Rules for the Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content Notified

The federal government has notified the rules for the removal and blocking of unlawful online content (procedure, oversight, and safeguards) rules, 2020 under section 37 of the prevention of electronic crimes act 2016, earlier approved as citizens protection (against online harm) rules 2020.

A notification of the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication read,

“In the exercise of the powers conferred by section 51 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 (XL of 2016) read with section 37 thereof, the Federal Government is pleased to approve the Rules for Removal and Blocking of Unlawful online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules, 2020 under section 37 of ‘the, Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 earlier approved as Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020”.

These rules shall be published in the Official Gazette as per requirements of section 37 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016. Under section 37 of PECA, PTA is empowered to block or remove unlawful online content.

According to the rules, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) will not restrict or disrupt the flow or dissemination of any online content unless it is necessary for the reasons as prescribed in sub-section (1) of section 37 of the Act and without prejudice to the generality of the powers in section 37 (1) of the Act unless the removal and blocking of access to online content would be necessary in the interest of glory Islam, integrity, security and defence of Pakistan, public order, public health, public safety, decency, and morality.

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 defence of the country.

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