The Federal Government under the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication has formulated the rules under section 37 of the prevention of electronic crimes act 2016 for the ‘Removal and blocking of unlawful online content for social media, ISPs and Users.
According to notification of the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication in the exercise of the powers conferred by sub-section (2) of sections 37 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, (XL of 2016), the Federal Government approved the rules prescribed by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority PTA.
According to the rules every person or organization shall have the right to express and disseminate any Online Content on an Online system as ensured and guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973: Provided that the Authority shall not restrict, disrupt the flow or dissemination of any Online Content unless it is necessary for the reasons as prescribed in Section 37( 1) of the Act.
Blocking content would be necessary in the interest of:
- “Glory of Islam” if the Online Content constitutes an act, which is an offense under chapter-Xi/ of Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 (Act XLV of 1860).
- “Integrity, security and defense of Pakistan” shall bear the same meaning as given under Article 260 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic 0f Pakistan 1973.
- “public order” if the online Content constitutes an act which is an offense under Pakistan Penal Code, 1860.
- If online content contains any fake or false information that threatens the public order, public health and public safety or the Online Content constitutes an act which ‘could lead to the occasions as described under chapter-Xi of the Code of Criminal/ Procedure, 1898 (Act V of 1898);
- “Decency and morality” if the Online Content constitutes an act which is an offense under section 292, 293,294 and 509 of Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 (Act XLV of 1860).
The rules and any directions issued by the Authority under these rules shall prevail and take precedence over any contrary Community Guidelines and any such Community Guidelines shall be null and void.
Obligations with Respect to Blocking of Unlawful Online Content
A Service Provider, Social Media Company, owner of Information System, owner of internet website or web server and User shall, upon receiving’ any directions under Rule 6 by the Authority, in writing or through email signed with an electronic signature, ‘shall act within twenty-four hours or in case of an emergency within six hours to remove or block access to such unlawful Online Content.
In case a Service Provider, Social Media Company, owner of Information System, owner of internet website or web server and User fails to abide by the provision of these Rules, the Authority may issue directions for blocking of the entire Online System, or any services provided by such Service Providers owned or managed by the said Service Providers or Social Media Company.
A Social Media Company and Service Provider shall deploy appropriate mechanisms for identifying an Online Content as specified in sub-rule (2).
The Service Provider and Social Media Company shall not knowingly host, display, upload, publish, transmit, update or share any Online Content, and shall not allow the transmission, select the receiver of transmission and select OF modify the information contained in the transmission as specified in sub-rule (2).
All social media companies such as TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter will have to put up community guidelines for its users. Platforms with more than half a million Pakistani users will have to get registered with the PTA and establish a registered office in the country within nine months of the implementation of the rules.
Within three months of the office’s establishment, a focal person will have to be appointed for coordination and a data server system has to be set up within 18 months. The rules will also be applied to internet service providers. All companies and providers have been instructed to restrict content that is against the security, prestige and defense of the country.