Social media has already proven that it’s one of the greatest bastions of free speech on the Internet. A lot of governments that don’t protect free speech hate social media because it’s so open. Countries like China block Twitter and Facebook because it allows people to be critical of the government. Pakistan has joined the ranks of countries that block social media.
Reuters reports that Pakistan has now blocked access to Twitter starting today. The country’s Telecommunication Authority, Mohammed Yaseen, confirmed the block saying that people post “blasphemous content” to the micro-blogging site. He also said that the country has been in discussion with Twitter for some time now on trying to rid the site of blasphemous content.
It seems strange that the entire country has lost access when Twitter already provides tools for countries to censor select Tweets. It makes it seem like the “blasphemous content” that Pakistan wanted to block wasn’t really blasphemous. Pakistan isn’t saying anything beyond what they told Reuters. What makes it even more strange that the country’s ISPs have been told to block Twitter, but were given no reason as well.
This isn’t the first time that Pakistan has dabbled in trying to censor the Internet. The country blocked access to YouTube back in 2008 for the same reason – blasphemous content. The country has also recently taken up the idea of trying to create a country-wide firewall similar to China that would block access to sites that the government deems offensive. After numerous companies publicly refused to help Pakistan, the country seemed to have given up its hopes to censor the Internet.
All of that back story makes this latest block all the more confusing. The country told Reuters that they would unblock Twitter after they had resolved problems with blasphemous content. Who knows when that will happen though? I’m sure Twitter wants to get access back up in Pakistan, but they also have to work out what is really blasphemous and what’s not. Blocking joke and criticism about Mohammed is understandable, but Twitter should make sure that Pakistan is not trying to block political dissent as well.