Pakistan faces mutiny from international tech giants, threats of digital blackout

Pakistan faces mutiny from international tech giants, threats of digital blackout

ISLAMABAD - Facebook, Google, and Twitter have mutinied over the strict censorship rules due to be implemented by Pakistan and are threatening to leave the country altogether.

As reported by the New York Times link, the tech giants' anger is directed at Pakistan's Citizens Protection Rules (Against Online Harm), a recently-revealed set of tight censorship demands.

The rules link (.PDF), laid out by the government of Pakistan, would give local authorities the power to demand social media platforms remove any content they deem questionable within 24 hours. Pakistan has proposed the creation of a "National Coordinator" office to monitor these services.

In addition, social media platforms must provide a way to prevent the live streaming of "online content related to terrorism, extremism, hate speech, defamation, fake news, incitement to violence and national security."

Within three months of the new rules coming into play, companies such as Facebook and Twitter must also open up permanent offices in the country, establish one or more local servers to store data in Pakistan, and must also agree to "remove, suspend or disable access to such account, online content of citizens of Pakistan residing outside its territorial boundaries and posts on online content that are involved in spreading of fake news or defamation and violates or affects the religious, cultural, ethnic, or national security sensitivities of Pakistan."

The proposed rules also give the government the right to block a social network if they refuse to comply or impose fines of up to five hundred million rupees (approximately $6.9m).

Critics argue that such wide-reaching powers are designed to curb free speech and impose censorship, and it seems that Facebook, Twitter, and Google agree.

The organizations are part of the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), a trade association discussing issues of internet innovation and regulation in the region. In response to Pakistan's rules link, the organization said, "the rules as currently written would make it extremely difficult for AIC Members to make their services available to Pakistani users and businesses."