Pakistan's Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication has new rules for social media platforms, which are aimed at regulating them in the country. The federal government's new set of rules are required to open permanent offices in Pakistan, which many social media giants have been reluctant to in the past.

As per the amendments to social media rules in Pakistan, social media companies must:

  1. Register with PTA within three months
  2. Establish an office in Pakistan "as and when feasible" — instead of nine months as required previously
  3. Remove or block access to online content in 48 hours instead of 24 hours

The new rules "Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules, 2021" have been framed under Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (Peca), 2016.

Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram

"Under the amended rules, Pakistani users will have the full right to freedom of expression under Article 19 [of the Constitution]," IT and Telecom Minister Aminul Haque said, adding that live streaming of extremist, terrorist, hateful, obscene and violent content would be banned. The rules apply to all social media platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, Twitter and Google.

As per the new rules, social media companies would be required to establish offices in PAK, preferably in Islamabad and appoint an authorised compliance officer and a grievance officer.

Upon failing to comply with PTA's request to block content, social media companies may attract of up to Rs 500 million.

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New rules draw backlash

The new rules have sparked outrage from activists, including The Internet Service Providers of Pakistan (ISPAK) and the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC). Tech companies had also threatened to discontinue their services in Pakistan if the rules were not amended.

"The Asia Internet Coalition and its member companies are disappointed with the proposed revisions," The Dawn quoted AIC Managing Director Jeff Paine as saying.