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Pakistan: Twitter Goes Through Weekend of Censorship

Starting 1pm on Sunday 20 May, 2012, Twitter users in Pakistan suffered a total blanket censorship across all Internet Service Providers (ISP) in Pakistan. Some ISP have received an email from Mohammed Ali, Deputy Director (Enforcement) at Pakistan Telcommunucation Authority at around noon to block Twitter.com immediately and ordering them to flush out the cache as soon as possible.

Twitter Ban Email in Pakistan

Around 1pm Sunday afternoon internet users in Pakistan started facing the blockage, and flooded Herdict Web with reports of blockage across all ISP:

traceroute twitter.com
traceroute: unknown host twitter.com

HerdictWeb : Raw Data Feed

HerdictWeb : Raw Data Feed

Express Tribune through its sources claimed that the block was due to a blasphemous cartoon competition:

Express News correspondent Suhail Chaudhry had reported that the access to Twitter was blocked due to an ongoing “competition” of Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) caricatures. This move was made, keeping in mind the “emotions of the masses” reported Chaudhry.

Aamir Atta of ProPakistani also confirmed via his sources:

We have got the confirmation that decision for blocking Twitter was taken yesterday on account of Draw Mohammad Day, during a meeting held at Ministry of Information Technology and chaired by Raja Parvez Ashraf, Federal Minister for Information and Technology. Meeting was attended by MoIT members, PTA and other concerned stake holders. A source who is directly aware of the meeting told ProPakistani that it was decided that Twitter will remain blocked on May 20th, 2012 to avoid any possible access of blasphemous content to Pakistani internet users.

While I opined in my personal blog that it was PTA merely testing their new url Filtering service:

My gut feeling is that PTA is just testing their URL Filtering system, we had reports of them testing some image servers on facebook last week, and it disappeared by the evening. PTA choose Sunday to avoid any legal backlash exploiting the courts day off.

Ingrid Luden on TechCrunch wrote ‘Sure, Draw Something. Just Not The Prophet‘:

Pictures of the Prophet Mohammad have always been a highly contentious issue — they’re not explicitly prohibited in the Qu’ran but many Sunni Muslims forbid the idea, while others do not seem to mind as much. Among the latter group are those who feel that banning such images is a restriction on freedom of expression.

Farieha Aziz comments on BoloBhi:

Speaking to Dunya TV, Minister for Information and Technology, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said Facebook complied with the government’s request to remove blasphemous content, but Twitter refused. According to Yaseen, PTA simply passed on the orders to the ISPs and has no knowledge of how long the website is likely to remain blocked.

BytesforAll also talked about Raja Pervaiz Ashraf ordering the block on Twitter due to blasphemous content:

Late last night, the newly appointed Minister for Information Technology, Raja Parvez Ashraf spoke to the media showing his concerns about the blasphemous content on different websites and threatened that Twitter will be banned soon if the company did not comply with the government’s orders. Within half an hour of this statement, past midnight, an official directive was issued to all Internet Service Providers in the country and Twitter started disappearing from Pakistani Cyberspace starting 10 a.m. today.

Dawn.com quotes Chairman PTA Mohammed Yaseen saying that they tried to negotatiate with Twitter to remove the content:

We have been negotiating with them until last night, but they did not agree to remove the stuff, so we had to block it

By around 10pm, roughly nine hours after the ban started suddenly the block seemed to have been removed which resulted in tweets by Rehman Malik, Interior Minister claiming responsibility for the unblocking of Twitter:

@SenRehmanMalik: Dear All yes I spoke to PM and informed how people are feeling about it.PM ordered to reopen the twitter.I also spoke to Raja pervez abt it

Reporting the opening of the internet blockage ProPakistani narrates:

However, as per our sources, ban was lifted before time due to bad name the incident had earned for Pakistan, especially in foreign media.

While Fiza Batool Gilani the daughter of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani also laid claim for the Prime Minister to have restored the twitter connection.

@FizaBatoolGilan: The Prime Minister has ordered the IT Minister to restore Twitter service in Pakistan

@FizaBatoolGilan: @abidbeli- I was with him when he ordered & I'm tweeting while sitting in Pakistan . So that's confirmation enough :)

The netizens fear that with this incident the PTA successfully tested their url filtering service which may threaten freedom of speech in the future.

9 comments

  • […] isn’t behaving itself – posting links to a “Draw Mohammed Day” competition – and Pakistan’s collective panties have been throughly bunched. Or, they’re testing a […]

  • […] that TweetDeck and other twitter applications are still working. Update: Nine hours after the ban, reports came that the ban has been removed. Written by Tarek Amr Posted 21 May 2012 12:56 GMT ·  Print version […]

  • […] No Twitter in Pakistan: Pakistan blocked Twitter across all of its Internet Service Providers over the weekend. The censorship appears related to “Draw Mohammad Day”, a contest calling for caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. (Global Voices) […]

  • […] Sunday afternoon, Pakistani social media users found the Twitter website blocked for several hours, with mixed reports on access continuing throughout the day. While the reason for […]

  • […] Sunday afternoon, Pakistani social media users found the Twitter websiteblocked for several hours, with mixed reports on access continuing throughout the day. While the reason […]

  • […] on these local, amateur resources for stories. We are familiar now with despotic regimes monitoring, blocking or censoring social media sites. Of equal concern are new laws being touted that would […]

  • […] According to Pakistan’s Express Tribune, the request to block the site was made by the Ministry of Information and Technology, because of a drawing competition (details here). The ministry asked Twitter to remove the content, but Twitter responded that it “cannot stop any individual doing anything of this nature on the website.”    Directives to block the site were sent to ISPs in several parts of the country, including PTCL Broadband and Wi-Tribe. It also reports that Twitter is still accessible by mobile using secure browsers like Opera, as well as proxies and VPNs.  More from GlobalVoices. […]

  • […] 上 周日下午,巴基斯坦的社交媒体使用者发现,推特网站遭到封锁,持续数个小时,接下来的一整天,陆续有网友回报各种消息。虽然封锁的实际原因仍然不明,但 《快讯时报》记者宣称,事件缘起於推特上关於先知穆罕默德讽刺漫画的「亵渎」竞赛讯息。虽然巴国政府要求推特删文,推特拒绝不从。也有人认为,可能是巴国 政府在测试其网址审筛系统。虽然巴基斯坦总理後来出面,下令解除封锁,但这起事件再度为巴基斯坦的网路自由投下阴影。 […]

  • […] μέσων ανακάλυψαν ότι η ιστοσελίδα του Twitter είχε μπλοκαριστεί [en] για κάποιες ώρες, με κυμαινόμενα αποτελέσματα στην […]

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