Websites’ blockade order
It is hard to grasp the logic behind the Lahore High Court’s decision to block search engines that allegedly carry blasphemous material. Anyone familiar with the Internet knows that search engines are essentially devoid of content: they merely throw up thousands of related web links in response to a user’s specific query. This means that a person affronted by ‘blasphemous’ material unearthed by, say, Google deliberately looked for it in the first place. No one forced him or her to visit an ‘offensive’ site and it seems implausible to argue that a search engine can be held responsible for every bit of information available on the web.
Yet, on Tuesday the LHC’s Bahawalpur bench ordered the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to block nine websites including Google, Yahoo, MSN and Hotmail. An individual filed a petition and a judge ordered an interim ban without, apparently, consulting experts in the field of information technology. It can be asked here whether the order could have been reserved until June 28 when PTA officials are due to respond to the court’s queries. At the same time the public would not be amiss in questioning the role of the deputy attorney general, who supported the petition. To what extent did he brief the court on the technical aspects of the issue at hand?
Let’s pause here and take a look at the Internet as a whole. The information superhighway is, in short, full of information that we may or may not choose to access. It is possible to look up the lyrics of a song from one’s childhood or the views voiced on Aryan nation sites and those that support Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Blogs that are entertaining or boring can be read at the click of a mouse. There is sports news out there, as there are reports on meetings between world leaders. The point here is simple: everyone has a right to the information he or she seeks. Also let’s not forget that there is no compulsion involved, nor is it possible to police the Internet to the extent that some desire. Whatever happened to turning the other cheek? It’s simpler.