The meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication was held on Monday at Parliament House. The issues taken up pertained to imposition of ban on Social Media applications in Pakistan and Follow up current status of the child abuse for filming and uploading videos on dark-web with reference to the case reported in Rawat, Rawalpindi; as directed by the Committee in its meeting held on 25 November, 2019.
Chaired by Senator Rubina Khalid, the members present included Senator Kulsoom Parveen, Senator Taj Muhammad Afridi, Senator Fida Muhammad, Senator Faisal Javed, Senator Muhammad Khalid Bizenjo, Senator Mian Muhammad Ateeq Shaikh and senior officers from Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications, PTA, Punjab Police (Rawalpindi) and FIA.
The meeting commenced with discussion on the Point of Public Importance raised by Senator Mian Muhammad Ateeq Shaikh regarding problems being faced by IT Professionals and Investors due to the non-serious attitude of the Government. The Mover, Senator Mian Muhammad Ateeq Shaikh, stressed the need for a detailed response in writing adding that without that any further discussion on the subject would be futile. The matter will be taken up in the next meeting.
Deliberating over imposition of ban on Social Media applications in Pakistan, the Committee was informed that under Section 37 of the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act, PTA has been empowered to remove or block / removal of unlawful online content if it considers it necessary in the interest of Defence of Pakistan, Glory of Islam, Contempt of Court, Decency and Morality, Defamation, Child Pornography, Modesty of Natural Person, Dignity of Natural Person, Public Order, Hate Speech, Incitement to an offence etc.
To meet the given mandate, PTA has devised a Standard Operating Procedure for lodging complaints. According to SOPs an online portal is provided to stakeholder organizations to lodge complaints according to their domain /scope of work. Currently there are 34 stakeholders including ISI, FIA, IB, Provincial Home Departments, Provincial Counter Terrorism Departments, MORA, MOFA, Mol, etc. using the said Portal.
PTA has published an email address in all major newspaper of the country. Any person can lodge complaint regarding objectionable content over internet. In addition, the complaints are received via CMS (Complaint Management System). A person who is aggrieved due to presence of any content over internet can approach PTA via fax, email or conventional email for removal of alleged content. The complaints are analysed and processed. If the reported URL is hosted on an unsecured platform, it is blocked locally through local ISPs. If the URL is hosted on a secured platform then administration of concerned website is requested to remove the unlawful content.
As far as blocking of applications is concerned it is submitted that PTA has blocked only two applications i.e. PUBG and BIGO since promulgation of PECA 2016. PUBG was banned due to due to complaints from public regarding its negative impact on physical and psychological health of the young individuals in addition to the reports of suicides associated with teh said game. BIGO was blocked due to complaints of indecent material present on the platform. Both the applications were unblocked after assurance from the said platforms to respect local laws of Pakistan. In addition to blocking unlawful content, PTA has taken several steps in order to educate the general public w.r.t. uploading or sharing any unlawful content on internet and social media. There is a hearing of the case in court tomorrow.
The Committee was of the view that blocking websites and applications is not the answer to curb immorality; regulations need to put in place to achieve this goal.
Regarding the follow-up on current status of the child abuse for filming and uploading videos on dark-web with reference to the case reported in Rawat, Rawalpindi; the Committee was informed that on conducting digital forensics analysis it was revealed that three potential applications Tor, Duck-Duck GO and Super VPN are found but no activity or links leading to dark-web. Access to banned websites and purchase of drugs via email was found. Medical tests of the three main victims show traces of drugs.