With the passage of Citizens Protection Rules (Against Online Harm), Pakistan’s government envisaged exercising significant influence on tech giants like Facebook, Google, Twitter and others.
However, the joint response from Asian Internet Coalition (AIC) might have rattled the Pakistani government as they have threatened to abandon their services in Pakistan, sending 70 million internet users into digital darkness.
While tech companies claim that they are not against the regulation of social media in order to curb spread of fake news, the way in which these regulations have been enacted has made AIC members re-evaluate their willingness to operate in Pakistan.
Tech companies have communicated their apprehensions through a collective letter to the Prime Minister, Imran Khan.
The letter terms the latest set of regulations as vague and arbitrary in nature and in contradiction to the Prime Minister’s vision of digital Pakistan.
These regulations oppose the stance of the Pakistani government that it is open for business and investment opportunities. These rules, if not revoked, can cripple an already struggling Pakistani economy.
The letter states:
In fact, the rules as currently written would make it extremely difficult for AIC Members to make their services available to Pakistani users and businesses.
Tech companies claim that the Pakistani government wants them to deviate from established human rights practices regarding freedom and expression and user privacy.
AIC members have repudiated perception found within Pakistan’s government that other countries have either enacted similar regulations or are holding deliberations to pass similar laws.
The letter refers to Vietnam’s cybersecurity laws and United Kingdom’s Online Harms White Paper.
Although Vietnam’s Parliament had passed digital media regulations in 2018, the Cyber Security Laws are yet to become effective in the country. As for the UK, Johnson’s government has clarified on February 20 that new rules will never disregard the right to freedom of expression under the pretense of digital media regulations.
The letter concludes as:
We urge the Government of Pakistan to consider the potential consequences of the Rules in order to prevent unexpected negative impacts on Pakistan’s economy. We hope to have the opportunity to share more detailed feedback with the Government of Pakistan in the near future.
AIC is an association that seeks to promote the understanding and resolution of internet policy issues in the Asia Pacific region.
Apple, Facebook, Google, Airbnb, LinkedIn, Yahoo, and Amazon are all members of the AIC.
Via: New York Times