A couple of days after the Pakistan government notified rules to define how social media will be governed in the country, global technology companies including Google, Facebook, Twitter have threatened to leave Pakistan.
In a statement, Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) said that the members of the coalition were "alarmed" at the "scope of Pakistan's new law targeting internet companies, as well as the government's opaque process by which these rules were developed." AIC represents Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, SAP, Yahoo, Grab, Rakuten, Line and CloudFlare and many other organizations.
"Under the new rules, social media companies shall provide the designated investigation agency with any information or data is decrypted, comprehensible format." The Dawn reported.
"The draconian data localization requirements will damage the ability of people to access free and open internet and shut Pakistan's digital economy off from the rest of the world. It's chilling to see the PTA's powers expanded, allowing them to force social media companies to violate established human rights norms on privacy and freedom of expression," AIC said in a statement.
"The Rules would make it extremely difficult for AIC Members to make their services available to Pakistani users and businesses. If Pakistan wants to be an attractive destination for technology investment and realize its goal of digital transformation, we urge the Government to work with industry on practical, clear rules that protect the benefits of the internet and keep people safe from harm." The group added.
Under the new law, if the tech companies fail to remove or block the unlawful content from their platforms within 24 hours of notice from Pakistani authorities will face a fine of up to $3.14 million. Pakistan now requires these tech companies to have local offices in the South Asian country.
The Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan has expressed concern over the new rules. "Such measures against online content will force some social media companies to leave Pakistan, leaving local users with less choice in terms of the applications and platforms they can access. The only platforms left would be those that provide censored and 'compliant' content. DRF said in a statement.
The new laws drew criticism from several users on social media.