LAHORE: As Pakistan is a month away from General Elections to be held on July 26, influence of social media on elections is already causing anxiety among some quarters.
On June 02, 2018, lawyer Shahid Jamal reportedly filed a writ petition at Lahore High Court, LHC, expressing concerns at the way misinformation on Facebook could influence elections.
“When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of US Congress and acknowledged that Facebook news feed could influence elections in Pakistan, I filed a writ petition at LHC praying to them to direct Federal government and Election Commission of Pakistan, ECP, to address this matter,” noted Mr. Jamal.
In his petition, Mr. Jamal took plea that Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, PTA and ECP should be directed to contact Facebook officials and urge them to control Facebook in a manner that it did not end up promoting false news.
“Under Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act, PECA, PTA is empowered to take down unlawful content that is against the national integrity, public order and decency and that Election Commission is also empowered to take necessary security measures in this matter,” remarked Mr.Shahid.
In response to his petition, LHC sought replies from PTA and ECP and later on June 20, directed Jamal to submit his recommendations on how to curtail fake news.
“I have already submitted my 26 points covering various areas including how to remove fake accounts, how to check accounts and news feed,” remarked Jamal.
Meanwhile, Federal Government and ECP had requested a time of two days to respond to these recommendations, according to Shahid.
The next hearing on this petition will be on June 28, 2018.
Talal Raza is a Program Manager at Media Matters for Democracy. He has worked with renowned media organizations and NGOs including Geo News, The Nation, United States Institute of Peace and Privacy International.