Home Latest News Twitter Blocks ‘Blasphemous’ Content in Pakistan

Twitter Blocks ‘Blasphemous’ Content in Pakistan

by AFP
Banaras Khan—AFP

Banaras Khan—AFP

Social media website took action after receiving complaints from the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority.

Microblogging site Twitter has blocked dozens of tweets and accounts in Pakistan after officials asked for access to “blasphemous” and “unethical” content to be stopped.

The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) submitted at least five requests from May 5 to 14 asking Twitter to block access to specific tweets and accounts for users in the country.

It is thought to be the first time Twitter has withheld content specifically for users in Pakistan, though the government has shut the site down in the past.

Most of the offending material concerned anti-Islam accounts and an annual online competition to draw caricatures of Islam’s Prophet, but the accounts of three U.S. porn stars were also listed.

Pakistan blocked Twitter completely for a brief period in May 2012, along with Facebook, over the caricature competition. But according to the website Chilling Effects Clearinghouse the latest episode is the first time Twitter has agreed to withhold content for users in Pakistan.

Chilling Effects is a collaboration between several U.S. law schools, which monitors attempts to suppress online content. Twitter works in partnership with the site to publish requests to withhold its content.

In its requests to Twitter, PTA described the content, which also included images of the Quran being desecrated, as “blasphemous” and “unethical” and said it violated Pakistan’s penal code.

A PTA official said they regularly write to Twitter and Facebook asking them to remove objectionable content. “We had requested Twitter to remove the unethical and blasphemous tweets and searches and it is good that they have taken action,” said the official.

Perceived insults to Islam can provoke violent public reactions in Pakistan. The country’s strict blasphemy laws, currently the subject of a fight pitching the authorities against some of the leading TV stations, can carry the death penalty.

A crude anti-Islam film posted to YouTube in 2012 triggered violent street protests that left more than 20 people dead and led the government to block the video-sharing site—a ban that remains in force.

Parliament on May 6 voted unanimously to lift a ban on YouTube, in a non-binding resolution that was nonetheless welcomed by free speech campaigners as an important symbolic move.

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