Pakistan Ramps Up Censorship Again - The UpStream

Pakistan Ramps Up Censorship Again

posted Sunday May 20, 2012 by Scott Ertz

Pakistan Ramps Up Censorship Again

Pakistan made an interesting move this week, finding a middle ground between their sweeping Internet blocker and publicly canceling the RFP when they Blocked all of Twitter because of an art contest. Now, this wasn't just any art contest; it was a "draw Muhammad" contest on Facebook.

Yes, you read that right - Twitter was taken down for a contest on Facebook. Let me explain. While the contest was accepting official images on Facebook, that didn't stop people from sharing and promoting the contest on Twitter. The government decided that Twitter was personally responsible for this, and asked them to take down the content. When they refused, Twitter access was suspended nationwide for most of a day.

While some think this is an isolated incident, others consider it to be a warning shot at the culture of the Internet.

Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director at Human Rights Watch, said of the incident,

The government of Pakistan's ban on Twitter is ill-advised, counterproductive and will ultimately prove to be futile as all such attempts at censorship have proved to be. The right to free speech is nonnegotiable, and if Pakistan is the rights-respecting democracy it claims to be, this ban must be lifted forthwith. Free speech can and should only be countered with free speech.

Clearly not a sentiment the Pakistani government agrees with. In fact, the government is overly concerned with Pakistanis on Twitter. Raza Rumi, a popular columnist, said,

Twitter is a place where fierce opposition to Pakistan's security agencies is expressed. There is a clear trend that the Pakistani military and spy agency get a strong critique from Pakistanis themselves, something that does not happen in mainstream media where people are generally shy to express such views.

It appears that this action, masked as religious extremism, was more about trying to see if they could quell a storm that is brewing on Twitter against the government itself. The only problem with that idea is that, once one social site is gone, another will pop up. There is no way to truly shut down expression on the Internet, so the Pakistani government will not be able to win this battle, no matter how hard they try.


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