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Bloggers silenced as Pakistan blocks WordPress temporarily to tackle terror groups

Blogging platform WordPress has been banned in Pakistan temporarily. The Pakistan Telecommunications authority has reportedly asked all Internet service providers (ISPs) across the country to block access to the site, reports IBN Live. However, Hackedread, reports that self-hosted blogs on WordPress are still accessible. At the moment users visiting WordPress.com or related blogs are redirected to a message as shown in the screenshot below:

Pakistan wordpress

Hackedread also adds that WordPress is being blocked due to its usage by Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an internationally funded terrorist group active in Pakistan and as the authorities don’t have a software that bans specific domain, they prefer to ban the whole platform affecting thousands of bloggers.

Pakistan too has had a history of blocking websites and had banned YouTube in 2012 and the website continues to be blocked to this day. Other temporary bans include on Facebook, Wikipedia, Twitter, IMdB and Flickr.

Situation in India

It’s worth remembering that India too has banned entire websites, and not specific webpages, citing security reasons. Most recently, in January  32 websites were blocked by the Indian government, which included GitHubGist, Weebly, Dailymotion, and Vimeo, for hosting Jihadi content. Courts in India too issue John Doe orders to block websites and in July 2014 the Delhi High Court ordered 472 websites including Google Docs. after a complaint by Multi Screen Media, the Sony owned media company that broadcast the FIFA World Cup live in India. Yash Raj Films also got a John Doe order to block sites in 2013 when Dhoom 3 was released.

What’s clear in all these cases is that there are no processes to how and why websites are blocked. We also reiterate the necessary requirements any government must put in place for blocking a website.

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Visitors to a blocked website should be informed about:

1. The fact that the website has been blocked: There should be a notice indicating that the website has been blocked. This till ensure that visitors don’t assume that there is a problem with their Internet connection (ISP), with the websites servers or  the DNS.

2. Who has asked for the site to be blocked: This ensures that the identity of someone who has asked for a block is public. This ensures accountability and prevents frivolous complaints, since the individual or company filing the complaint will do so in a responsible manner.

3. Who has issued an order for the site to be blocked: This ensures that the adjudicatory body, whether the Department of Telecom or a court is identified as the entity that has issued the order for blocking. This ensures transparency and enforces accountability.

4. Why the website has been blocked: If my access to a page has been blocked, don’t I deserve to know why? Orders should be public, so that the department, person or a court is forced to explain why something has been blocked. Freedom of expression isn’t just the right to express yourself, but also the right to receive that expression.

5. How a block can be removed: There should be recourse established. If a page has been blocked, as the owner of the site, I should have details of whom to contact, and the process for blocks being removed. At present, that is not the case, and sites like Mobango were blocked in India for months, without knowing why or what they could to do to get blocks removed.

6. A link with a public listing of blocks: This will allow an individual to ensure that the block is legitimate, if the government maintains a public listing of blocking orders. This ensures that telecom operators don’t block pages on their own, without orders from the government or courts.

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Image Source: HackedRead

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