Authoritarian Tech

Pakistan launches nationwide web-monitoring system — Coda Follows Up

We don’t just follow stories, we follow up. Last fall, we revealed how Pakistan had acquired the services of a controversial Canada-based company to help build a nationwide “web monitoring system.” Our story went viral. Now, we’re checking in to see what has happened since.

This week, I’m following up on a story we published a few months ago about how plans for a web monitoring system could give the government considerable power over digital content without due process.

After our story was published, the country’s national telecommunications regulator, Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA), was initially quick to respond:

Our story was widely followed up by leading news media outlets in Pakistan, including Dawn and Geo English. You can read their coverage here, here, here and here

Earlier this week, PTA told Coda Story the web monitoring system is now fully operational across Pakistan.

Human rights groups and free speech organizations have long expressed concerns about the lack of transparency in how Pakistan monitors digital content. In Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perception Index, Pakistan ranked 120th out of 180 countries, dropping three places from 2018. 

Pakistan’s government has also approved new rules for regulating online content. Social media companies will be obliged to help law enforcement agencies access user data and remove online content deemed unlawful.

The story you just read is a small piece of a complex and an ever-changing storyline we are following as part of our coverage. These overarching storylines — whether the disinformation campaigns that are feeding the war on truth or the new technologies strengthening the growing authoritarianism, are the crises that Coda covers relentlessly and with singular focus. We work with dozens of local and international reporters, video journalists, artists and designers to bring you stories you haven’t seen elsewhere, provide you with context missing from the news cycle and illuminate the continuity between the crises we cover. Support Coda now and join the conversation with our team. No amount is too small.

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Inge Snip

Inge worked as Coda Story's Impact Editor to solidify Coda Story's thinking on how Coda's journalism sparks change. She's also worked with UNDP, UNICEF, Forbes, Outriders, and EurasiaNet.

Beats: health, environment, tech, disinformation, gender.