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Monday Mar 02 2020
Web Desk

PTA boss says no mechanism available to stop fake news, anti-state propaganda

Web Desk

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Chairperson Amir Azeem Bajwa said Monday there was no mechanism available to stop the fake news and anti-state propaganda on social media.

Speaking at a meeting of the NA Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication, Bajwa said: "The social media platforms do not have their offices here and neither do they give any explanation for their non-cooperation."

Committee Chairperson Ali Khan Jadoon presided over the meeting, which was attended by Naz Baloch, Makhdoom Zain Hussain Qureshi, and Muhammad Hashim Notezai, among others.

The PTA chair continued, saying that if social media giants such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google cooperated with Pakistan, "then we can track down the IP address from where the fake accounts are being created".

'National coordinator'

He criticised the social media platforms over their slow response, noting that the companies took time "to remove child pornography and anti-state content".

"After consultations with the [relevant] stakeholders, a national coordinator will be appointed," he said.

Also read: Social media companies threaten suspension over Pakistan's new social media laws

IT & Telecommunication Secretary Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui, on the other hand, informed the committee that there existed no system to monitor social media.

"No technology has been made to keep a check on social media," Siddiqui said, adding that the regularisation could only help keep a check and balance on the platform.

Banning 'not the solution'

"The social media companies will be responsible to remove the content that is insulting and that goes against the state and its culture," he added.

Jadoon reminded the committee that Google and Facebook had threatened to shut down their services, while Notezai said: "Banning social media is not the solution.

Related: Digital rights group terms govt's call for consultation a 'token'

"It will further intensify the matter," he added.

Late last month, the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) — which comprises global digital media giants — had banded together against the Pakistani government's newly-introduced social media rules, threatening to suspend services if the laws were not amended.

Facebook, Twitter, Google threaten suspension

In a scathing letter written to Prime Minister Imran Khan, the AIC — which includes Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple, Amazon, Airbnb, Line, LinkedIn, and Yahoo, among others — had said it was difficult for them to operate when such rules were in place.

"The rules as currently written would make it extremely difficult for AIC Members to make their services available to Pakistani users and businesses," the letter read, referring to the Citizens Protection Rules (Against Online Harm).

Read more: PTI's Shafqat Mahmood says government to revise social media laws

The new set of regulations makes it compulsory for social media companies to open offices in Islamabad, build data servers to store information, and take down content upon identification by authorities.

Failure to comply with the authorities in Pakistan will result in heavy fines and possibly the termination of services.