550 FIRs lodged against social media misuse in last two years

* Lawmakers say those spreading propaganda against state and misusing social media to harm their opponents should be taken to task

ISLAMABAD: A legislative body of Upper House of parliament was Tuesday told that a total of 550 first information reports (FIRs) had been lodged against misuse of social media during the last two years.

The information was shared during a meeting of Senate’s Standing Committee on Interior held at the Parliament House, with Senator Rehman Malik in the chair.

During the course of the meeting, lawmakers noted that there was a dire need to regulate social media in such a manner that it couldn’t hurt others through misuse and couldn’t do harm to anyone’s respect in the society.

Under the 2016 Act, a person found guilty of misusing social media could be punished for a time period of three to seven years.

“None of us is in favour of curtailing the use of social media but this liberty should not be used as a pretext to hurt others,” said Malik, adding that those who were spreading propaganda against the state and were using the platform to harm their opponents should be taken to task.

Senator Malik directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to coordinate efforts for curbing disinformation and derogatory remarks on social media. He said that a focal person – not less than the rank of assistant director – each from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the PTA be deputed at FIA Cyber Crime Wing for better coordination against cybercrimes.

He said that an advertisement should be aired on all television channels, warning users against spreading hate and abusive materials on social media and appealed to the people to report disinformation, derogatory remarks, humiliation and blasphemy materials on social media to the PTA.

The committee tasked the UAE ambassador of Pakistan to garner the information about mechanism adopted by UAE for social media regulation and share it with the telecommunication authority.

The chairman further directed to PTA and the FIA proceed with the cases in which social media users were not cooperating and hold a joint meeting to discuss and solve the legal matters for better cooperation.

Briefing the committee, the FIA Cyber Crime Cell director said that the person who uploaded the picture of the grave as a symbol of a candidate on Twitter had been identified as Zia-Ur-Rehman and that the FIA had sought details of the IP address from Twitter to arrest the culprit.

It was shared that the FIA had also written to a private newspaper seeking information about the pictures of an animal used to humiliate a political leader but so far FIA had received no reply.

Senator Muhammad Talha Mahmood shared with the committee that a newspaper was allegedly involved in blackmailing and spreading false news against him. He said that the culprit had a fake degree from Allama Iqbal Open University, adding that the varsity had asked the FIA to investigate the matter but the authority was reluctant to take action against him and his newspaper. To this, Malik directed the FIA to investigate the matter and submit a report to the committee.

The committee also expressed sorrow over the killing of PTI candidate Ikramullah Gandapur and PPP worker Yasir Kalhoro in two separate terror attacks and sought a report on the incidents.

The chairman observed that it was a collective wish of every Pakistani that the election process and the environment across the country stay peaceful but unfortunately anti-state agents were trying to sabotage the peaceful environment.

Those attended meeting included senators Muhammad Talha Mehmood, Kalsoom Parveen, Muhammad Ateeq Shaikh, PEMRA chairman and officials from the Ministry of Law and Justice.

Published in Daily Times, July 25th 2018.