s ability to access a free and open Internet and will shut down Pakistan’s digital economy from the rest of the world.” It said the new rules will make it difficult for its members to “make their services available to Pakistani users and businesses.”
There was no immediate comment from the Khan government, which has repeatedly said it was not against freedom of expression.
Khan’s office had previously said that the new rules were established after observing a belated response in removing anti-Pakistan, obscene and sectarianism-related content from social media sites since 2018, when the Khan government took office. power.
Under the new regulations, social media companies must remove or block any illegal content from their websites within 24 hours of being reported by the Pakistani authorities.
The latest development comes weeks after Khan’s rule. temporarily prohibited the video sharing platform Tik Tok, saying it took the step after receiving complaints of “immoral and indecent” content.