Pakistan will start monitoring seven major websites, including Google and Yahoo, for content it deems offensive to Muslims. YouTube, Amazon, MSN, Hotmail and Bing will also come under scrutiny, while 17 less well-known sites will be blocked.
Officials will monitor the sites and block links deemed inappropriate. The new action will see Pakistani authorities monitor content published on the seven sites, blocking individual pages if content is judged to be offensive.
Telecoms official Khurram Mehran said links would be blocked without disturbing the main website.
A local citizen, Sohaib Ahmad, has filed a petition in the Lahore High Court (LHC) requesting to direct the telecommunications minister to control circulation of obscene literature on Internet.
The petitioner's counsel, Fahad Ahmad Siddiqui, stated
that the popularisation of Internet by the government was a welcome step as it gave easy excess to information. However, he said that for the youth the path was full of dangers, as they had to browse through junk e-mails that lured them towards websites
containing obscene material. It was very difficult to contain the rain of smut on the Internet and protect children from it, the petitioner said.
Siddiqui said that being an Islamic state, Pakistan's constitution laid down the principle that the
government had to take steps to enable Muslims to live their lives in accordance with the fundamental principles and basic concepts of Islam.
He stated that it was undertaken in the constitution that the state shall take necessary steps for social
justice, eradication of social evils and shall prevent prostitution, gambling, use of injurious drugs, printing, publication, circulation and display of obscene literature and advertisements.
He requested that directions be issued to the Ministry
of Telecommunications to place a permanent ban on the circulation and display of obscene literature and advertisements on Internet, urging that they should be permanently blocked or banned in Pakistan for displaying pornographic material.
Update: Court passes on request to ban internet porn
A court has issued notices to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and the Religious Affairs Ministry to respond to a writ petition seeking a permanent ban on access to pornographic websites .
Taking up a petition filed
by a man named Sohaib Ahmad, Lahore High Court Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmed Khan directed the respondents to file their replies within a month.
Fahad Ahmad Siddiqui, the lawyer representing Ahmad, sought the ban on pornographic websites by saying
that the state religion of Pakistan is Islam and it has been undertaken in the Constitution that steps shall be taken to enable Muslims of the country to make their lives in accordance with the fundamental principles and basic concepts of Islam .
Siddiqui said the Constitution made it clear that state would take necessary steps for social justice and eradication of social evils and prevent prostitution, gambling and taking of injurious drugs, printing, publication, circulation
and display of obscene literature and advertisements .
Siddiqui had requested the court to ban the circulation and display of obscene literature and advertisements through these websites, which must be permanently blocked. He asked the court
to direct the government to draft a regulation to monitor cyber porn traffic in the country.
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have been banned in Pakistan.
According to a report in the Times of India, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has issued a directive to all the ISPs in the country to disable any technology that aids
It has also been noticed that the PTA, apart from the VPN block has been blocking several websites, too. Turns out that the Rolling Stone website has been blocked in Pakistan, probably because it shared an IP address with a
banned site and the ISP could not deactivate a single URL.
The Lahore High Court has ordered Pakistan's Ministry of Information and Technology to block access to all websites in Pakistan especially American social networking website Facebook, spreading religious hatred on internet and to submit a compliance
report by October 6.
The judge, however, made it clear that no search engine including Google would be blocked.
The court issued this order while hearing a petition seeking a permanent ban on the access to American social networking
website Facebook for hosting competition featuring supposedly blasphemous caricatures of Mohammed.
Muhammad & Ahmad, a 'public interest' litigation firm, filed this petition for a permanent ban on access to Facebook for hosting a fresh
blasphemous caricature drawing contest world over under a title 2nd Annual Draw Muhammad Day-May 20, 2011 . The petitioner pointed out that Islamic values are being derogated in the name of information that is hurting feeling of billions of
Muslims. He said despite order of the court, ministry of information technology did not block websites spreading religious hatred.
Pakistan has begun to implement a long threatened block on internet porn.
The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority has provided a list to the ISP's in Pakistan to block the frequently accessed adult sites. It is believed that more web pages will
be added to the initial banned list of 1,000 websites and as many as 170,000 websites may be banned in the near future.
The currently blocked websites redirects the users to a new page with the following error message, This page is blocked due
to restrictions enforced by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) .
Pakistan has blocked 13,000 supposedly obscene Web sites and are taking additional steps to prevent the spread of such materials across the Internet.
The Times of India reported on Friday that Parliamentary Secretary for Information
Technology Nawab Liaqat Ali Khan had made the remark, calling it a serious issue that the government is trying to address at the moment.
He went on to express concern at the rapid spread of obscene Web sites and admitted the
government had no mechanism to block these sites, but pointed out a ministerial committee and a sub-committee had been formed to look into this matter, the report stated.
