Asia Internet Coalition objects to Nepalese social media guidelines, alleges lack of consultation

KATHMANDU: The Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), representing major social media platforms, has raised concerns over the recent implementation of social media guidelines by the Nepalese government, terming them unreasonable and contradictory to international standards.

The AIC conveyed its apprehensions in a letter addressed to the Government of Nepal, requesting further discussions on the guidelines. They argue that these provisions were enacted without proper consultation with platform operators, potentially impeding the operations of foreign-invested businesses.

The letter, sent to Communications and Information Technology Minister Rekha Sharma, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Communications Secretary Krishna Bahadur Raut, and Nepal Telecommunication Authority Chairman Purushottam Khanal, also expressed objections to the government’s intentions to ban TikTok and other social media apps.

AIC, comprising industry giants such as Google, Apple, Meta, Amazon, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Rakuten, and Spotify, emphasized the need for transparent and fair regulation processes. The coalition asserted that the government’s move to implement the ‘Guidelines for Regulating the Use of Social Networks, 2023’ without industry and civil society discussions could discourage foreign direct investment in Nepal.

The AIC particularly criticized Section 8 (b) of the guidelines, which mandates the removal of content within 24 hours if a complaint is received regarding content violating the law. They argue that such a stringent provision may hinder the proper balance between social media platforms and freedom of expression.

Moreover, the AIC claimed that the government’s ban on TikTok and its preparation for surveillance on other apps lack proper legal provisions and deviate from international practices. The coalition expressed a preference for a regulatory approach that prioritizes transparency and fairness over restrictive initiatives.

The letter concluded by highlighting the potential negative impact of these restrictions on the psyche of foreign investors, potentially hindering the Nepal government’s Digital Nepal goals. The AIC called for in-depth discussions on these issues and urged the government to initiate virtual dialogues promptly.

In response, Prime Minister Dahal’s information technology expert, Prakash Rayamazhi, acknowledged the AIC’s letter, stating that the ministry would take necessary action. The Ministry of Communication confirmed ongoing discussions on the matter, with decisions expected within the week.

The ministry has formed a five-member social network management unit for guideline implementation, inviting platform operators and the general public to communicate through a designated email address. Despite these measures, the AIC’s objections indicate a growing tension between the government’s regulatory efforts and international industry standards.

Fiscal Nepal |
Sunday December 10, 2023, 11:45:05 AM |

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