The government is under fire over its new social media policy which opponents claim is an attempt to suppress dissident and the freedom of speech and expression. The fact that a democratic government is resorting to dictatorial tendencies and implementing such policies makes it even more discomforting.
Lawmakers are concerned that the new rules had bypassed parliament and relevant stakeholders were not taken into consideration. It emerged that the government has passed a contentious law to regulate digital media in a cabinet meeting. There are already strings attached to the mainstream media to suppress differing opinions. Social media was an open platform for such voices but state institutions were displeased and are now making efforts to silence them as well.
According to the new policy, social media companies will be required to submit user information such as subscriber information, traffic data, and content data to a designated investigation agency when required and will be fined heavily for failure to comply. The social media companies will also be required to set up their offices in Islamabad within three months and appoint a focal person.
It needs to be understood why this regulation is necessary. There is an already existing mechanism under which state authorities report controversial content to social media companies which are removed at their own discretion. These companies are not obliged to remove such content and may not comply while the government has not answered on how these companies will be held responsible.
The government said the rules are necessary to remove any blasphemous or offensive material. This is appreciated but apprehensions are being cast that this may be used for political purposes. These fears have been dismissed saying that the regulation is intended to protect citizens from harmful content. Social media is blamed for spreading disorder in society through hate speech, sexual abuse, and sectarian material and this corrupts the minds of the youth who are ardent social media users.
The government has brushed aside concerns that social media regulations are meant for political gains. This is unconvincing as the country has poor web and media controls, cybercrime laws, and such rules certainly would be misused. The government should not pass any laws or regulations which place curbs on the media, social media, or the internet. These technologies have changed the world and attempts to control them have failed. These new rules are like the last nail in the coffin of freedom of expression.
Do you want to read authentic news from Pakistan & across the world? So download MM News App Now !