Pakistan Passes Controversial CyberCrime Law

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Pakistan has adopted a much criticized cyber security law that grants sweeping powers to regulators to block private information they deem illegal.

The National Assembly approved the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2015 late on Thursday after the Senate had unanimously adopted it last month.

Government officials say internet restrictions under the new law are needed to ensure security against growing threats, such as terrorism.

But the law has alarmed human rights and pro-democracy activists worried that its vague language could lead to curtailment of free speech and unfair prosecutions.

“The overly broad language used in the bill ensures that innocent and ignorant Pakistani citizens, unaware of the ramifications of what the bill entails, can be ensnared and find themselves subject to very harsh penalties,” said Nighat Daad, founder of a group called the Digital Rights Foundation.

“There have been no provisions set in place to protect sensitive data of Pakistani users … The state cannot police people’s lives in this manner.”

The law provides for up to seven years in prison for “recruiting, funding and planning of terrorism” online.

It also allows “authorized officers” to require anyone to unlock any computer, mobile phone or other device during an investigation.

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Activists say the bill’s vague language without well-defined descriptions for libel or defamation typical in other countries’ could be used to prosecute any satirical website, including political ones.

The law also carries a penalty of three years for “spoofing”.

“Whoever with dishonest intention establishes a website or sends any information with a counterfeit source intended to be believed by the recipient or visitor of the website, to be an authentic source commits spoofing,” the law says.

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