Earlier this month, Pakistan unveiled some of the world's strictest rules on internet censorship and global companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter are among the list of websites that were expected to comply or face severe penalties – one of which is the potential shut down of the services.
Instead, the three global companies have banded together and threatened to leave the country altogether and leave its 70 million internet users in digital darkness.
The proposed rules - Pakistan's Citizens Protection Rules (Against Online Harm), also give the government the right to block a social network if they refuse to comply or impose fines of up to five hundred million rupees (approximately $6.9m), reports The New York Times.
The rules, laid out by the government of Pakistan, would give local authorities the power to demand social media platforms remove any content they deem questionable within 24 hours. Pakistan has proposed the creation of a "National Coordinator" office to monitor these services.
In addition, social media platforms must provide a way to prevent the live streaming of "online content related to terrorism, extremism, hate speech, defamation, fake news, incitement to violence and national security."
Within three months of the new rules coming into play, companies such as Facebook and Twitter must also open up permanent offices in the country, establish one or more local servers to store data in Pakistan, and must also agree to "remove, suspend or disable access to such account, online content of citizens of Pakistan residing outside its territorial boundaries and posts on online content that are involved in spreading of fake news or defamation and violates or affects the religious, cultural, ethnic, or national security sensitivities of Pakistan."
The three internet giants wrote a scathing letter to the prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, through a group called the Asia Internet Coalition. In it, the companies warned that "the rules as currently written would make it extremely difficult for AIC Members to make their services available to Pakistani users and businesses."
By threatening to leave altogether, the companies are attempting to pile pressure on Pakistan's government to quickly rethink the proposed rules or face protests from the country's citizens and business owners.
Their public rebellion, combined with pressure and lawsuits from local civil libertarians, forced the government to retreat. The law remains on the books, but Pakistani officials pledged this week to review the regulations and undertake an "extensive and broad-based consultation process with all relevant segments of civil society and technology companies."
Last year, India proposed a set of new rules in the same vein, prompting the same concerns over free speech. The country is expected to publish these guidelines soon.