Terrorism in Pakistan, has stemmed in the recent years, and has undisputedly proved to be a highly destructive phenomenon for the growth of this country. The fact, that today almost every radical group has its presence on “the internet”, it seems to be a prominent instrument, by means of which the chauvinists upload video recordings of who are they? Why they are fighting and details of attacks for which that group is responsible for. It goes without saying that the trend of using internet for such destructiveness has mushroomed in the recent past; for the same reason the scholars of international relations may not continue to ignore the transformative power of the internet anymore!
Despite the fact that Terrorism had always been present and had been a subject of importance too, however its emergence on the internet in the decade before had given it a different magnitude; causing to stir much deliberation to “Govern” or “Regulate” the internet. The ideology had been dialogued under the theme “Internet Governance”, the definition of which is still hard to articulate. Since the war on terrorism demands the internet to be regulated and cautioned for any exploitation- specifically terrorism. At the same time, the advocates of “freedom of speech” have this plea that internet has extended hundreds of thousands of people worldwide – the opportunity to speak their heart and mind out. Most importantly it has provided people with the opportunity to traverse the terrestrial boundaries and learn from the experience of other fellows – Correct! However they have altogether negated the fact that terrorists are using this media for “hate speech” too, which is also a subset of “freedom of speech”. So if this freedom is at the cost of initiating violence and is against the merits of a civilized society, the advocates of free speech have to juggle their philosophy.
Regulating the internet is a complex concern. It started off in 1960’s by US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, whose sole aim was to design a communication facility to survive a nuclear attack, which was referred to as “Internet”. In 1980’s IETF was established, followed by National Science Foundation in 1990’s- which was designed to manage the Domain Name System (DNS). Then in late 90’s ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) was established- which was aimed at preserving the operational stability of the Internet. Since the establishment of ICANN, the debate on Internet governance has been characterized by the more direct involvement of national governments, mainly through the United Nations framework and institutions. Subsequently, the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) was constituted in 2003, which developed its “Declaration of Principles and the Plan of Action”, and proposed a number of actions in the field of Internet governance, including the establishment of a Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG). The working group soon realized that “Internet” and “governance” were the subject of controversy, since governance is very difficult without keeping in consideration the cultural, economic, developmental, legal and political concerns of the diverse nations, at the same time the global war on terrorism which is considered a global issue has made it all the more difficult to decide. Anyhow the definition given by WSIS is “IG is the development and application by Governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision- making procedures, and programs that shape the evolution and use of the Internet.”
Encompassing above, It is clear that when it comes to controlling “Cyber Terrorism”, governments are generally held to be the main players for issuing a “content policy”, as they prescribe what should be controlled and how. In practical terms, of course, both legislated content control and private initiatives require the participation of private enterprises, particularly Internet service providers and search engine companies, and pressure has increasingly been brought to bear on such firms, both by private groups and individuals, to regulate content. The availability of appropriate control technologies is also considered. So as the responsibility of controlling internet content has been shifted on the Governments, the question arises what has Pakistan done in this context and what should be regulated and how?
On September 2, 2006, Inter-Ministerial Committee for the Evaluation of Websites (IMC) to monitor the content of offensive Web sites was constituted with representatives from M/o IT, Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Religious affairs, cabinet as well as members of security agencies. The committee was tasked with examining and blocking Web sites containing blasphemous, pornographic, or anti-state material. The committee from time to time had been actively filtering and blocking URL’s based on Pornographic and blasphemous materials, however a specific legal framework for filtering practices is still missing in Pakistan. It may also be highlighted that per Article 17 of Prevention of Electronic Crimes Ordinance (Ordinance No. IV 2008) the term “Cyber Terrorism” has been defined as “the access or utilization of a computer network or electronic system or device by a person or group with ‘‘terroristic intent,’’ an offense punishable by life imprisonment or death”. Hence, Pakistan has been actively working to counter the issue of Cyber terrorism, however a legal policy frame work is the call of time, let’s see what ingredients may be considered.
Three approaches to “Content Policy” may be considered; human rights (freedom of expression and right to communicate), government (legislated content control) and technology (tools for content control).
Freedom of speech according to Article 19 of the Constitution of Pakistan, is defined as “Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by Law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defense of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court”. Also according to the Article 19 and 29 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) “Freedom of expression and the right to seek, receive and impart information is a fundamental human right” and “freedom of expression should be counterbalanced by the right of states to limit freedom of expression for the sake of morality, public order and general welfare”. Therefore debate on establishing a proper balance between the two concerns should be initiated as is done in the international world to define what should be covered under the cloak of “Free Speech” in Pakistan, What level of “Hate speech”, if necessary shall be allowed. Various possibilities for different interpretations of norms relating to speech maybe considered, and their diverging implementation concerns should be dialogued.
Generally, governmental filtering is an index of web sites that citizens are blocked from accessing. If a web site appears on this list, access will not be granted. Technically speaking, the filtering typically utilizes router-based Internet Protocol (IP) blocking, proxy servers and DNS redirection. Filtering of content is carried out in many countries now, however no sophisticated content blocking techniques have been employed so far. Deep Packet Inspection (DPI), which is normally used for content filtering, has been discouraged by the net neutrality advocates due to the fact that it slows down the network unnecessarily. Therefore DPI technologies are employed they should be used for blocking unlawful content only.
The second consideration -What type of content should be regulated? Again three types should be considered. The first type Child pornography online is the area in which the greatest amount of consensus currently exists. This usually includes blocking access to pornographic and gambling sites, but also those of a radical political nature. These sites may be identified and blocked with question. The second type of content is generally being sensitive for particular countries, regions or ethnic groups due to their particular religious or cultural values. There can be little doubt that globalized, high-volume and more intensive communication challenges cultural and religious values are hard to define. In fact, most Internet court cases are concerned with this type of content. Most strict content control in this context already exists in Asia and the Middle East where officially these values are justified as the protection of specific cultural values. This type of content may have strict blocking in Pakistan too, since it against the “the glory of Islam or public order” as per the Article 19 of the constitution too. The third type of content consists of politically and ideologically sensitive materials. In essence, this involves Internet censorship. There is a dilemma here between the “real” and “cyber” worlds. Existing rules about speech, promulgated for application in the real world, can be implemented on the Internet. As per the EU Council Framework “what is illegal offline is illegal online”, the content filtering should not be emphasized for the interest of political parties only.
Recapitulating above, the involvement of private sector and civil society should be emphasized; the involvement of such actors should be made part of Pakistan’s Inter Ministerial Committee(IMC) so that the process is made more transparent and opinions of all stakeholders as also emphasize by WSIS be considered. For instance, the possibility to geographically locate Internet users & transactions, the complex question of jurisdiction on the internet can be solved more easily by involving ISP’s. As Geo-location software is being employed by many ISP’s worldwide to identify the location of a computer in a country and filter access to particular content according to the national origin of that country. Therefore ISPs’ involvement may provide value addition to the thought process of this committee by providing information on new technologies being employed for filtering, for instance. We must realize that terrorism-related speech exist because no regulation against it has been enacted, also the share and spread of the Internet render cyber terrorism demands different legalities than their real-world equivalents. In particular, more individuals are exposed to this type of speech and the challenge is not to make the rules but rather, enforcing the rules.