October 24th, 2020

Bureau Report


LAHORE

A coalition of big technology companies has reiterated its concerns and objections to the recently ratified social media rules saying the lack of transparency in its formulation was causing international companies to re-evaluate their view of the regulatory environment in Pakistan, as well as their willingness to operate in the country.

In a statement on October 23, the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), a coalition of big technology companies, said member companies object to the process through which the ‘Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules’, formerly known as the ‘Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules’, were formulated. The AIC represents Airbnb, Amazon, Apple, Cloudflare, Expedia Group, Facebook, Google, SAP, Grab, LinkedIn, LINE, Rakuten, Twitter and Yahoo (Verizon Media), and Booking.com.

The coalition said the lack of transparency conflicts with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s February statement that urged the consultation committee to “undertake extensive and broad-based consultation” with all relevant stakeholders.

The AIC members have invested significantly in supporting public health, digital literacy, and economic growth in the country. “However, this process calls into question the government’s commitment to public-private dialogue that is needed to realise Pakistan’s digital policy goals,” the coalition said.

The AIC and its members are committed to helping Pakistan realize its digital economy ambitions, the statement said. The AIC said it was also causing international companies to re-evaluate their view of the regulatory environment in Pakistan, as well as their willingness to operate in the country.

“We strongly urge the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication to reconsider its approach in working with Industry and to adopt policy approaches that will support, not impede, the growth of Pakistan’s digital economy,” the statement said. The AIC requested that the Ministry release the latest version of the rules. “We also request that the Government hold the ‘extensive and broad-based consultation process’ that the Prime Minister himself called for,” the AIC statement said.

On October 6, the AIC had written a letter to the Prime Minister, voicing concern over the lack of consultation with industry stakeholders about the social media rules. It said that despite multiple requests, no draft of the revised Rules had been shared with the coalition.

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