Parliament has adopted the controversial cybercrime bill (PECB 2015), and President may sign it into law anytime soon. People are already speculating about the results and implications when PECB 2015 turns into law. We don’t know what will happen to the digital world, social media, online contents, and websites.
However, one thing is sure; the coming days are going to be very tough for the digital media and cyberspace. This post briefly analyses the possible impact of cybercrime bill on blogging in Pakistan.
Impact of Cybercrime Bill on Blogging
Blogging is not only a hobby but has also become a favorite way of earning money online. If you are able to write well and promote your content on the web, Google and other sites can place their ads on your site and pay you a considerable amount. Many Pakistanis are earning through Google AdSense, Amazon Associates, and other online ads and affiliate marketing programs.
However, bloggers will have to be very careful following the PECB for a range of reasons. A bird’s eye view suggests that over 80% of blogs will be affected by cybercrime bill. We are naming a few areas where the law will hit bloggers the most.
1. No More Sensationalism:
If we look at the news type websites and blogs, they were quite sensational and had exaggerated content. If you exaggerate something and could not validate it, the concerned party or authority can take you to court. Therefore, be very careful when they write a news story or cover some social, business, industry or political issue. Anything against if you are writing about some controversy, make sure to have a background check and verifiable facts at your hand.
2. No More “Derogatory Images”:
Section 18 and 19 of the cybercrime bill suggest that posting something that is against modesty and dignity of a natural person is a punishable crime.
Anyone who posts a cartoon, meme or any photoshopped image of a natural person can be put behind the bar for up to 3 years alongside a fine of 1 million rupees.
These clauses will worst hit those individuals who manage funny blogs, Facebook pages, or online platforms as most of their content falls in the same category. Similarly, the bill is very strict regarding pornography (particularly child pornography); therefore, make sure to double check your stories and images before posting.
3. No More Fraudulent Ads:
If you are using AdSense or any affiliate marketing program to show ads on your blog, make sure they do not mislead people. Section 11 and 12 of the cybercrime bill deal with electronic frauds and forgery. According to these sections:
If someone commits a fraud or makes illegal claims will face a 7 years imprisonment and 5 million rupees fine. Similarly, section 20 of the bill has declared writing or posting of malicious codes as punishable crimes. These can be used against those sites that use codes merely to increase clicks.
Moreover, bloggers will have to be very careful about the claims on their website, the topic they are writing about, and advertisements being shown. Anything that (authorities) perceive as suspicious or fraudulent can take the bloggers to jail.
4. No More Spamming:
The bill defines spamming as transmission of harmful, fraudulent, misleading, illegal, or unsolicited information to any person without permission of the recipient or who causes any information system to show any such information for wrongful gain. This will directly hit content promotion campaigns. Online ads, pop-ups, blogs newsletters, SMS, and email drives; anything can fall prey to it.
Section 22 in the cybercrime bill also requires people and organizations to include a visible unsubscription option in the message, allowing recipients to unsubscribe from the campaign (like a mailing list).
5. No More Religious/Sectarian Glorification/Hatred:
This is something that any sane Pakistani would appreciate as hate speech has caused more damage to our society than anything else. Having said that, the cybercrime law prohibits from the glorification of crime or posting anything that can damage the societal harmony. If we read section 9 and 10 of the bill, they suggest the following punishment for the guilty.
Anyone who will cause damage to inter-faith harmony or spread religious hatred may face 14 years imprisonment and 50 million rupees fine.
The same clause specifies punishment for any type of cyber-terrorism, glorification of crime, sectarian hatred or any activity that create social unrest/panic. Therefore, if your website/blog is promoting some sectarian content or hate speech against a community; regulators will have the right to not only block it but also start legal proceedings.
6. No More “Tech Hacks.”
Geeks are known for sharing hacks and important tips to tamper certain communication equipment and device to modify their operating procedure. This bill not only declares “tampering of electronic communication equipment” as a crime but also prohibits from marketing any tips/content that teaches tampering. Also, you cannot market any device that helps people in intercepting communication and breaching privacy.
This should be an eye-opener for folks who manage electronics website, reviews blogs, and how-to tips kind of portals need to ensure utmost care.
7. No More Spoofing:
The spoofing section of the cybercrime bill is also one of the trickiest areas and has been criticized by the rights group. As per section 23:
Whoever creates a website with the dishonest intention or sends information with a counterfeit source intended to be believed by the recipient or visitor of the website to be an authentic source commits spoofing.
Now we don’t know who will define “dishonest intention” and how, but since this has become a law, a webmaster needs utmost care.
Any website that deals with some campaign (read propaganda), online ads, online jobs claims, and clicks, will come under it. If your ad clicks have led the visitor to any other website that caused him/her any harm or loss, you will face the consequences. Therefore, make sure to place authentic stuff.
8. No More Unlawful Content:
Another important point in the cybercrime bill is about unlawful content. It means any content that State considers unlawful will be blocked or removed from the information system. This includes anything against the glory of Islam and security or interest of Pakistan. This gives power to PTA to block any website, blog or content that regulator thinks can harm the country or its interests.
9. No More “Leaks”:
If you have some confidential information about someone that may harm him/her, you cannot post it without his/her permission (otherwise required by law). If you plan something like Wikileaks or Panama, make sure you read this clause well.
Section 38 (Confidentiality of information) says:
Notwithstanding immunity granted under any other law for the time being in force, any person including a service provider while providing services under the terms of lawful contract, or otherwise in accordance with law, or an authorized officer who has secured access to any material or data containing personal information about another person, discloses such material to any other person, except when required by law, without consent of the person concerned, or in breach of lawful contract with intent to cause or knowing that he is likely to cause harm, wrongful loss or gain to any person or compromise confidentiality of such material or data shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with fine which may extend to one million rupees or with both.”
In addition to the given 9 points, bloggers need to make sure that they do not write or promote content that may harm Pakistan or its relationship with friendly countries. You cannot do or promote cyber-stalking, harassment, trolling, or campaign that may damage any person’s repute. These points can tell you why analysts feel that our cybercrime bill is poorly crafted legislation.
The final recommendation for bloggers is to read the cybercrime bill (at least once) to make sure they avoid any untoward incident in the future.