The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has started the registration of social media companies under the ‘Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight, and Safeguards) Rules, 2020’.
The Social Media Companies in Pakistan that have half a million or more users will be required to register for each application/service that they offer.
The platforms with more than half a million Pakistani users will have to register themselves 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 establishment of the office, a focal person will have to be appointed for coordination, and a data server system has to be set up within 18 months.
According to the registration forms, the social media company will be required to give
- Name of the company
- Type of service/application
- The number of its users in Pakistan (at the time of registration)
- The number of its users in Pakistan
- The addresses in Pakistan (local office details to be provided as per the timelines stipulated in the rules)
- The company’s authorization letter (to be attached with this form)
- The details of the authorized focal person
As per the rules, in case a Service Provider, a Social Media Company, an owner of an Information System, an owner of an internet website or a web server, and a User fail to abide by the provision of these rules, the PTA may issue directions to have the entire service/website, or any services provided by such Service Providers owned or managed by the said Service Providers or Social Media Company blocked.
Social Media Companies and Service Providers are to deploy appropriate mechanisms for the identification of Online Content as specified in the rules (a Service Provider and a 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 the transmission, and select or modify the information contained in the transmission).
The rules will also be applied to internet service providers, and all the companies and providers have been instructed to restrict content that is against the security, prestige, and defense of the country.
It is currently unclear how companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Whatsapp will respond to these rules. None of these tech giants have offices in Pakistan and apparently have no plans to establish their offices here either. In such a case, their services risk being blockaded in Pakistan.