Social media curbs setback to Pakistan, says Wells

KARACHI: United Sta­tes chief diplomat for South Asian affairs Alice Wells has termed the new restrictions on social media platforms in Pakistan a “setback” for freedom of expression and development of digital economy.

In a memo dated Jan 28, the federal cabinet approved the Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020, that outline extensive guidelines for social media companies on content regulation and engagement with Pakistan, including directives to establish a permanent office in the federal capital, record and store data within the national boundaries for citizen data privacy, and comply with government requests for removal of content irrespective of the company’s regulation policies.

“New restrictions on social media platforms in #Pakistan could be setback to freedom of expression & development of digital econ. Unfortunate if Pakis­tan discourages foreign investors & stifles domestic innovation in such a dynamic sector. Encourage discussion w/ stakeholders,” Alice Wells wrote in a tweet posted on the official account of the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs on Tuesday.

On Feb 15, the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) — a group of internet companies, including giants such as Facebook, Twitter and Google — wrote a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan, warning him that new rules to regulate social media activity would make it “extremely difficult” for digital companies to operate in Pakistan.