Censoring the internet | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Censoring the internet

Pakistan Press Foundation

The rise and rise of the internet over the last 20 years to the point of its ubiquity today is both boon and bane for governments everywhere. In large part, this is because the internet is the complete antithesis of government. It is in many ways unregulated and extremely difficult to control where it has large penetrations. Even countries that severely limit access to the internet are unable to completely black out content that they find objectionable or anti-state, because netizens are always looking for — or creating — ways to outsmart those who seek to restrict them. No government is completely at ease with the internet, and many seek information from those who provide services on the internet, with search engines being one such route of inquiry. The largest of these is Google, and the company publishes an annual report listing those governments that have made formal requests for information.

Facebook is a popular website in Pakistan and millions use it every day. The latest report from Google tells us that the Pakistan government has increased its efforts to censor what it considers to be blasphemous content or content that is critical of the state on Facebook. Data supplied by Facebook also reveals the government making inquiries about specific users and their accounts, with a 240.3 per cent increase in such requests in the first six months of 2014 compared with the same period last year. A proportion of the requests relate to criminal cases or investigations, including robberies and kidnappings. Seeking information regarding the latter may be justified; seeking information in order to curtail civil liberties and freedoms is not. YouTube is already blocked in Pakistan although this ban is widely flouted via proxies and has become almost irrelevant to those determined to circumvent it, but that is beside the point. The Google report is a clear indicator of global trends, with governments worldwide increasingly and aggressively seeking information from an entity over which they have little or no control in some instances. Hard-won freedoms can be easily lost.

Express Tribune