Facebook May Assist Pakistan’s Censorship

So far it only appears to have been reported in the Pakistani news, but according to the Pakistani Interior Ministry, Facebook will be sending a delegation to investigate allegedly blasphemous and objectionable content on the website. The move from the social media giant apparently comes after the government threatened to ban Facebook in the country, something it last did in 2010 when I wrote about it. This is Dawn’s report on the latest:

The government had approached Facebook earlier this week regarding access to the records of three controversial pages accused of spreading blasphemous content, the director general of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Mazhar Kakakhail had said.

The issue comes at a moment when the Islamabad High Court (IHC) is hearing a petition filed by Salman Shahid. Interestingly, Dawn explains the case this way:

The case, filed by Salman Shahid, argues that the presence of blasphemous content on social media websites is “hurting the religious sentiments of Muslims”.

The petition also alleged that pages and videos defaming the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) and revered personalities had not been blocked by the respondents nor had any steps been taken to remove the content.

Three of the ‘blasphemous’ pages had already been blocked, whereas five to six other pages carrying blasphemous content had been marked, the FIA DG had told the court in a hearing on Monday.

The Independent, however, notes the following about the petition:

Salman Shahid filed the case, alleging that five bloggers, Salman Haider, Ahmed Waqas Goraya, Asim Saeed, Ahmed Raza Naseer and Samar Abbas, were spreading blasphemous content through pages on social networks.

So, at issue, are not just any Facebook pages in general (although there is that too), but particularly the pages of 5 bloggers who were disappeared. Samar Abbas continues to be missing. In other words, Facebook is now potentially involved in the issue of disappearances in Pakistan.

The judge adjudicating the case, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, seems to be a zealot:

Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui also wants people found to have posted blasphemous content online to have their names added to the Exit Control List, thereby prohibiting them from leaving the country.

“I will go to every extent to bring this case to its logical end and if needed I will even ban social media in Pakistan,” he is reported to have said.

Justice Siddiqui claimed that he had been unable to sleep since seeing the offending content, and also compared blasphemers to terrorists.

The blasphemous pages are being removed with the help of Facebook officials.

The government has also asked Twitter as well as Interpol to assist it in curbing what it views as objectionable ‘blasphemous’ material.

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