Online harm rules within legal scope

Online harm rules within legal scope, Tech firms demands.

The Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), an industry association that comprises of social leading internet and technology companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon, AirBnb, Apple, Booking.com, Expedia Group, Grab, LinkedIn, LINE, Rakuten, and Yahoo are all worth mentioning.

In May, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) uploaded a survey questionnaire on their website to achieve input from the public and relevant stakeholders for refining the suspended rules.

Meetings were held on separate consultation with the media and civil society , amid a boycott by human rights groups who denied to take part in the review process until the rules were nullify.

AIC appreciated that the federal government, through multiple public statements, had committed that the rules stood suspended, while AIC’s  in its submission to the PTA, “However, given that the rules were framed by the Federal Cabinet, we request that the rules formally be withdrawn through the same process to allow for a constructive multi-stakeholder consultation,” it said.

On several proposed draft policies, The AIC has actively teamed up with the Pakistan government, such as the Draft Data Protection Bill 2020, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority Regulation on Web TV and Over the Top TV as well as Pakistan’s Digital Taxation Framework, to which it has submitted recommendations.

It has also encouraged the PTA to ensure that any rules adhere closely to their parent legislation.

It also noted that a responsibility to issue fake news corrections was beyond the scope of powers granted in Peca. The Peca does not focus the creation of entirely new categories of unlawful content through delegated legislation such as the rules.

The tech firms encouraged the PTA to frame the rules specifically in relation to the matters specified in Section 37 (2) of Peca, 2016.

In addition, AIC said: “We note that these crucial elements were completely absent in the previously published version of the rules and hope that the PTA takes this opportunity to address this omission,” 

Besides publishing a survey questionnaire, the digital firms stiffly  recommended that the PTA and the government put in place a comprehensive framework for the consultation, including a paper or exposure draft that should contain details on the government’s proposed regulatory approach.

AIC further said: “A consultation paper should seek extensive public policy input, which will inform the development of a holistic public policy approach to deal with the issues at hand, and if needed, ask about and inform the contours of any future additional regulatory or legislative framework”.

In the mean time, the PTA said it had received the AIC response and was presently reviewing it. “The consultation committee will engage the tech companies in the coming weeks and respects its genuine feedback,” the PTA added that the committee was allowing broad-based consultation on regulation matters.

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