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The Pakistan government has approved a set of rules to regulate social media in the country, under which companies will be obliged to disclose any information or data to a designated investigation agency when sought, and failure to abide by any of the provision will entail a fine of up to $3 million, it was reported on Thursday.

The information to be provided may include subscriber information, traffic data or content data, Dawn news said in a report.

Under the rules, social media platforms will be required to remove any ‘unlawful content’ pointed out to them in writing or electronically signed email within 24 hours, and in emergency cases within six hours.

The firms will have to establish registered offices with a physical address located in Islamabad within next three months and will also be required to appoint a Pakistan-based focal person for coordination with the relevant authorities within three months and establish one or more database servers in the country within 12 months to record and store data and online content.

Information Technology Secretary Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui told Dawn news on Wednesday that the rules were approved by the federal cabinet in its meeting on January 28 and opined that no fresh legislation was required.

Meanwhile, the secretary general of the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party Farhatullah Babar voiced concern over the framing of the rules “in an attempt to control the social media”.

He said that even if it was subordinate legislation, it did not conform to the main laws, adding that said these rules should have been brought to parliament under a ruling of the Senate chairman given in 2017.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz parliamentary leader in the Senate Mushahidullah Khan said the government did not believe in consultation, Dawn news reported.

He asked why it had been kept as a guarded secret for about two weeks if the rules had been passed by the cabinet on January 28.

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