FOREIGN Minister Ishaq Dar has justified the government’s move to block access to social media platform X (formerly Twitter), saying that it was the government’s prerogative to take actions that are “in the best interests of Pakistan”, VOA reported.

In an apparent swipe at Washington’s efforts to ban TikTok unless it cut ties with its Chinese parent company, Mr Dar said “may I ask those countries that they also have put [a] ban on certain apps … so, one country is OK, and Twitter banned in Pakistan is not OK?”

“Surely, the country will take its own decision in the light of different reasons, which were the basis of — you know — putting it off [suspending it],” he said during an interaction with the media last week.

On Wednesday, the Sindh High Court gave the government one week to withdraw the ban, which the interior ministry claimed was imposed “in the interest of upholding national security, maintaining public order, and preserving the integrity of our nation”.

Rights activists say ‘almost impossible’ to engage with platform following Musk’s takeover

However, the court noted that the ministry’s letter did not give any reasons for why the platform was blocked, nor did it comply with the established rules for blocking of harmful online content.

Justifying the suspension of X, the interior ministry had told the high court the platform was not registered locally as a company and had ignored requests to remove content maligning the chief justice of Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Haroon Baloch of Bytes for All — a think tank that focuses on information and communication technologies — said that the requirement for local registration was an attempt to influence a company and gain access to users’ data.

“They [Pakistani authorities] wanted data of Pakistani social media users to be housed or hosted through Pakistan and not be hosted outside Pakistan,” Mr Baloch told VOA.

He said that it was almost impossible for media freedom workers to engage with X following Elon Musk’s takeover of the company.

Bytes for All research indicates the global content hosting company Akamai may be helping Pakistan implement the ban by rejecting requests from users to connect to X.

VOA asked Akamai if Pakistani authorities had requested help to block users. The company said via email that it was “currently not aware of any such requests.”

Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2024

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