Update: In a recent tweet, Nighat Dad mentions that the Court orders do not point towards a ban on Facebook and that she intends to upload the Court Orders. We will update the post as we get more information.
Earlier: There are reports, including this one by The Express Tribune, that suggest that the Lahore High Court has directed Pakistan’s Ministry of Information & Technology to block access to all websites spreading communal hatred, after hearing a petition seeking a permanent ban on social networking site Facebook, for allegedly hosting a competition featuring blasphemous caricatures of Prophet Muhammed. However, the Court has also clarified that it would not impose a ban on search engines, but has directed the IT Ministry to file a compliance report by 6th October.
However, it is not clear whether the order puts a direct ban on Facebook. Internet rights activists Nighat Dad and Shahzad Ahmad said that the Media reports were conflicting, and tweeted that no ban has been imposed, although the Court proceedings on 6th October will be important in this regard.
At the time of writing this post, several users from Pakistan are reporting that they are still able to access Facebook .
India’s Proposed Internet Rules & Blasphemy
MediaNama readers should be aware that India’s finalized Internet Control Rules also prohibit users from hosting or uploading anything blasphemous, although India doesn’t even have a blasphemy law.
The rules if enforced to the letter, then a similar situation can arise in India, since different groups can write to ISPs alleging that certain content is blasphemous, in their opinion. ISPs, not wanting to lose their safe harbor, might just comply with the complaints and block access.
Pakistan’s Security Concerns
Readers might remember that a few weeks back, The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority had issued a directive to ISPs in the country, prohibiting “all mechanisms including encrypted virtual private networks (EVPNs) which conceal communication to the extent that prohibits monitoring,” to prevent militants from using secure Internet connections. Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik, has since said that services such as Google and YouTube, were not offering support to the country’s Federal Investigation Agency to track offenders involved in Cyber crime, and that the country might impose a ban if they refuse to co-operate with the agency in the future, reports The Express Tribune.