According to Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), Pakistan has still not shared the final draft of the suggested social media rules with group of internet and technology companies in Asia-Pacific region.

In a statement released on Friday, the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) called upon the ministry of information technology not to create any kind of hurdles in growth of digital economy in the country.

The statement by Jeff Paine, the AIC’s managing director, referred to the “Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules”.

“We urge the ministry of IT to adopt policy approaches that will support, and not impede, the growth of Pakistan’s digital economy,” Mr Paine said. “We request that the ministry release the latest version of its rules and hold extensive and broad-based consultations.”

Prime Minister Imran Khan had himself called for initiating such a process in February, the AIC recalled.

A senior official of the IT ministry said that the final version of “Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules 2020” was approved by the federal cabinet earlier this month, but it had yet to be notified.

The official added the fresh draft had addressed many concerns voiced by AIC, the media and civil society.

The federal cabinet had approved the new rules on Feb 11 this year, but after opposition from various quarters, including companies that manage social media platforms, the prime minister announced that a fresh consultation process would be launched over the Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules.

According to Nisar Ahmed, the former director general of Pakistan Telecommunications Authority, a number of meetings were held with the AIC to seek their comments over the rules, but their demand to share the final draft with them was turned down even at that time.

Mr Nisar said one of the main difference was that AIC wanted Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to hold direct meetings with the social media platforms and wasn’t taking any responsibility for the conduct of its members.

Members of the AIC are Airbnb, Amazon, Apple, Expedia Group, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, LINE, Rakuten, Twitter and Yahoo (Verizon Media).

Google and Facebook responded to an invitation sent by the committee for a meeting, but the management of Twitter did not reply to repeated requests for an online meeting.


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