Major things you need to know about the controversial IT bill

Nepal is on its way to being a developed country. And much more progress have been made in different fields including information and technology(IT).

The nation has seen rapid growth in the numbers of internet users in the last decade so it was necessary to improve the existing law and formulate new laws regarding  IT. 

The implementation of cyber law is done to make people feel safe and secure while surfing the internet. In December 2019 new IT bill was presented on the house by PM KP Oli administration.  The bill faced much criticism from the opposition party as well as from the general public. 

The Development and technology committee of the house on 30th December passed the controversial bill without making major amendments, which many fears could ‘ curtail freedom of speech online and increase surveillance of personal data’.

 Here are some major things you need to know about the Controversial IT bill.

  • The controversial Information technology management bill tabled at the parliament in December 2019 raised some concerns about its effects on social media users and freedom of speech online.
  • The bill, if enacted into law will replace the existing Electronic Transaction Act  (ETA).
  • Section 91 of the bill has a provision that all the domestic and foreign social media companies operating in Nepal should get registered in Nepal within a period specified by the government.
  • If the social media companies don’t abide by the condition then the government can prohibit these companies to provide service in Nepal. Social media sites like Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, Viber, and TikTok will be out of access of Nepali citizens. Thus, infringing on the citizen’s right to freedom of expression.
  • The second provision is related to the authority given to the government to direct social media operators to immediately remove or sensor any ‘offensive’ social media post.
  • The third provision is related to five years jail and fine up to Rs 1.5 million (15 lakhs) for anyone publishing offensive posts including mocking, engaging in pranks, threatening someone or any posts that in the eyes of the government , may pose threat to the country’s sovereignty, security, unity or harmony.

The broad definition of “social network” in the bill includes all information and communication technology-based platforms where people and organizations interact or share content. 

Nepal government wants internet companies like Facebook and google to register in Nepal, set up an office in the country so they can be held accountable and impose a tax for the money they make from Nepali users. 

If the bill turns into law without rectifying its current form then the government bodies from local to federal levels are given the authority to direct ISPs to take down content without the permission of the court. It could have terrible consequences on everything from privacy to freedom of speech online.