Micro-blogging website Twitter that has become important to political parties and journalists to communicate is in danger of being banned because of “the government’s inability to force the tech giant to bend to its notions of what is suitable for public consumption or falls within the constitutional realm of legitimate free speech”.
According to a local media report, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s (PTA) Director General of Internet Policy and Web Analysis, Nisar Ahmed informed the Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat that “while Facebook, YouTube and other social media platforms complied with requests from the government to block objectionable content, Twitter did not oblige”.
Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Chairman Talha Mehmood has said the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has ordered to block the Twitter in the country if the micro-blogging app does not comply with Pakistani government’s requests within the next 15 days.
The committee met for a briefing on penalties fixed by the PTA against ‘derogatory’ comments spreading through social media targeting the state, its citizens and its institutions.
It was further reported that the committee was informed about the IHC directive to the regulatory body to serve Twitter with a final notice. Furthermore, it was said that IHC had taken notice of ‘the increase in objectionable content posted on social media websites’.
The official was quoted in the report as saying, “Twitter was not as popular in Pakistan as Facebook, and so they had little to lose if Twitter was blocked. However, the platform would lose business if it was shut down in the country, the senior official told the members. The court is determined to teach Twitter a lesson — they will lose business.”
In the past, similar attempts have been made to ban social media; 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.
Meanwhile, the officials of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) told the Senate committee that a crackdown had started to stop the misuse of social media and cases were being registered under the Cyber Crime Act by registering an FIR.
In this regard, the PTA chairman said, “We have called for a special system which can trace social media users.”
“An inquiry is being conducted against social media users who run fake accounts or spread false news,” he added.
He further informed the committee that focal persons had been appointed to monitor the various social media websites. The authority upheld that there were 30.5 million Facebook users in the country and that “in the last six years, 825,000 websites have been blocked of which 4,799 were anti-state, 3,719 anti-judiciary and 31,963 were anti-religion.”
The social media control act is being implemented and anyone violating cyber laws can face three years in imprisonment and/or Rs10 million fine, the officials added.
“Law enforcement agencies, including FIA, are cooperating in this regard,” they continued.
The Senate has formed a committee comprising officials of FIA, Ministry of Law, Ministry of Information and Technology and Cybercrime Cell. The committee has been tasked to review and examine laws and put forward their proposals to make social media people friendly.