Tag Archives: Social Media

Pakistan’s Cyber Crime Bill Has Free Speech Advocates and Business Community Worried

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“The proposed Prevention of Electronic Crime Act 2015, in my opinion, is even worse than the one we advocated against during the Musharraf era.  The fact that the Ministry of IT&T felt the need to operate in complete secrecy over the past year clearly indicates the mindset with which this draft has been put together. P@SHA, ISPAK, legal cybercrime experts and civil society were not called in for a consultation.”
– Jehan Ara, President Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT and ITES (P@SHA)

Pakistan has a long history of suppressing the freedom of speech. Democratically elected governments have left the popular video site YouTube blocked since 2012. Twitter was blocked in the same year and in 2010 a court order forced government to block every social media site in the country on the pretext of preventing the distribution of blasphemous content.

Even with this background, the current government’s “Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2015” has civil society, business, the information technology sector, and the media deeply worried about the future of online freedom of speech and Pakistan’s information technology industries.

The proposed bill aims to rectify the lack of legislation pertaining to cyber-crime. While the government argues that the bill had undergone a public consultative process, stakeholders are of the view that since government has not shared the final version of the bill, it may contain clauses that will infringe upon the right to online speech. Representatives of Pakistan’s information technology sector have strongly criticized previous drafts of the bill.

“Just a quick look at the clauses and sections in this Act shows that very little thought went into its drafting,” said Jehan Ara, president of P@SHA. “The definitions are weak, the language is loose and vague and leaves much to interpretation, and it criminalizes all sorts of activities that do not even fall within the gambit of this Bill.”

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Social Media in Pakistan Helps Engage Youth in the Democratic Process

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In the recent elections, social media such as Facebook and Twitter were instrumental in engaging youth and bringing them out to vote. But the question remains: how can social media can help strengthen democracy in Pakistan?

Social media in Pakistan is an ever growing phenomenon. The editor of Dawn.com, Jehazeb Haq, recently compared Facebook to a virtual city competing with Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan with a population of 20 million and growing.

“Over prolonged periods of autocratic rule, the youth of the country was deliberately made apathetic. The revival of the political process happened at a time when social media had already arrived and started playing a central role in the lives of the connected youth. This medium was used to fullest extent prior to the 2013 elections to spread awareness about the imperatives of the democratic process, as a mobilization tool to garner support and canvassing of ideas and manifestoes by parties. Needless to say the youth was the vanguard of this new movement through the new media.” – Afia Salam, Member: IUCN Commission on Education & Communications

The power of social media in providing the right to speech has been limited, however, since 2010, when government attempted to ban many social media sites, resulting in an uproar from users and civil society groups. All past efforts by government to do so ultimately failed, resulting in access to social media sites being restored.

The only site that is still banned in Pakistan is YouTube, as the government says that it still makes blasphemous material accessible in the country. However, civil society organizations and youth groups are being vocal and have been advocating for restoring access to YouTube. Most of these efforts are done using social media.

CIPE Pakistan spoke to few key social media activists to get their views on the current state of social media in the country and how youth is using this medium.

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Voices in the Web – Creating E-Platforms for Socioeconomic Discourse

Dotun Olutoke's Photographby Dotun Olutoke, honorable mention in the CIPE 2013 Blog Competition. Read the rest of the winning entries here.

When I was younger, the riddles and jokes section of Kiddies magazine oozed out an aroma that satisfied my reading pleasure. Of all the riddles I read as a kid, one remains memorable to me. It goes thus:

I am something. I am a good servant but a dangerous master.

What am I?

Electricity – was the answer I got after moments of a brain-tussling exercise.

As I grow older in this information-driven age, the relevance of this riddle came to the fore when social networking platforms were used as a mobilization arena for people to  protest against the removal of fuel subsidy in the ‘wee-days’ of 2012, specifically January 2-3. What used to be a platform where people share pictures, post comments about events, and connect with friends metamorphosed into a potent tool for rallying Nigerians of different religious, political, and social inclinations.

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Social Media Supports Democracy in Pakistan

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The last five years of democratic government helped Pakistani citizens to understand the benefits of living in a democratic society. One of those benefits is the ability to speak up and sharing your point of view. Social media is certainly helping Pakistani citizens to raise their voices.

