Tech firms seek PM Pakistan for support for critical changes to new rules


: In a scathing letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan, technology companies have sought his assistance to ensure that critical changes are made to the newly approved social media rules, which have made it “extremely difficult” for social media firms to continue their platforms and services in Pakistan.

The rules titled, “Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules 2020,” have been published in official gazette under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 (Peca).

The letter dated Dec 5, shared with Dawn by the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), urgently calls for a credible consultation process through which AIC members can provide substantive input and address crucial issues such as internationally-recognised rights to individual expression and privacy. The AIC noted that during bilateral meetings with AIC and its member companies, the PTA had committed to share a draft copy of the rules, but the rules were recently updated by the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication on its website without explanation or due process, underscoring the lack of credibility and transparency in the process through which these rules were finalised.

The AIC letter stated: “Industry stakeholders have therefore lost trust in the consultation process, because it is neither credible nor transparent.” Instead of clarifying the scope of the powers given to the PTA, these rules created further confusion for both users and online platforms in Pakistan, the coalition explained.