The National Assembly of Pakistan [website] on Thursday approved the controversial Electronic Crimes Bill 2015 [text, PDF]. The law has received negative attention [HRW press release] in the past from human rights activists for the role it could play in hindering the free speech and privacy of Pakistani citizens. Particularly, activists warn about the broad and vague language contained in the Act which gives officials unqualified discretion to block and remove information. The bill was designed to help the Pakistan government combat terrorism and other cyber crimes.
Balancing the prevention of cyber crime while maintaining human rights has become a challenge for nations across the globe. In June China announced that search companies must abide by internet regulations [JURIST report] in line with national interests and must clearly distinguish normal results from paid ads which may display illegal and misleading information. In March Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] expressed concern [JURIST report] over the conviction of journalist Alaa Brinji in Saudi Arabia on charges of violating Article 6 of the Anti-Cyber Crime Law. All of the charges are based on tweets by the journalist expressing opposition views. In January tech companies Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo submitted evidence of possible conflicts that may arise from the UK government’s proposed Investigatory Powers Bill [text, PDF]. Should the bill pass, tech companies would be required to perform bulk data collections [JURIST report] of all user activity within a 12-month period in order to help prevent terrorism, cyber bullying, and organized crime.