X Ban: Businesses Suffer, Journalists Struggle, Internet Slows | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

X Ban: Businesses Suffer, Journalists Struggle, Internet Slows

Pakistan Press Foundation

Since February 17th, an unannounced ban – either partial or full – on social media platform X (formerly Twitter) has severely disrupted Pakistan’s digital landscape. Businesses are losing revenue, journalists face obstacles in their work, and internet users nationwide experience significantly slower speeds.

The intermittent blocking of X began following allegations of electoral rigging during the February 8th general elections. Experts warn this censorship has both economic consequences and risks fueling the spread of disinformation.

Nearly 30% of Pakistan’s 241 million people actively use social media, with just over 45% of the population having internet access. X itself had 4.5 million users in early 2024, giving it significant reach within the country.

Journalists are facing challenges in the wake of the social media ban. Journalist Omair Alavi reported being unable to use the platform to break news, share updates, or find sources. Social media has become an indispensable tool for journalists in Pakistan, allowing them to disseminate information quickly and efficiently, as well as connect with sources and audiences. The restrictions have made it more difficult for journalists to do their jobs effectively, potentially hindering the free flow of information.

Businesses dependent on social media marketing are scrambling. “The absence of (X) has resulted in panic as it takes time to create content on Meta platforms,” says Hisham Sarwar, a tech expert who runs several digital marketing companies. Many small businesses are already seeing losses.

The ban has also drastically slowed internet speeds nationwide, likely due to the strain caused by people using VPNs to bypass the restrictions. Government measures against VPNs further limit access, raising concerns about freedom of expression and the right to information.

Lawyer Jibran Nasir, who challenged the X disruption and internet slowdown in court, warns that such government actions could dangerously dictate “how we are to live our lives and what freedoms we can enjoy.” Despite a Sindh High court order on February 22nd to restore X, the block remains in place, leading to a contempt case against authorities.

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on March 5 had issued notices to the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) in response to a petition challenging the ban on social media platform X.

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