Micro-blogging website Twitter ban in Pakistan due to government’s inability to force the site to falls within the constitutional realm of legitimate free speech.
Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) informed the Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat on Wednesday, that while Facebook, YouTube and other social media platforms complied with requests from the government to block objectionable content, Twitter did not oblige.
Director General of PTA’s Internet Policy and Web Analysis, Nisar Ahmed, told the committee that, “Out of a hundred requests from Pakistan to block certain offensive material, roughly five per cent are entertained. Twitter ignores all the remaining requests.”
The standing committee met for a significant briefing on penalties fixed by the PTA against ‘offensive’ comments spreading through social media targeting the country, its citizens and its institutions.
Mr Nisar Ahmed informed the standing committee about last week’s Islamabad High Court directive to the regulatory body to serve Twitter with a final notice. This includes inquiring the website to respond to requests from Pakistan or face the risk of being blocked in the country.
“The PTA has conveyed the high court’s concern to Twitter, but has not got a response. The regulatory authority will implement court orders if Twitter does not respond to the final notice,” said Mr Nisar Ahmed.
He further explained to the standing committee members that the IHC had taken notice of the increase in objectionable content posted on various social media websites.
He told the standing committee that, Twitter was not equally popular in Pakistan as Facebook, and so they had little to lose if it was blocked.
However, Twitter would lose business if it was shut down in the country, the senior official told the members. “The high court is determined to teach Twitter a lesson — they will lose business.”
He informed the committee that Facebook had been extremely cooperative with Pakistan, and had obliged when asked to block content that might be perceived offensive.
Facebook has appointed a focal person to address the concerns from Pakistan. The focal person is a Pakistani national who understands the traditions, customs and concerns of our society.
YouTube is also offering a local version in the country and removing offensive material, and the website is no longer an issue,” Mr Ahmed further elaborated.
According to the PTA, social media websites such as Facebook, YouTube and DailyMotion now saw Pakistan as an emerging information technology market. They can tap in here to exponentially grow their businesses.
“These companies do not only wish to keep growing in Pakistan, but have also planned to bring underdeveloped cities and towns out of — through training programmes — their current states to put them on a par with developed areas,” Mr Ahmed concluded.
In the past, Facebook was banned in the country twice in 2008 and then again in 2010. In September 2012, following government directions, the PTA blocked access to YouTube throughout the country and it remained inaccessible for over two years.