Government Proposes Rs. 20 Billion Allocation in Budget to Regulate Social Media

The federal government aims to allocate Rs. 20 billion in the upcoming fiscal year not only to bolster cybersecurity but also to regulate and exercise greater control over social media platforms nationwide.

According to a report by Express Tribune, only social media companies with local offices established in Pakistan will be permitted to operate within the country.

The Ministry of Information Technology & Telecommunication has submitted a request for Rs. 20 billion for the Digital Information Infrastructure Initiative (DIII) in the 2024-25 budget. This proposal has been forwarded to the finance division for consideration in the next fiscal year’s expenditure.

In the current fiscal year, the IT Ministry has already secured Rs. 15 billion for the DIII project through a technical supplementary grant.

The DIII project, estimated at a total cost of approximately $135 million (Rs. 38 billion), is anticipated to utilize a significant portion of these funds in the current year, with the remaining allocation sought for the next fiscal year.

The government believes that leveraging new technology will aid in the regulation of social media platforms, combating their misuse and thwarting malicious campaigns. Notably, the government has previously banned X (formerly Twitter) in Pakistan, although many individuals, including government officials, continue to access it using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).

It appears highly likely that in the coming fiscal year, social media platforms will be mandated to establish physical offices within Pakistan. A legislative framework is under consideration to formalize these regulations under the Pakistan Electronic Crime Act (PECA) 2016.