The Federal government has directed the provincial government to ban social networking websites [including Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook and YouTube] in government offices. The federal government is concerned about leakages of confidential letters and cyberattacks by foreign intelligence agencies.
Reportedly, a letter was issued by the National Telecom and Information Technology Security Board, Cabinet Division and Government of Pakistan. It is titled as ‘Ban on use of WhatsApp and likewise means for sharing of official letter and Information’.
Sindh government is also considering banning social media apps for government servants.
“It has been reported that hostile intelligence agencies have developed technical capabilities and means to gain access to sensitive information stored in mobile phones of officials of government departments, institutions, and ministers in the country,” the letter reads.
“These spyware companies are using hacking softwares and applications such as Chat Line and Pegasus malware on WhatsApp account of target mobile phones to gain access to sensitive information. This Pegasus malware has infected approximately 1400 senior government and military officials in twenty countries including Pakistan,” it further reads.
In respect to the threat, the government is planning to ban the usage of social media apps for government employees. Senior officials usually have sensitive information about the country.
IT board recommended ban on social media
Moreover, last year in November, similar ban was imposed for the usage of social media in government offices.
In a briefing to the National Assembly, the IT board advised that a separate authority be set up to combat the spread of fake news. The technology board also said that government employees spent a lot of their office time on social websites. They even conduct part-time business on them.
In order to stop this practice, the committee was informed that a new local social network would be introduced into govt offices to streamline communications.
Govt app will replace the use of third party services [such as WhatsApp or Messenger] after its development for government employees. However, no action has yet been taken against the practice.
Pakistani government new social media rule
Furthermore, recently, the government has approved new rules for regulating cyberspace to prevent hate speech.
Under regulations that were approved by the cabinet said that social media companies will be obliged to help law enforcement agencies access data and to remove online content deemed unlawful.
The new rules on social media are intended to prevent live streaming of online content relating to terrorism, extremism, hate speech, defamation, fake news, incitement to violence and national security.
Social media companies will be obliged within 24 hours to respond to a request to remove ‘unlawful’ material. They will have three months to register with authorities in Pakistan and must have a physical presence in the country.