Twitter Agrees to Censor Content in Pakistan

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Twitter has agreed to block content in Pakistan that the country deems blasphemous and immoral.

In line with Twitter’s 2012 announcement that the company was reserving the right the remove content on a country-by country basis (as opposed to taking down the entire Twitter network in any given country), Twitter has acquiesced to demands by Pakistan’s Telecommunications Authority to ban tweets in five categories, including accounts from anti-Islamic bloggers, images that desecrate the Islamic prophet Mohammad, photographs of the Quran burning, and the account of Belle Knox, a pornographic film star and a freshman at Duke University.

The request was made by Pakistani official Abdul Batin between May 5 and May 14, ostensibly in anticipation of the fourth annual “Draw Prophet Muhammed Day,” which was held on May 20.

The ban is the first time Twitter has enacted its censorship policy in Pakistan. The policy was recently cited as the reason that the company barred access in Russia to accounts of Ukrainian nationalist groups.  Twitter has also banned tweets in Germany from accounts of neo-Nazi groups.

Writing on the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Eva Galperin, a policy analyst said, “Twitter has no employees or assets in Russia, so it should not have to comply with a Russian court order at all … Pakistan (is) another country where Twitter has no employees or assets … Experts in [Pakistan] question whether these requests have any legal authority"

"As disappointing as it is to see Twitter cave in response to pressure from the Russian government," continued Galperin, "it is even more alarming to see Twitter comply with Pakistani requests based on what [Pakistani advocacy group] Bolo Bhi describes ‘little in the way of due process.’ ” 

Galperin also pointed out that Facebook and Google regularly comply with government demands for censorship.

Just this week, in the local edition of the International New York Times printed in Pakistan, a blank space appeared in the paper instead of an Op-Ed titled, “Pakistan’s Tyranny of Blasphemy,” that was scheduled to run.

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org

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