The Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunications recommended the government for initiating an agreement with Twitter management for sharing information of fake accounts and block consequently and in case of non-cooperation warning may be issued for stopping from working in Pakistan.
The parliamentary panel met with Rubina Khalid in the chair here on Wednesday. While discussing the matter of theft of data from NADRA database for registration of SIM cards on fake credentials, use of illegal exchanges in the country, the committee was not satisfied with the response given by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and observed that despite new biometric systems and better surveillance, the issue is far from resolution.
PTA stated that no incident regarding system misuse/bypass has been reported so far but admitted that the cases related to illegal issuance of SIMs against thumb/finger impression of innocent/ignorant people/villagers enticing them against meagre incentives have been reported. All such cases are referred to FIA after preliminary investigation/ analyses for further probe and taking appropriate action.
PTA officials informed the panel that a security system has been put in place for the issuance of SIMs. All the outlets had been issued biometric systems for the issuance of SIMs. The officials said that keeping in view the security situation, the live biometric system had been replaced with the old one.
Government to Initiate Agreement with Twitter
The members of the committee, including chairperson expressed their reservations on the working of PTA. “What kind of regulatory authority is PTA, why you are not ensuring security at the time of issuance of SIMs. Whether your only duty is to issue licences? You have to reply to the questions being asked by the members of the Parliament” she observed.
The ministry was directed to hold a meeting with the inclusion of PTA, FIA and NADRA and report to the Committee within a week.
PTA officials said that the Authority always took strict action on the complaints of individuals. The Chairperson also took notice of incidents of breach of privacy of citizens and said that it was unfortunate that two girls namely Hareem Shah and Sundal Khattak had become top trend in Twitter.
According to PTA, it has processed over a hundred videos containing unlawful content for removal and over 90 percent content was removed by TikTok. PTA has been ranked number one government entity in terms of overall complainant satisfaction on Pakistan Citizen Portal (PCP). With a complaint resolution rate of 94%, PTA is amongst the top ten government entities with successful resolution of complaints on PCP.
PTA apprised the Committee that Twitter was not cooperating in closing down the fake accounts being operated with various names. Senator Rehman Malik said that the twitter management should be asked to close the fake accounts and if does not happen then PTA should issue warning that twitter would be stopped from working in Pakistan.
The committee recommended the government for initiating an agreement with Twitter management so that information on fake accounts can be shared and they are blocked consequently and for identifying accounts that are involved in defamation and harassment.
The chairperson raised question about the fake Twitter account being operated with the name of Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan. The member of the PTA said, “We have made a request to twitter for closing fake accounts operating with the fake Names, but unfortunately, it is not cooperating with us”. He said however one fake account operating with name of Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan had been closed down.
Malik asked PTA to send a delegation to the Twitter headquarters for conveying the concerns of Pakistan about fake accounts with various names. He further said that the twitter management should be asked to close the fake accounts and if does not happen then PTA should issue warning that twitter would be stopped from working in Pakistan.
Malik said action of the two girls to breach privacy should be considered a cyber crime. Senator Faisal Javed said privacy of an individual should not be breached. “Disturbing of privacy of any individual should be discouraged. FIA and cyber crime is not implementing the laws. “
The Committee also directed PTA to refer the case of use of derogatory remarks and character assassination of Dua Mangi by social media users to FIA and make it an example by identifying the people involved and giving them strict punishment for offence under section 21 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016.
According to PTA it has not received any direct complaint from the aggrieved person for initiating action under PECA however based on the information shared through the Senate secretariat, PTA identified 17 URLs containing the content maligning the modesty and character of young girl Dua Mangi. The same have been processed for blocking under section 20 of PECA as the URLs contain explicit comments w.r.t. moral character attire and general reputation of the victim. These include 16 facebook and one twitter URLs.
The Committee expressed displeasure over taking the PTA rules to the cabinet without consulting the committee despite its earlier directions and directed to bring the rules to the committee. The briefing on Digital Pakistan Program was deferred and it was decided that all stakeholders who have worked on the program shall be called simultaneously to get an all-encompassing briefing.
The meeting was attended among others by Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo, Kalsoom Parveen, Abdur Rehman Malik, Dr. Ashok Kumar, Taj Muhammad Afridi, Dr. Shehzad Waseem, Faisal Javed Khan, Secretary IT&T, Additional Secretary IT&T, Member PTA, Director Cyber Crimes FIA, Member IT and officials from the ministry.