Twitter restores access to blocked content in Pakistan

Published June 18, 2014
“We're very glad Twitter has reversed its decision and not gone the Facebook route,“ said Sana Saleem, a co-founder of Bolo Bhi. — Photo by AFP
“We're very glad Twitter has reversed its decision and not gone the Facebook route,“ said Sana Saleem, a co-founder of Bolo Bhi. — Photo by AFP

ISLAMABAD: Twitter has restored access inside Pakistan to dozens of tweets and accounts, after blocking them last month following official complaints about “blasphemous” content, in a move hailed by free speech activists.

The microblogging site said it had changed its May 18 decision — to restrict access to the material from within Pakistan in order to comply with local laws — after the government failed to provide sufficient clarification.

“On May 18, 2014, we made an initial decision to withhold content in Pakistan based on information provided to us by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority,” the Internet company said in a statement posted on the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse website.

“We have re-examined the requests and, in the absence of additional clarifying information from Pakistani authorities, have determined that restoration of the previously withheld content is warranted. The content is now available again in Pakistan.

“Chilling Effects is a collaboration between several US law schools which monitors attempts to suppress online content. Twitter works in partnership with the site to publicise requests to withhold its content.

Most of the offending material concerned anti-Islam accounts, but the accounts of three US porn stars were also listed.

Sana Saleem, a co-founder of the Bolo Bhi non-profit group that advocates free speech, said: “We're very glad Twitter has reversed its decision and not gone the Facebook route.

“There was significant pressure and so we're very happy. We've also been talking with them.“

Facebook earlier this month blocked the popular page of a liberal Pakistani band Laal at the request of the government, angering activists campaigning against censorship. Days later it reversed its decision.

Saleem and other organisations have questioned whether the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has the constitutional authority to forward such requests to foreign Internet companies, and have called for greater judicial oversight.

She added that the process was open to abuse and was used to suppress political criticism.

“We have an extremely weak legal framework and it's used to limit dissent, or things like blocking Wikipedia pages on breast cancer. “

Opinion

Editorial

On a leash
Updated 22 Feb, 2024

On a leash

Shehbaz will not find it easy to introduce the much-needed major changes to the economy without running into resistance.
Shameful veto
22 Feb, 2024

Shameful veto

THE US has scored a hat-trick by vetoing, for the third time, a resolution in the UN Security Council calling for an...
Truth under threat
22 Feb, 2024

Truth under threat

AS WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange mounts a last-ditch effort against being extradited from the UK to the US, one...
Silencing the public
Updated 21 Feb, 2024

Silencing the public

Acting as if it is unaccountable, it is now curtailing citizens’ digital rights without even bothering to come up with a justification.
Fitch’s concern
Updated 21 Feb, 2024

Fitch’s concern

It warns that “near-term political uncertainty may complicate the country’s efforts to secure a financing agreement with the IMF to succeed the Stand-by Arrangement”.
Zoo zealotry
Updated 21 Feb, 2024

Zoo zealotry

IN a bizarre twist of faith and fur, the Indian right-wing Hindu nationalist group, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, has...