Reference to Facebook’s latest transparency report quoted in some media sections, it is stated that the report confirms Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s (PTA) efforts to protect social media and internet users from harmful content available online.
The PTA requests for content restriction were related to blasphemy, indecent, pornography, defamatory, impersonation, and anti-state content etc. PTA has been mandated to block/remove such unlawful content hosted on the internet under Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA 2016). Since these requests were also in accordance with Facebook’s community standards hence they were accepted by Facebook.
As far as fake news is concerned, both PTA and Facebook recognize that spread of fake news is a challenging and sensitive issue. PTA is proactively working to discourage fake news. Facebook is also working in various ways to reduce the spread of fake news including removing anonymous accounts and pages that spread fake news or propaganda.
Therefore, it is incorrect to assume on the basis of Facebook report that local laws were used to silence dissent or limit online freedom as mentioned in the media reports. PTA supports freedom of speech & expression as granted in the Constitution of Pakistan, in accordance with relevant laws.
Furthermore, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has shared its concerns with Freedom House regarding its report “Freedom on the Net: The Crisis of Social Media” which carries misinformation and inaccuracies. PTA does not endorse the contents of the report as it does not present the true picture of internet freedom in Pakistan.
Moreover, PTA hopes that Freedom House, in future, will review the findings of the report before publication and also seek opinion of PTA and other relevant stakeholders to make the report more credible.