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However, serious concerns were raised on stringent requirements provided under the said Rules with regard to the operation of social media companies, including, intermediaries and hosting companies, in Pakistan. As such, as per a statement issued by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority on 03 March 2020, the said rules have been suspended for the time being and the Government is likely to start a consultation process with all stakeholders.
The Rules, firstly, provided for the establishment of the office of National Co-Ordinator. The National Co-Ordinator so established would be assisted by a committee of stakeholders. The National Co-Ordinator was authorized to block unlawful online content and call for and acquire data or information from social media companies.
The term “Social Media Company” was defined to include “an entity that owns or manages Online Systems”. The term “Online Systems” was defined to include “Social Media Applications, OTTAs and any cloud-based content distribution services”.
The term “Social Media” was defined to include any social media application or service or communication channel dedicated to community-based input, interaction, content, sub content sharing and collaboration, and includes Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Youtube, Dailymotion, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Red.dit, TikTok and any other such application and service.
As per the new Rules, the social media companies were obligated to remove, suspend or disable access to online content within twenty-four hours upon receiving a written complaint either from Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, or from the National Co-Ordinator. However, in a case of emergency, the social media company would only have six hours to act upon such complaint.
The Social Media Companies were required to deploy proactive mechanisms to ensure prevention of live streaming through Online Systems in Pakistan of any content in violation of any law, rule, regulation for the time being in force, particularly, content relating to terrorism, extremism, hate speech, defamation, fake news, incitement to violence and national security.
Additionally, social media companies were required to:
Further, the social media companies were required to provide any information (including, subscriber information, traffic data and content data) or data or content or sub-content on any of its information systems in decrypted, readable and comprehensible format to the relevant authority.
Failure on the part of any Social Media Company to comply with the above requirements would have resulted in a complete block down of the entire Online System, Social Media Application or services or OTTA owned or managed or run by any such Social Media Company.
The Social Media Company would have the right to file a representation within two weeks of the date of its blocking before a committee constituted by the Federal Government and such Committee would be required to give its decision within three months. In case of non-compliance, the National Co-Ordinator may also impose a penalty up to five hundred million rupees on the social media company.
The Launch of 2020 Rules on Citizen Protection Against Online Harm in Pakistan
A new set of rules titled, Citizen Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020, under and pursuant to
the provisions of Pakistan Telecommunication
(Re-organisation) Act, 1996 and the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, were issued by the Federal Government on 13 February 2020.
Sana Shaikh joined the firm in July 2002 and has since then been primarily involved in matters related to intellectual property, corporate and commercial law. She advises corporate and individual clients on matters concerning maintenance and enforcement of IP rights (trademarks, copyrights, domain names, anti-counterfeiting and other emerging IP Rights). She has extensive experience of leading teams dedicated to maintain, protect and enforce IP rights (particularly, trademarks and copyrights) of specific clients belonging to sectors as diverse as confectionary, food and beverages, pharmaceuticals, tobacco, clothing, petroleum, and IT. She has also been involved with matters relating to corporate and commercial laws, including, mergers and acquisitions, anti-trust, corporate governance, cyber and media/advertising laws. She has also participated in contentious proceedings before the Trade Marks Registry and Copyright Board, and has also participated in litigation proceedings on various commercial and civil cases while assisting senior counsel in the various courts of Pakistan up to the High Court. She is enrolled as an advocate with the Sindh Bar Council and is a member of the Karachi Bar Association and Pakistan Industrial & Intellectual Property Rights Association. She is also a member of Asian Patent Attorneys Association and a member of International Trademarks Association and also a member of Inter-Pacific Bar Association.