Pakistan will require social media sites to “register”

Pakistan will require social media sites to "register"
Pakistan will require social media sites to "register"
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The absence of ministers from Senate sessions has been a recurring issue, prompting treasury senators and opposition members to demand action from the chairman during Friday’s proceedings. Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani acknowledged the matter and promised to raise it with the prime minister.

During Question Hour, PPP Senator Rubina Khalid raised concerns over the government’s apparent helplessness in addressing blasphemous and derogatory content on the internet. She revealed that the matter had been repeatedly discussed during meetings of the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology, and the responsibility of taking action against such content falls on the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

Minister of State for Law and Justice Shahadat Awan responded by assuring the Senate that online hate speech against any religion would be blocked immediately. He further elaborated that 35,000 Facebook pages, over 5,000 Twitter handles, and 5,800 YouTube accounts had already been blocked. The minister also informed the House that the government is drafting legislation to require social media platforms to register in Pakistan and established a National Social Working Committee for this purpose.

Awan revealed that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) had processed over 59,000 URLs related to sectarian or hate speech complaints on social media. Of these, 47,674 URLs had been blocked for hate speech until February. He also cited the PTA’s power under Section 37(1) of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (Peca) 2016 to remove or block access to information deemed necessary in the interest of Pakistan’s integrity, security, or defence.

The Senate session also saw the presentation of the Petroleum Act 1934 Amendment Bill 2022 and the Trade Disputes Resolution Bill 2023, both of which were referred to their respective standing committees. Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman spoke about the high cost of electrical vehicles in Pakistan and the lack of local manufacturing facilities or batteries. She noted that the government has formulated a policy for electrical two and three-wheelers and launched the “Protected Areas Initiative” to enhance the flora and fauna of 15 locations spanning 7,500 square kilometres.

The Senate session ended with an adjournment until Monday at 11 am. Following the sitting, Chairman Sanjrani contacted Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to express his concerns about the absence of ministers from Senate proceedings and urged their presence.

In conclusion, the Senate session covered a range of pressing issues, including online hate speech, social media regulation, climate change, and legislative matters. The absence of ministers from Senate sessions was a contentious matter, and Chairman Sanjrani promised to raise it with the prime minister. The proceedings reflect the Senate’s commitment to addressing critical challenges facing Pakistan and developing robust legislative solutions.

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