Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Govt to Establish Digital Rights Protection Authority to Oversee Social Media

Pakistan is poised to unveil a novel regulatory body, the Digital Rights Protection Authority (DRPA), aimed at overseeing social media platforms.

The move, perceived by many as a potential constraint on freedom of expression in online spaces, has sparked heated debate.

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According to reports, the government is set to establish the DRPA to regulate social media networks. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has reportedly greenlit the final version of the legislation, allowing amendments to the PECA Act 2016 for its formation.

Read: Federal Govt Establishes National Cyber Crime Investigation Agency (NCCIA)

A document endorsed by the cabinet's law reforms committee outlines the rationale behind the creation of the DRPA. It highlights the need to address the evolving digital landscape's vulnerabilities, emphasizing the authority's role in safeguarding citizens' digital rights and ensuring online safety.

The proposed DRPA, with its headquarters slated for Islamabad, will be entrusted with a multifaceted mandate. Its responsibilities range from advising the government on digital rights issues to promoting education on online safety and responsible internet usage. Moreover, the authority aims to foster collaboration with social media platforms to enforce regulatory compliance and cultivate a positive digital ecosystem.

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Among its key functions, the DRPA will regulate online content, investigate violations, and prosecute offenders. It will possess the authority to summon individuals for testimony, issue directives, and formulate rules to uphold digital rights laws.

The draft PECA (Amendment) Bill, 2024, has undergone scrutiny by the Ministry of Law & Justice and the Ministry of Finance. Once tabled before Parliament, the bill seeks to amend the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, in alignment with the DRPA's establishment.

Critics express concerns over the potential ramifications of the DRPA's expansive powers, particularly regarding its oversight of online content and legal actions against violators. However, proponents argue that the authority is crucial for creating a secure digital environment while safeguarding fundamental rights in the online sphere.

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