Pakistan’s Top Rights Group Opposes Social Media Ban

Pakistan's top human rights organization, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

Pakistan’s top human rights organization, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

Pakistan’s top human rights organization, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), has firmly rejected a proposal in the Pakistani Senate to completely ban popular social media websites like Facebook, TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. The HRCP has warned the senators that such restrictive measures that violate people’s basic right to free expression would be damaging to democracy.

Asad Iqbal Butt, the chairperson of HRCP, said the proposed resolution calling for a social media ban makes no sense and is impossible to implement properly. He pointed out the contradictory situation where political parties, lawmakers, government bodies and officials have been using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to bypass restrictions and access the platform X (previously Twitter) since it was blocked in Pakistan on February 17th.

Social Media Benefits People

Mr. Butt explained that access to social media has helped ordinary citizens in earning money, holding powerful people accountable, and sharing information. He said attempting to completely restrict these digital spaces demonstrates a lack of understanding about how modern democracies and economies operate in today’s connected world.

The HRCP chief urged Pakistan’s Senate to prioritize addressing genuine challenges faced by the country’s youth, such as lack of job opportunities, difficulties in getting an education, and the widespread issue of misogyny (hatred/disrespect towards women). Instead of trying to act as “thought police”, the senators should focus on real problems impacting the nation’s young people.

Regulate, Don’t Ban

The rights group stated that if there is a need to regulate social media to curb hate speech and calls for violence against women, minorities and ethnic groups, it should be done transparently and with agreement from civil society groups. Arbitrary restrictions like a blanket ban on all VPNs should be avoided.  

The HRCP has demanded that platform X (previously Twitter) must be restored and made accessible again in Pakistan immediately. It has also called upon civil society organizations and digital rights activists to unite and mobilize against any attempts to impose excessive, arbitrary restrictions on social media and internet access.

Economic Impact of Shutdowns

Past incidents of internet shutdowns and blockades have severely hurt Pakistan’s economy. For example, after the arrest of former prime minister Imran Khan last year, digital payment transactions declined by around 50% due to internet disruptions, according to major payment operators. The Internet Society has warned that temporarily shutting down the internet, whether nationally or regionally, has become an increasingly common tactic by governments to quell civil unrest, control the spread of misinformation or gain strategic advantages in conflict zones.

Pakistan’s top human rights watchdog has strongly opposed calls for banning social media platforms, highlighting the benefits of digital freedoms and advocating for transparent regulations instead of excessive curbs. It has urged the Senate to prioritize real issues impacting the country’s youth rather than attempting to Police people’s thoughts online.

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