Social media companies could be fined 500 million rupees for failing to follow PTA instructions
- 500 million rupees fine if social media companies fail to block “content”.
- Earlier this week, the federal cabinet approved changes to social media rules, known as the “Unlawful Online Content Removal and Blocking (Procedures, Monitoring and Backup) Rules 2021,” introduced last year.
- From now on, the Ministry of Informatics will issue a regulatory decree to implement new rules.
ISLAMABAD: If social media companies fail to comply with Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) instructions on blocking online content, they could face a fine of up to Rs 500 million .
Earlier this week, the federal cabinet approved changes to social media rules, known as the “Unlawful Online Content Removal and Blocking (Procedures, Monitoring and Backup) Rules 2021,” introduced last year.
Now the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications will issue a regulatory decree (SRO) to implement new rules after obtaining approval of cabinet minutes in the coming days, The news reported on Friday.
Once implemented, the new rules will have binding effects on social media companies. “Any person or organization has the right to express and distribute any content online as enshrined in article 19 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan of 1973,” the publication’s report said.
PTA will handle complaints about online content. A complaint to block or remove online content can be made by:
- Any person, or their guardian, if it is a minor, harmed by online content.
- A ministry, division, attached department, subordinate office, provincial or local department or office, government law enforcement or intelligence agency, or government-owned or controlled enterprise.
If a business fails to comply by removing or blocking access to online content in accordance with PTA’s instructions, it may take action in accordance with the following procedure:
- Serve a written notice requiring the service provider, social media company or major social media company to remedy the violation and provide a written explanation within 48 hours to the satisfaction of the PTA for failure to follow the instructions of the PTA.
- Where the social media company does not respond to the notice or does not satisfy PTA with respect to the alleged contravention, it may, after providing an opportunity to be heard and by written order, take any of the steps the following: (a) downgrade the services of such a service provider for a period of time that it deems appropriate; or (b) block or issue instructions for blocking the entire online information system or (c) impose a penalty of up to Rs 500 million.
The publication indicated that PTA will block the online information system in accordance with court instructions or written instructions from the federal government or the Home Office, as the case may be, issued under any other laws currently in force.
“The service provider, social media company and major social media company must not knowingly host, display, upload, post, transmit, update or share any content online in violation of local laws”, a- was added.
Provided that the following actions of a service provider, a social media company and a major social media company do not constitute the hosting, posting, editing or storage of information such as specified in sub-rule (3): (a) temporary or transient or intermediate storage of information automatically in the online information system as an essential feature of this online information system, not involving any exercise human editorial control, for transmission or subsequent communication to another information system; or (b) removal of access to any information, data or communication link by a service provider and a social media company after such information, data, communication link by a service provider, a social media company and a significant social media company after information, data, communication link comes to the actual knowledge of the social media company in accordance with any order or directive in accordance with the provisions of the Act.
The service provider and the social media company must provide the investigative agency designated or established under section 29 of the law with any information or data or content or sub-content contained in any information system online owned or managed or managed by the respective service provider or social media company, in a decrypted, readable and understandable format or in plain version in accordance with the provisions of the law.
The service provider and the social media company should deploy mechanisms to ensure the immediate blocking of live streaming via online information systems in Pakistan of any online content, in particular, related to terrorism, speeches by hatred, pornography, incitement to violence and detrimental to national security when receiving notice from the Authority.
A major social media company must: (a) register with the Authority, within three months of the entry into force of these rules; (b) establish an office in Pakistan on the instructions of the Authority with a physical address preferably located in Islamabad; (c) appoint an authorized compliance officer, based in Pakistan, to ensure compliance with the provisions of the law, these rules and the guidelines of the Authority, within three months of the entry into force of these rules; (d) appoint a dedicated Pakistan-based Grievance Officer for redress of grievances received by him against online content, within three months of the entry into force of these Rules. The grievance officer must resolve complaints as soon as possible, but no later than seven days after receiving the complaint.
The significant social media company will publish on its online information systems the contact details as well as the mechanism by which the User or any complainant who suffers as a result of accessing or using the Online Information System can notify complaints; (e) respect the privacy of user data and the location of data in accordance with applicable laws and (f) deploy appropriate content moderation methods, including content moderation systems based on artificial intelligence (AI) and content moderators familiar with local laws.
What do the new rules mean?
The new rules relaxed the previous condition of establishing an office in Pakistan within six months of the rules coming into force and stated that, on instructions from the PTA, establish an office in Pakistan, to the extent of possible.
The rules will provide, among other things, safeguards, processes and mechanisms for the exercise of the powers of the PTA under the law to remove or block access to illegal online content through any information system.
According to the rules, the PTA may not restrict, disrupt the stream or broadcast any content online unless it deems it necessary for the reasons prescribed in Article 37 (1) of the law, subject to a procedure regular.
It can only act “without prejudice” if the removal or blocking of access to online content may be deemed necessary in the interest of:
- Glory of Islam
- Pakistan Security
- Public order
- Decency and morality
- Integrity or defense of Pakistan