Internet giants, Facebook, Google, and Twitter have joined hands and threatened to leave Pakistan as the country grants power to local regulators to censor digital content.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has recently given a go signal to PTA (Pakistan Telecommunication Authority) to block and remove any content that holds a threat to “harms, intimidates, and disaffection” towards the Government. In other words, any content that is against the integrity, security, and defense of Pakistan will be removed and blocked.
Tech firms have said they were “alarmed” by a group called AIC (Asia Internet Coalition). This is not the first time these three tech giants have voiced their concern over the rules and regulations applied by Pakistan. Similar concerns were expressed earlier this year in February as well.
“The draconian data localization requirements will damage the ability of people to access free and open internet and shut Pakistan’s digital economy off from the rest of the world. It’s chilling to see the PTA’s powers expanded, allowing them to force social media companies to violate established human rights norms on privacy and freedom of expression,” the group said in a statement.
“The Rules would make it extremely difficult for AIC Members to make their services available to Pakistani users and businesses. If Pakistan wants to be an attractive destination for technology investment and realize its goal of digital transformation, we urge the Government to work with industry on practical, clear rules that protect the benefits of the internet and keep people safe from harm.”
Under this new law, the tech companies that do not remove or block the reported content within 24 hours of notice from the Pakistan Government will face a fine of up to $3.14 million. Pakistan has also requested for establishing local offices of these companies inside Pakistan.
Pakistan has about 75 million internet users in the country.
Interestingly Pakistan’s neighbor India has also proposed similar laws in recent years but has escaped getting any concern from these companies amid the huge internet population in the country that orchestrates a huge advertising revenue. India is a big market for Google and Facebook.