In a seemingly innocuous letter written to the prime minister, the Asia Internet Coalition has gently raised its concerns regarding a renewed push by the government to put in place rules for blocking of online content. They are called the Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules, 2020 (“Rules”), and they have been approved by the cabinet recently, according to knowledgeable sources. One of these government sources tells Dawn that they will be made public after they have been notified, which he said should be “by next week”.
Behind the scenes, however, a larger battle appears to be shaping up between government and the big technology platforms that the Coalition represents. In addition to content regulation, the issue is control of and access to the voluminous amounts of private and highly personalised data that these platforms collect from their users, according to background conversations between Dawn and executives from these platforms.