Last month, Pakistan's government put out requests for proposals for a massive, centralized, Internet censorship system. Explaining that ISPs and backbone providers have expressed their inability to block millions of undesirable web sites using
current manual blocking systems, the state-run National Information Communications Technology Research and Development Fund said it therefore requires a national URL filtering and blocking system.
The new system would need to handle up to 50 million [blacklisted] URLs,
and would operate across the entire Pakistani Internet.
The research fund intends the system to be designed and built within the country, by companies, vendors, academia and/or research organizations with proven track record.
million URLs is quite a tall order, but not, sadly, for the demands of an Internet censorware device. Censorship, managed by routers and software built by a number of companies, scales rather easily to such demands. Companies like McAfee sell blocking
systems for corporate intranets with databases in excess of 25 million web addresses. Such databases have been re-purposed for national firewalls in countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for many years.
Reporters Without Borders has welcomed the ruling that the high court of the southeastern province of Sindh issued in response to a joint petition on 17 April by Bolo Bhi, a Pakistani civil rights group, and other human rights activists in a bid to stop
illegal website censorship by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).
According to a Bolo Bhi press release, the petition asked the court to ensure that no website was blocked, censored or restricted in violation of Pakistan's
After examining the petition, the high court served notice on the federal government and ordered the PTA not to block any website except in accordance with the provisions of the Pakistan Telecommunication Act of 1996. This law
regulates the PTA's control of telecommunications networks and requires, inter alia, that this control be exercised in a fair and transparent manner.
The high court's ruling, if respected, would make it impossible for the government to introduce
any nationwide website filtering system.
Pakistan's government blocked the popular social networking website Twitter after material considered 'offensive' to Islam was posted on the site.
Mohammed Yaseen, the head of Pakistan's telecommunications body, said Twitter refused to remove
material referring to a group on Facebook in which users post images of the religious character Muhammed.
The ban was lifted eight hours later. Interior Minister Rehman Malik wrote on Twitter itself to reveal that prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani
had lifted the ban. Malik tweeted:
I spoke to PM and informed how people are feeling about it. PM ordered to reopen the Twitter.
Husain Haqqani, the previous Pakistani ambassador to the UN, wrote on
Ban on any form of free expression has no place in a democracy. If some1 offends, bar offender instead of banning medium.
Pakistan once again blocked access to Twitter over the weekend because of concerns over blasphemy. Apparently the block related to the Draw Mohammed Day Facebook page, this time apparently because people were tweeting about it.
Two years ago, Pakistan blocked access to Facebook, Twitter and other sites after a competition page was created calling on users to draw the religious character Mohammed. A year later, there was another short-lived block on the anniversary of the
Thousands of users went online to protest what they saw as a pointless and ineffective ban that actually drew attention to what it was supposed to block.
A Helluva Read : Profanity in Adolescent Literature
Although the use of profanity has been examined in a number of types of media, to our knowledge profanity has not been
examined in adolescent literature. Thus, the frequency and portrayal of profanity was coded in 40 bestselling adolescent novels.
Results revealed that some novels did not contain a single instance of profanity, whereas others
contained hundreds of often very strong profanity.
When profanity was used, characters were likely to be young, rich, attractive, and of pronounced social status.
Novels directed at older adolescents
contained much more profanity. However, age guidance or content warnings are not found on the books themselves.
Discussion is provided regarding the implications of the findings and the appropriateness of including content
warnings in adolescent literature.
Offsite Comment: Our swear words have been devalued by overuse -- but not because teenagers are reading too many profane books
Apparently experts (unidentified, as experts so often are) have estimated that American youths use an average of ninety
swear words a day. This makes them seem quite restrained as anyone who has stood at a bus-stop with a collection of British teenagers can testify -- only ninety times a day? On the other hand there are parents of adolescents who will be surprised to
learn that their offspring are capable of articulating or muttering as many as ninety words of any kind in the course of a day.
To my mind it's unlikely that all these foul-mouthed adolescents have learned the habit from books,
since many of them never open one.
Pakistan's government has issued a key policy directive to block all blasphemous and pornographic material on the internet by installing an effective modern blocking system.
Following the personal interest shown by the incumbent Prime Minister
Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and after consulting President Asif Ali Zardari, the Ministry of Information Technology has already issued directions to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to update the system for effective monitoring and control of
supposedly blasphemous and pornographic material.
Pervaiz Ashraf had initiated the move a few months back as minister for information technology and after having been shown supposedly blasphemous material that is freely available to internet users
in Pakistan because of non-availability of blocking systems.
