Federal Government Approves E-Safety Authority Bill to Regulate Online Platforms
In a significant move to strengthen the monitoring of online content, the Federal Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, has given the green light to the E-Safety Authority Bill.
This bill aims to establish an E-Safety authority that will be responsible for overseeing online activities. The Ministry of IT has prepared the bill and forwarded it to the Federal Cabinet for approval.
Under the proposed legislation, a new authority will be formed with the specific task of registering and monitoring websites, web channels, and YouTube channels. Additionally, it will also have the authority to register and monitor news channels and newspaper websites.
The E-Safety Authority will be empowered to take action against websites spreading false news, including imposing fines and blocking access to such platforms.
The bill outlines the need to revise the existing Section 37 of the PICA Act for online monitoring, as it has been deemed inadequate in achieving its objectives. Consequently, the authority for web monitoring will be withdrawn from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).
Moreover, the powers granted to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) under the PICA Act are also considered insufficient.
The bill highlights the limitations of the social media rules established under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), stating that they have not been as effective as desired. PTA lacks the necessary access to block content on social media platforms.
Furthermore, the existing responsibilities for dealing with cybercrimes were assigned to the already burdened FIA, without forming a dedicated authority for the purpose.
The new E-Safety Authority will also be responsible for registering online news websites, limiting the powers of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA). Additionally, it will have the authority to decide on government policy-compliant advertisements for registered websites, web channels, and YouTube channels.
With the approval of the E-Safety Authority Bill, the government aims to enhance its monitoring and regulatory capabilities in the digital space, ensuring a safer and more accountable online environment.