Report: The Constitutional and Human Rights Risks of Pakistan’s E-Safety Bill

This report identifies significant problems with Pakistan’s E-Safety Bill and compares it with online safety legislation in other countries. On July 26, 2023, the federal cabinet provided approval in principle to the E-Safety Bill 2023. Formally known as “An act to provide for fostering and promoting safe online Social Network Platforms,” the E-Safety Bill purports to be a law that implements “reasonable restrictions” on online content. However, the E-Safety Bill raises numerous red flags. There are concerns that the Pakistani government will use the bill as a tool to suppress free speech and censor online content using online “safety” as an excuse. Some of the E-Safety Bill’s most significant issues include:

  1. its “one-size-fits-all” approach to regulating online platforms that have little in common,

  2. its registration requirement,

  3. the lack of clarity in the obligations it imposes on Social Network Platforms (SNP),

  4. the risk that the law’s vague provisions will be interpreted in an overbroad manner, and,

  5. the reaction it may induce from foreign companies—who may simply stop serving customers in Pakistan in view of the onerous obligations it imposes.

Each of these issues implicates human rights considerations, such as the protection of freedom of expression and the right to information, as enshrined in Articles 19 and 19A of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Bolo Bhi is grateful for the work of the Samuelson-Glushko Technology Law & Policy Clinic (TLPC) at the University of Colorado Law School in producing this report. We wish to acknowledge the contributions of TLPC Student Attorneys Matthew Engebretsen, Rina Mehana, and Sophie Pickering and of Vivek Krishnamurthy, TLPC’s Director, in researching and drafting this report.

Read report here:

Safety Theatre: The Constitutional and Human Rights Risks of Pakistan’s E-Safety Bill 

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