The Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), established in 2010 and comprising major regional and global players, including Amazon, Airbnb, Apple, Facebook, Grab, Google and Linkedin, has condemned the lack of transparency in Pakistan’s new policy for removing internet content.
Pakistan has replaced its former ‘Citizen Protection against Online Harm Rules’ with the ‘Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Content (Procedure, Oversight, and Safeguards) Rules’.
AIC says that sufficient public-private consultation was not undertaken, in spite of the Prime Minister’s commitment earlier in the year to “undertake extensive and broad-based consultation” with all relevant stakeholders.
How to govern the digital realm is a contentious question at the core of many social challenges, from containing COVID-19, to managing civil polarisation and protests, and running trustworthy elections.
Various interests are at stake, and public welfare is often the stated premise for policy changes, but is it really the driver? Transparency is crucial if civil society is going to play a role in co-creating our digital future. However, this call for transparency comes from a business coalition seeking to maximise short-term profit rather than to create lasting shared value for society.
Nonetheless, how policy is as important to its social impact as which policies are made. Whatever the AIC’s intentions, the demand for more transparent and collaborative policy-making processes is one all democracies should heed for socially sustainable outcomes.