Historically, media in general and social media in particular has been gagged in Pakistan by successive governments. On October 3, 2013, the most recent attempt was made by Sindh’s provincial government when it talked about banning social media platforms such as Viber, What’sUp and Skype in the province on the pretext of terrorists using these platforms for their activities.

Civil society organizations including Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT and IT Related Services (P@SHA) together with social media users started campaign to protect their rights to access these platforms. Twitterraties  and Facebook users were at the forefront in condemning this move.

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Could Civic Crowdfunding Improve Governance in the Middle East?

(Photo: Twitter user csaila)

(Photo: Flickr user csaila)

Earlier this month, in an attempt to escape the heat wave afflicting Washington DC, I sought refuge on a bus awkwardly packed with well-dressed commuters. Almost all of the commuters were looking down, their palms glued to their gadgets, and their thumbs tapping into their virtual realities. I thought to myself: If only they would unplug themselves for a few minutes, pay attention to their immediate surroundings, and make room for more commuters entering the bus. What if there was an app for bus drivers to communicate with plugged-in commuters to move to the back of the bus?

Imagine a society in which citizens are as obsessed with their public spaces as they are with their smart phones. Instead of spending the five-minute bus ride going through friends’ Instagram uploads, commuters are checking the latest fundraising updates on the city’s bike-share system. Rather than liking someone’s photo on Facebook, commuters are donating $5 to a neighborhood association-backed project that renovates the sidewalks. In Kansas City, the online start-up Neighbor.ly is trying to turn this idea into a reality.

Neighbor.ly is a website that employs the business model known as crowdfunding – pooling money from the public – to obtain financial support for civic projects. Kickstarter and Indiegogo first popularized the idea by allowing musicians, engineers, designers, and artists to solicit money from the public for their creative works.

On Neighbor.ly, local governments and non-profit organizations have solicited tax deductible donations to build a playground, a website to help entrepreneurs navigate the application process to start new businesses, and a free Wi-Fi network for low-income houses. Donors’ credit cards will be charged only when the fundraising goal has been reached before the end of the campaign. In return for backing a project, the donors get small perks like free T-shirts and commemorative posters.

Civic crowdfunding is an innovative way to use technology to increase the efficiency, capacity, transparency, and accountability of governance. By engaging civic-minded individuals, websites like Neighbor.ly and Citizinvestor offer governments a helping hand from the people: money, expertise, and creative energy. They also allow the public to take ownership of civic projects and monitor the progress and delivery of local officials’ promises.

A pedestrian walkway in Holland that might have taken city hall two decades to complete got off the ground in three months. In the Middle East, where citizens face low taxes but rely on the bloated public sector for food and fuel subsidies, civic crowdfunding websites can serve as innovative mechanisms for accountable governance. Imagine if the millions of politically-engaged Egyptians used crowdfunding sites to improve their neighborhoods, pressure the government to be more transparent, and monitor the delivery of public services.

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Youth and the Social Media Landscape in Pakistan

Social Media

By Hammad Siddiqui and Emad Sohail

The youth of Pakistan, despite a multitude of problems like unemployment, poverty,social taboos, drugs, and crime, have always been in the forefront of movements for political change — as we saw in yesterday’s #YouthChange Twitter chats.

Young people played a key role in the 2013 elections, for example. According to the Election Commission of Pakistan a significant proportion of this year’s electorate is made up of people under the age of 35. Nearly half of the 84 million registered voters — 48 per cent — are aged between 18 and 35, while 20 per cent, or nearly 17 million voters, are under the age of 26.

Social media is one of the reasons for such strong youth participation in this year’s election, despite the fact that Pakistanis of all ages were barred from accessing YouTube. The aggressive engagement of youth on social media not only influenced political parties and hardcore political journalists to join social media platforms, but also drove them to mold their political agenda in this year’s elections campaign because of the youth voice for change.

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Pakistan’s Changing Media Landscape

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“Social media has no reins. I believe soon deprived people will learn how to express their feelings effectively through social media” – Shabbir H Kazmi, Senior Business Journalist 

According to the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, Pakistan stands at 159th position among 179 countries. After independence from British India in 1947, media in Pakistan was fully controlled by the government. Successive dictatorships and also democratic governments used censorship and other means to gag media in the country.

In 2002, after the formation of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, broadcast media flourished, with large numbers of FM radio stations and TV channels starting to operate throughout the country.

In the past five years of democratic government, the media has become more liberal and vibrant. However, A 2012 report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan expressed the rising incidences of violence against the news media.

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