Government Implementing National Firewall to Regulate Social Media Content | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Government Implementing National Firewall to Regulate Social Media Content

Pakistan Press Foundation

To regulate online content, the Government of Pakistan is installing a national firewall across various internet service providers (ISPs) to control and block unwanted content on social media. A well-placed official, when asked if the firewall had been purchased, confirmed to The News, “It is already bought. Now it is being installed and commissioned.” 

Pakistan has previously utilized similar technology to block specific websites and social media applications. In 2013, filters from Canada-based Netsweeper were installed on the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL), the country’s largest ISP, which handles over 65% of Pakistan’s submarine cable traffic.

The new firewall aims to inspect data from various internet protocol addresses, identifying the origins of propaganda material and limiting the visibility of such content. An official involved in the planning stated, “The national firewall will serve two purposes: identify the locations from where the propaganda material is being originated and the subsequent blockade or diminished coverage of those accounts.” He added, “The main focus will remain on locating the source of such propaganda to nip the evil in the bud.”

This system will feature a keyword filtering mechanism to detect and obscure content deemed undesirable or harmful to national security. Such posts will be masked and rendered invisible to the broader online audience. Social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and X (formerly Twitter) will be subject to this inspection. Preparations are also underway to curb the misuse of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), potentially requiring citizens to register their VPN usage with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).

Despite public assurances from officials, details about the firewall’s full capabilities and the extent of its use remain limited.

In an interview on January 26, then-interim Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar disclosed plans to “regulate” social media in Pakistan. Senator Afnan Ullah Khan of the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) echoed this sentiment in a May 3 interview, mentioning the government’s plan to implement a firewall to monitor social media platforms.

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