July 9, 2020

Senate panel recommends pact with Twitter to block fake accounts

Originally published in Dawn on January 16, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Commit­tee on Information Technology on Wednesday asked the government to enter into an agreement with Twitter’s management to share information and block fake accounts.

The committee members asked the authorities concerned to identify accounts that were allegedly involved in defamation and harassment of individuals as well as organisations.

The committee meeting, chaired by Senator Rubina Khalid, also discussed reports of alleged theft of data from the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) records for registration of SIM cards on fake credentials.

However, PTA officials informed the committee that SIMs were being sold after Biometric Verification System (BVS) since August 2014, and the system had been finalised by a joint working group comprising members of the information ministry, the ministry of information technology, the FIA, the IB, Nadra, mobile operators and the PTA.

The committee was informed that the SIMs were issued and activated after the online verification of subscribers’ data from Nadra at designated SIM sale outlets.

The committee was told that each sale outlet was assigned a unique identity number which not only facilitated its authentication, but also ensured traceability as well as identification upon requirement and each sale transaction was also logged or recorded and saved at mobile operators and Nadra.

The PTA told the committee that no incident about system misuse or bypass of the BVS had been reported. It, however, said that it had received complaints related to illegal issuance of SIMs against thumb/finger impre­ssion of some innocent or ignorant people, mainly those living in villages of the country, and 10 such cases of misuse of the BVS had been sent to the FIA by the PTA.

The committee was further informed that all such cases had been referred to FIA, after preliminary investigation for probe and an appropriate action.

The committee was infor­med by officials of the IT ministry that the FIA was a designated agency for telecom-related offences, while FIA was also the designated agency under the Preven­tion of Electronic Crime Act, 2015 (Peca, 2015).

The IT ministry was directed to hold a meeting with the PTA, the FIA and Nadra and report back to the committee within a week.

Committee members also inquired about the use of derogatory remarks against Dua Mangi on social media, and the PTA official respon­ded that under Section 20 of the Peca 2016 any person aggrieved by any online content had to approach the PTA for blocking or removing the alleged unlawful online content.

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