Islamabad: A petition against Facebook by Civil Society asks the IHC (Islamabad High Court) to block Facebook temporarily in Pakistan. The petition was filed by Advocate Tariq Asad, asking the government to ban Facebook temporarily until the Government of Pakistan removed all blasphemous content.
Petition Against Facebook a Continuation
The petition against Facebook is a continuation of the efforts to seek a ban on social media websites in Pakistan. The effort is directed to stop blasphemous content in Pakistan by banning the social media sites.
Respondents marked in the petition include the following.
- Secretary Ministry of Interior
- Secretary Ministry of Information and Technology
- Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) (Chairman)
- Inspector General of Islamabad Police, Pakistan Electronic Media Authority (PEMRA)
- Federal Investigation Authority (Director General)
In Case of Failure
The petitioner also warns of a country-wide movement if the Government is not able to stop blasphemous content.
The petition against Facebook said that Governments claims were not valid as there still existed blasphemous content on world’s largest social media website.
Chaudhry Nisar on Blocking Blasphemous Content
A post published earlier by HoursTV.com covers how Chaudhry Nisar vowed to stop blasphemous content from getting posted in Pakistan.
Islamabad High Court had earlier warned that if the Government were not able to prevent the publishing of blasphemous content on social media, the patience of the followers of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) would run out.
Earlier Ban on Facebook in Pakistan
The ban on websites in Pakistan is not new. Facebook was once banned in Pakistan earlier due to the same reason of allowing blasphemous content to get published on its website.
The initial ban was temporary on Facebook till 31st May 2010. Justice Ijaz Chaudhry issued the order to ban Facebook in Pakistan. Islamic Lawyers Forum filed the petition at that time seeking complete ban of the website in Pakistan.
The Justice also directed the Foreign Secretary to register a protest against the related Western Countries.
PTA Director’s Reply to Earlier Facebook Ban in Pakistan
At the time of the 2010 Facebook ban in Pakistan, the court also ordered PTA to submit a response. At that point, PTA Director Mudassar Hussain had argued that Pakistan Telecommunication Authority removed pages containing blasphemous content.
The PTA Director had also said that total ban on the website could potentially cause problems for Pakistan at international level. He further said a ban on Facebook in Pakistan could likely result in a country facing economic loss. The ban may also lead to interruption of internet services in Pakistan.
In a contrary opinion, the lawyers who submitted the petition seeking Facebook’s shutdown in Pakistan and asked the court to proceed with the ban. They argued that being Muslims the website had played with their religious sentiments and it had to go down at any cost.
How will the ban impact Pakistani Facebook Users?
There are approximately around 34 million internet users in Pakistan. The total internet population of the country is estimated around 17.8%. A total of 1% of the entire world’s internet users lives in Pakistan.
Out of the 34 million internet users, around 25 million users were using Facebook by Q1 of the year 2016. If Pakistan bans Facebook, it is estimated to impact around 73.5% of total internet users in Pakistan.
Way Forward for the Government of Pakistan
The Government of Pakistan can do the following to get rid of this problem.
- The Government must devise a proper mechanism to block specific URLs.
- Use punishment as a deterrent so that others do not repeat this kind of mistake.
- Work with social media websites like Facebook to create a quick reporting mechanism and block such users.
Facebook’s Take on the Ban
Facebook must also consider blocking users who offend the religious sentiments of a large group of the population. It must not allow anyone to hurt other users emotions in the name of Freedom of Speech. One way of overcoming the problem is to create a country-specific version of the Facebook like YouTube. A localized version of Facebook will make filtering of objectionable blasphemous content a lot easier.