DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – April 2023
A monthly report on trends relating to digital rights, policies, practices & media
Tracking: Internet and digital policies and regulations
Digitalization in governance and socio-economic domains
Digital rights violations and protections
Digital rights advocacy and defense
Digital media and online free speech
Vol. 4, No. 3 – March 2023 Edition
Produced by Freedom Network – www.fnpk.org
SECTION 1: Internet and digital policies and regulations
- Federal and provincial governments (ministries and departments)
- Internet regulators
- Media regulators
- Telecom regulators
- Internet access / connectivity
Date: April 7, 2023 – Source: The News
Telecommunication companies demanded of the federal government to enhance their subsidies over ongoing projects and an extension in the time-frame for provision of internet and telecommunication services to remote areas of Pakistan.
Date: April 8, 2023 – Source: The News
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has been rendered dysfunctional due to a delay in the selection of a candidate for the positon of the authority’s chairman after the tenure of its predecessor ended after January 2023.
Date: April 10, 2023 – Source: Dawn
Internet penetration in Pakistan has increased to 49 per cent, but almost half of its consumer market still uses 2G with an average download speed of 14.9 Mpbs versus the South Asian average download speed of 17.3 Mpbs. A 10 per cent increase in broadband penetration increases GDP by 1.38 per cent.
Date: April 25, 2023 – Source: Dawn
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is expected to enforce standards for all frequency-based telecommunication devices from next month. This would assist the rollout of next-generation 5G cellular technology and streamline reckless usage of radio-based equipment.
SECTION 2: Digital rights advocacy and defense
- Pakistan-based citizens and civil society organizations
- Independent international digital rights organizations
- UN and global multilateral organizations
- Governmental and other sources
Date: April 1, 2023 – Source: Dawn
The struggle is to create room for the majority in the virtual space dominated by technology companies and governments, argued digital rights activist Nighat Dad who participated in the United States Democracy Summit that Pakistan did not officially attend.
Date: April 20, 2023 – Source: The News
In a survey conducted by Gallup Pakistan, in which over 1,100 selected respondents took part, 31 per cent found it hard to ‘survive without a smartphone’ even for a single day. However, over 41 per cent respondents said that they could survive for a month sans smartphone.
SECTION 3: Digital rights violations and protections
- Citizens and netizens – including case studies
- Media, journalists and other information practitioners
- Online free speech
- Online access to information
- Privacy violations
- Data protection
- Misinformation / disinformation / fake news
PTI social media handler ‘back home’ after eight days in captivity
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) social media head Azhar Mashwani returned home after remaining in captivity for eight days. He went missing while travelling to meet the party’s chairman Imran Khan in a cab from his home.
Date: April 1, 2023 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)
The details of actions taken against ‘malicious and sectarian’ content on social media platforms were presented in the Senate. The upper house of the parliament was informed that 59,253 URLs based on objectionable content and 35,000 pages on Facebook were blocked.
PTI social media activist goes missing from Karachi
A Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) social media activist Muhammad Salman went missing after attending a protest against ‘enforced disappearances’ of his fellow party workers, as reported by family members to police officials.
Date: April 4, 2023 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers and workers staged a protest in Karachi against enforced disappearances and illegal detention of the party’s social media activists.
PPP’s digital media workers to counter ‘online forces of hate and chaos’
Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon urged workers of Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Digital Wing (DW) to present their point of view in a polite and dignified manner on social media platforms to discourage forces of ‘online hate and chaos’.
Google stops lending applications from accessing contacts, photos of Pakistani users
In an update to its Personal Loans policy, Google announced stricter guidelines for personal loan applications, barring them from accessing Pakistani users’ sensitive data such as photos and contacts.
TikTok takes down over 12 million videos from Pakistan in three months
TikTok – an online video sharing social networking service – removed over 12.68 million videos uploaded from Pakistan for violating their community guidelines in the last three months of 2022.
Date: April 26, 2023 – Source: Dawn
The Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to block a fake Twitter handle associated with Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and take action against those responsible for creating the handle.
SECTION 4: Digitalization
- Digitalization in governance sectors / e-governance
- Digitalization in social and development sectors
- Digitalization in business and commercial sectors
Date: April 20, 2023 – Source: Dawn
AIAV, a personalization engine created by Pakistani technology consulting firm AlphaVenture, has been on the crest of global the artificial intelligence (AI) wave. The tool adds a ‘context layer’ on top of ChatGPT, a generative large language model (LLM).
Google launches Application Growth Lab in Pakistan
Following the launch of the Gaming Growth Lab, Google announced it had launched the Application Growth Lab in Pakistan. With extensive education and support phases, the program will allow application developers to learn from Google experts.
OBJECTIVES: This series of monthly report aims to:
- Track developments revolving around the framework of digitalization in Pakistan including policy and advocacy on digital rights, policy enforcements and digital rights violations, covering viewpoints of government, civil society, human rights community including digital rights campaigners, media, citizen journalists and other information practitioners, and regulators of electronic media, internet and telecom sectors, and netizens.
- Monitor the interface between digital rights and Pakistan’s overall legal framework and how developments around them impact freedom of expression and access to information online as well as diversity and pluralism in Pakistan’s digital landscape, cyberspace and internet domains.
- Follow developments around the themes of digital rights, freedom of expression, access to information, privacy, surveillance, data protection, access to internet services, telecom policies, etc.
INFORMATION SOURCES: This report monitors, among others, the following sources of information:
- Government: Federal and provincial cabinets
- Ministries: Related ministries, including Information and Broadcasting, Information Technology (IT) and Telecom, Human Rights, Science and Technology, Commerce and Industry, etc.
- Legislatures: Senate, National Assembly, provincial assemblies, relevant standing committees
- Regulators: Pakistan telecommunications Authority (PTA), Pakistan Electronic Media regulatory Authority (PEMRA), Press Council of Pakistan (PPC), State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), etc.
- Global organizations: UN/Unesco, International Media Support (IMS), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW), etc.
- National organizations: Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), BoloBhi, Media Matters for Democracy (MMFD), Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA), Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), etc.
- Media: Dawn, The News, Express Tribune, The Nation, Pakistan Today, The Friday Times, etc.
- Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, etc.
- Local networks: Journalists Safety Hubs Network, Alliance on Diversity & Pluralism in Media, etc.
- Research groups: Gallup Pakistan, IPSOS Pakistan, etc.