Buckling under pressure from global Big Tech, the Government of Pakistan said that it will now hold "extensive and broad based consultation" on the social media rules that it notified on February 13. According to the government's statement on February 25, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) will undertake an "extensive and broad based consultation process with all relevant segments of civil society and technology companies". It is significant that the consultation is happening after the Rules have been notified, that is, put into effect. It is not clear how the consultation will help at this stage. We have reached out to the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication for comment. The New York Times first reported this development. This was done at the direction of Prime Minister Imran Khan. Called the Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020, the Rules called for content takedowns within 24 hours, take down of accounts of Pakistani citizens outside Pakistan for spreading fake news, labelling of false content, sharing information with the Investigation Agency, data localisation, mandating physical office in Pakistan, and appointment of a National Coordinator to oversee regulation of social media. Read a summary of the rules here. The American Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs tweeted that "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". This statement came after…
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