Govt pushes IT bill to control social media

Published On: February 14, 2019 08:20 AM NPT By: Ashok Dahal  | @ashokpillar

KATHMANDU, Feb 14: In an apparent bid to control foreign social media operators in the country, the government has proposed a law making it mandatory to register all social media platforms within the country.

A Bill to Provision Information Technology states that the government shall prohibit the use of any social media site not registered in Nepal, after a certain period following the enforcement of the new law.

With a view to tightening its grip on social media, the bill registered by the Minister for Communication and Information Technology Gokul Baskota has proposed that the government shall order social media operators to remove any content in such social media platforms that is against government policy.

Most of the popular social media operators including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok are not registered in the country so far.

"Any social media which are operating in the country prior to the commencement of this law should be registered at the (Information and Technology) department within the given period," reads Section 91 (2) of the bill.

The government has proposed three years to five years in jail and Rs. 500,000 to Rs. 1.5 million in fines for offenses related to electronic and social media. The bill will replace the controversial Electronic Transaction Act.

Any defamatory or harassment content on social media, making of accusations, and defaming individuals without factual grounds may land one in jail for up to five years or Rs. 1.5 million in fines, according to the bill. The legislation has also proposed similar sentences for inciting crime, posing threats to peace and order, promoting caste-based discrimination, human trafficking and advertising of illegal products, through the electronic medium.

Social media users may land in jail for up to three years or face a penalty of Rs. 30,000 for not removing such content after the government so orders.

Similarly, any offense of cyberbullying, production and publication of pornographic content or hacking may land one in three to five years in jail or incur Rs. 1 million penalty, states the draft of the bill.

Any devices or software storing electronic transactions and causing damage to any information in an electronic medium, breaching personal privacy and storing personal data through electronic medium have also been criminalized in the bill, with up to three years in jail or rs. 1 million fine.

With a view to regulating e-commerce and online shopping, the bill has proposed sentences for wrong or delayed delivery in online shopping. 

The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology has proposed a separate Information Technology Court in each of the seven provinces to hear cases under the bill. The court shall comprise three members with legal, IT and commerce backgrounds and a member with a legal background will chair it. Earlier, the Kathmandu District Court was assigned to oversee cybercrime cases. 

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