We are living in an era of a massive information explosion and an ever increasing influence of the internet in our lives. The digital revolution took the whole world into its whirlwind and it became the biggest world revolution after the Industrial Revolution. The internet, especially the World Wide Web opened whole new avenues for communication and information sharing. The ability to easily and rapidly share information on a global scale brought with it a whole new level of freedom of speech. People were suddenly given the ability to share their thoughts on any topic to a global audience.

While there have been huge benefits to society from this revolution, especially in terms of information accessibility, it is not pure from a number of concerns. Expanded powers of information sharing, increased capabilities for existing technologies brought with it many potential opportunities for exploitation. This cyber revolution ushered in a new era of mass surveillance which generated a range of new civil and human rights issues. The reliability of data became an issue as this information could be easily replicated. Privacy also became a grave issue in this regard as open sharing of information and easy access made people vulnerable to malicious intents and exploitation.

The virtual world also ushered in many new problems with it. As terrorism became the new global threat and dilemma of the 21st century, the cyber world became the most important meeting place for extremists and a major venue where terrorists can make contacts with like-minded persons who are prone to extremist ideologies. Through these contacts, the terrorist fold can be enhanced and terrorist plots are carried out. By using the cyber technology, the extremists are able to recruit individuals from all over the world, which later are used in terrorist activities. Similarly, hate speech has also become a part of cyber space as have rumors that spread like wildfire which have negative effects to the states and individuals alike. As compared to the traditional print media, the anonymity of cyber world has torn down traditional barriers between individuals and their ability to write or publish. Nowadays any person with an internet connection has the potential to reach out to an audience of millions, which can have negative repercussions as well.

These and many other negative usages of the cyber technology brought in the need to regulate the medium and to put some kind of state control to prohibit the malicious use of this innovation. Unfortunately, Pakistan had no specific and comprehensive system to deal with the growing threat of cybercrimes. The centuries old criminal justice legal system is inadequate and ill-equipped to address the sophisticated online threats of the present century. The passage of the Prevention of Electronics Crimes Bill 2015 by the National Assembly is a good endeavor of the government as the legislation on cybercrimes was badly needed. The cyber space in Pakistan is greatly used for spreading hate material, extremist ideologies, anti-state ideas and also other cyber related crimes like hacking and sharing of sensitive information. There was a dire need for a regulation.

The bill has been subject to severe criticisms and is also termed controversial. There has been quite a lot of criticism regarding the legislation from the media, internet service providers, NGOs and members of civil society. The critics of the bill argue that it is a draconian law which suppresses civil liberties and freedom of expression besides giving extreme powers to law enforcement agencies to make arrests. Most of the criticism is uncalled for and undue as the legislation protects the people from all kind of malicious cybercrimes. To bar the anti-state information which could jeopardize the security interests of the country is not a draconian step, rather it should be appreciated. If the legislation is able to curb extremist activities carried out via cyber space and is also able to restrict obnoxious content, then it should not be criticized. It is incorrect to say that the bill is non-transparent. It does not criminalize an individual until intent is proven and it permits law enforcement agencies to confiscate data and equipment as evidence. The law deals with hate speech, terrorist activities on the internet and protects critical government infrastructure from hackers.

This new legislation provides protection to citizens, which was not present before, exposing them to unmitigated threats posed by cyber criminals both home and abroad. The bill is a positive endeavor by the government, especially the IT ministry, and instead of taking it as a threat to privacy and freedom of expression; it should be supported keeping in view the myriad problems facing Pakistan today. The ability of any legislation to protect the interests of the state and its citizens should always be kept in mind, before indulging in useless tirades of criticism.