Whenever a country that has a history of internet censorship gains better access to one of the internet’s most important tools, it’s big news.
And that’s exactly what has happened today. Starting today, Pakistan’s largest provider of cellular services has announced that its prepaid customers can tweet away – for free.
“Data charges for accessing Twitter have been made ZERO for all Mobilink prepaid subscribers. Subscribers don’t require to subscribe to this offer since it is available for all prepaid subscribers by default,” says Mobilink.
That means that users can tweet and retweet all they want without incurring any data charges. This removes one of the impediments from Pakistani Twitter users, who have faced state censorship of Twitter in the past.
— Simply Mobilink (@SimplyMobilink) April 2, 2013
Back in May of 2012, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority shut off Twitter access for the entire country for approximately 8 hours following the circulation of content deemed blasphemous on the network. Some speculated that the move had less to do with the specific content and more to do with a simple test as to whether a state-wide blockage was feasible.
As far as the rest of the internet goes, the Pakistani government has a history of censorship in the areas of so-called blasphemy and pornography. Recently, that censorship has moved to content that falls in the realm of political speech. In a country with this track record, free access to Twitter is a significant opportunity for its people – considering access remains open.
There are some caveats to the deal. Mainly, tweets must be sent via mobile.twitter.com – not Twitter’s native apps.
“[G]oing on external links will result in data charging. Whenever a subscriber clicks on an external link, he will be shown a notification indicating that standard data charges apply to view the link. External link will be opened after subscriber’s consent only.”
But for the purposes of simply communicating (being that all-important amateur reporter), this is a great thing for Pakistani tweeters.