The latest transparency report by social media platform – Facebook – is a cause of concern because content censorship seems to be on the rise and Pakistan is among the countries with the highest requests made to censor content within the country. If we see the requests made between January and July 2019, the number is higher than that of the requests made in the second half of 2018. With such a reflection of the control on social media, the government needs to identify what governing body is making the outline for content within Pakistan.

Social media users along with service providers need to be aware of the kind of framework within which they can function. This is because Facebook admits that while many of the restrictions were made in accordance with the local law in Pakistan, several of the requests simply did not violate any community standards set by the platform.

The government needs to collaborate with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to see what kind of content is being regulated. If there are threats to the sovereignty of the state, the requests for user data are justified, however, if Pakistan repeatedly shows up at the top for such searches, then the narrative that is built is that the state machinery is involved in rigorous censorship across the board. According to the breakdown of the content restricted in Pakistan, Facebook suspended 5,376 posts, 128 pages and groups, six profiles and two comments. On Instagram, the platform restricted a total of 178 items — 171 posts and seven accounts.

Pakistan has been highlighted as one of the countries where disinformation is used to maneuver the perspective of the average voter and push the audience towards a more authoritarian system. The internal set up, especially with growing 3g and 4g users, needs to be regulated to ensure that all voices in the system are heard, as long as they are causing any damage to any person or state institution. Pakistan recently criticizes the efforts of the Indian authorities after a report of an independent body in the European Union (EU) highlighting their efforts to target anti-Pakistan news to international bodies. With such powerplay at work, it is important to get the internal house in order to be able to make a strong statement with respect to the actions of India in the global community. At the same time, social media should be a safe space rather than another avenue for self-censorship.