Pakistan to Establish Digital Rights Protection Authority to Regulate Social Media

Pakistan is poised to introduce a new regulatory body, the Digital Rights Protection Authority (DRPA), aimed at overseeing social media platforms, a move that has sparked concerns about potential curtailment of freedom of expression online.

According to reports, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has greenlit the final draft of the legislation to establish the DRPA, allowing amendments to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016. The proposed authority will operate under the umbrella of PECA 2016, focusing on addressing evolving digital challenges and safeguarding digital rights.

The DRPA, headquartered in Islamabad, is envisioned as a pivotal entity responsible for protecting citizens’ digital rights and ensuring online safety. Its mandate encompasses a range of functions, including advising the government on digital rights matters, promoting education on online safety, and fostering a positive digital ecosystem in collaboration with social media platforms.

One of the key responsibilities of the DRPA will be to regulate online content, investigate violations of digital rights laws, and prosecute offenders. The authority will have the power to subpoena individuals for testimony, issue directives, and enter into agreements to enforce regulations effectively.

Moreover, the DRPA will facilitate collaboration with social media platforms to ensure compliance with regulations and promote responsible internet use. By regulating online content and investigating violations, the authority aims to create a safe and trusted digital environment conducive to fostering freedom of expression while safeguarding fundamental rights.

The draft PECA (Amendment) Bill, 2024, has undergone scrutiny by the Ministry of Law and Justice and is slated to be presented in Parliament soon. This legislative initiative underscores the government’s commitment to addressing emerging digital challenges and protecting citizens’ digital rights in an increasingly digitized world.

The establishment of the DRPA represents a significant step towards enhancing digital governance and ensuring accountability in the digital sphere. By institutionalizing mechanisms for regulating social media platforms and protecting digital rights, Pakistan seeks to strike a balance between promoting online freedom of expression and mitigating risks associated with online vulnerabilities.

As part of its mandate, the DRPA will work towards promoting user safety, fostering responsible internet use, and combating cyber threats. Through proactive measures and collaboration with relevant stakeholders, the authority aims to create a secure and inclusive digital environment that upholds the principles of freedom of expression and privacy rights.

The establishment of the Digital Rights Protection Authority marks a pivotal development in Pakistan’s digital landscape, signaling the government’s commitment to safeguarding citizens’ digital rights while promoting responsible digital citizenship. As the digital realm continues to evolve, the DRPA will play a crucial role in ensuring that Pakistan’s digital ecosystem remains safe, secure, and conducive to fostering innovation and growth.