Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Wikipedia banned: Pakistan pushed back into dark ages


LAHORE: Following the Pakistan government’s decision of slapping a complete ban on Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Wikipedia etc to block access to a competition of blasphemous caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the telecommunication authorities in Islamabad have moved further amidst countrywide protests to block the blackberry services, thus pushing Pakistan back into the dark ages.

The ban was slapped after the Lahore High Court ordered the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to immediately suspend the services of Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Wikipedia and other such social websites that could provide access to the internet users to the pages containing the blasphemous competition of caricatures. However, the most astonishing aspect of the PTA action is that the Blackberry services have also been suspended without citing any reason. According to the government sources in Islamabad, the three social websites have been blocked along with 450 other URLs because they carried sacrilegious contents. However, they did not point to specific material on the website that prompted the authorities in Islamabad to block them. A spokesman for the PTA has said that it was forced to act against Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Wikipedia etc after it failed to persuade the websites to remove the derogatory material.

Meanwhile, thousands of angry Muslim protesters belonging to all walks of life took to the roads and main avenues in different cities throughout the country to protest the competition of blasphemous caricatures of the Holy Prophet on the Facebook, describing it an open “cyber terrorism”. In Islamabad, religious leaders belonging to the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and Jamaatul Daawa (JD) issued a decree calling for the killing of all those who had been involved in initiating the competition of the blasphemous cartoons as well as those taking part in the competition. In Lahore too, the workers of the Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamaatul Daawa stages protest rallies on the Mall, burnt the flags of the United States and Sweden and staged sit-in. The protesters sat on the road in scorching heat to block traffic and chanted slogans against the website operator and demanded of the young generation to boycott the said website.

According to Wahaj-us-Siraj, a spokesman for the Internet service providers (ISPs) in Pakistan, Facebook and YouTube were among the three most viewed websites in the country. “If there are an estimated seven million Internet users, at least 3.5 million use these websites regularly.”He said the sacrilegious content was even against the policies of the websites, which boast of strict use-and-abuse rules. “We are bound to check child pornography websites, because it is something wrong and has nothing to do with the freedom of speech. Similarly, these caricatures are just another absurdity.”The two websites generate revenues by posting Pakistan-specific advertisements, Siraj said.

“It is very hard to say how much they actually earn from Pakistan but many telecommunication companies are using these websites. The hit would be substantial. We have already stopped all the advertisements for our clients on these websites,” he said to a question, adding that mostly, the cellular companies used the digital medium for targeting potential customers. “But it is just a matter of few days before we are forced to advertise there again.” In case of Pakistan, he said, the advertising business on the Internet mostly involves small businesses, with a total annual revenue estimated to be near four million dollars.


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