The global internet companies Facebook, Google and Twitter and others have banded together and threatened to leave Pakistan after the South Asian nation granted blanket powers to local regulators to censor digital content.
Through a group called the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), the tech firms said that they were “alarmed” by the scope of Pakistan’s new law targeting internet firms.” In addition to Facebook, Google and Twitter, AIC represents Apple, Amazon, LinkedIn, SAP, Expedia Group, Yahoo, Airbnb, Grab, Rakuten, Booking.com, Line and Cloudflare.
The Asia Internet Coalition said the “draconian data localization requirements will damage the ability of people to access a free and open internet and shut Pakistan’s digital economy off from the rest of the world.” It said the new rules will make it difficult for its members “to make their services available to Pakistani users and businesses.”
It added, “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 social media companies are required to remove or block any unlawful content from their websites within 24 hours after being reported by Pakistani authorities, under the new regulations.