Twitter holds back ‘blasphemous’ tweets in Pakistan


Twitter has blocked a number of accounts and tweets in Pakistan considered as “blasphemous” or “unethical,” complying with the requests put forth by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA).

The New York Times reports that Abdul Batin, an official of PTA had requested the micro-blogging site to block certain content material at least 5 times between May 5 and May 14.

The banned material include competitions to draw insulting pictures of the Prophet Muhammad, tweets from anti-Islam bloggers, photographs of burning Qurans, as well as the account of an American porn star who now attends Duke University.

The blocking of these tweets and accounts in Pakistan is in compliance with Twitter’s country-specific censorship policy since 2012. The full list of appeals made by Abdul Batin is available on Chilling Effects Clearinghouse website, a database of cease-and-desist notices from across the Internet, maintained by eight American law schools and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

According to the report, all five of the requests were honoured by Twitter using the “Country Withheld Content Tool” and the mentioned contents can no longer be accessed in Pakistan.

Chilling Effects Clearinghouse also noted that it is the first time Twitter has agreed to ban certain accounts and messages in Pakistan. Twitter has honoured similar requests before, like the website blocked access to a neo-Nazi group at the request of local German authorities.

The report notes that Pakistan has previously blocked Twitter completely, along with Facebook for a brief period in May 2012. Google’s YouTube has also been blocked in Pakistan since 2012 on failing to remove an offensive short film made about the Prophet Muhammad. However, the parliament has unanimously voted to lift the ban on the video sharing website, earlier this month.