The policy directive has been drafted cautiously to ensure that the move does neither affect the freedom of information in any manner nor allows the authorities to misuse the facility
beyond the mandated goal of blocking only blasphemous and pornographic material. Just like Pakistan doesn't allow the misuse of its blasphemy laws.
The dictate requires:
PTA to establish at the earliest a
dedicated unit while allocating appropriate funds/budget and human resources, supported by the state of the art technical solutions and upgraded call centre, with the mandate to take requisite measures for proactively and independently blocking the
websites displaying the blasphemous and pornographic content.
Pakistan will set
up a monitoring team focusing on supposedly detrimental material to Islam and obscene material being released on the internet and being replicated in Pakistan. All anti Islamic sites would be fully monitored round the clock and remedial actions would be
The decision was taken at a high level meeting chaired by Federal Minister for Interior, Senator Rehman Malik and attended by Federal Secretary Interior, Secretary Information Technology, Chairman PTA, Additional Secretary Ministry of
Interior, Director FIA and other senior officers of the two ministries.
Pakistan pulled the plug again on YouTube just hours after unblocking the site following a months-long blackout. The order for the censorship came directly from Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.
Previously Ashraf in September had ordered YouTube
blocked after it refused to remove the anti-Islam video. Innocence of Muslims.
Earlier on Saturday the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) notified all Internet companies to immediately unblock/restore YouTube until further
notice. Interior Minister Rehman Malik had said earlier said on Twitter that the decision to allow access again was due to huge public demand.
But hours later Ashraf, after officials had said measures were being taken to filter out blasphemous
material and pornography, ordered PTA to cut access. The prime minister has issued orders to block YouTube again, a senior official in Ashraf's office told AFP,.
The privately run Geo television network reported that Ashraf issued the
orders to block YouTube after it showed a report saying blasphemous content was still accessible.
A court in Pakistan has ordered a continuation of the block on YouTube in the country, after the government argued that a removal of the ban would have implications on law and order in the country.
YouTube was banned in Pakistan in
September over a controversial video clip, called Innocence of Muslims , which mocked the religious character Muhammad. The country's telecom regulator said it was blocking the entire site as it was not able to separately block individual
URLs (uniform resource locators) linking to copies of the video.
The plaintiff, Bytes For All, Pakistan, has argued that the PTA has Internet filtering technology that can now be used to selectively block individual pages.
Bytes for All had
asked the court for an interim order unblocking YouTube. We wanted the government to go ahead and block the 700 to 800 URLs with the blasphemous content, and remove the block on the rest of the site.
Justice Mansoor Ali Shah of the Lahore
High Court noted that the ban on YouTube is negatively impacting citizens, specially students, and asked the government to resolve the issue with information technology experts, and submit a report by July 25 on how to deal with the blasphemous URLs and
make the rest of the platform available, Ahmad said.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and the Ministry of Information Technology are debating how to use a new system to censor websites and their contents.
The system is being imported from China and is expected to control internet
traffic and activities across the country as per PTA policies.
PTA have been holding consultations over this new project with other parties interested in censorship including the Ministry of Interior, the Armed Forces of Pakistan, various
intelligence agencies and NTSC.
Sources privy to the Ministry for Information Technology told Pakistan Today that the ministry had a few reservations regarding the system, its capabilities and above all its massive cost.
details about the project, a central point would be established by PTA from where all internet traffic inside the country would flow and supposedly objectionable content and pornographic websites would be blocked from there. Under the new mechanism, URL
filtering software worth $ 5 million would also be installed at four landing stations of submarine cable which would control internet content on mobile phones as well.
According to media reports, various objections are being raised by
groups who contend that, emails, mobile phone internet traffic and mobile phone calls would then be monitored by the government.
PTA Chairman Farooq Ahmed Khan denied such surveillance but confirmed that in the next 60 days a new mechanism for
blocking un-Islamic, pornographic and blasphemous material from websites will be activated.
Pakistan's new Information and Technology minister has warned that Google could be blocked in the country if the company fails to remove supposedly blasphemous and objectionable material from its video-sharing website YouTube.
Minister of State
for IT and Telecommunication Anusha Rahman Khan made the remarks on her first day in office while talking about Pakistan's efforts to end a nine-month ban on YouTube for hosting clips from the film Innocence of Muslims . Khan was quoted as saying
by The News daily:
It all depends on our negotiation clout. If they persist with their stance, we can block Google in Pakistan as a last resort as there are many alternative search engines available on the Web.
We will pump in extra money if needed and do whatever is in our capacity to bring YouTube back to Pakistan without compromising our ethical values.
She said she will request Google to remove objectionable material
from YouTube or at least ensure that access to it is blocked in Pakistan.
Pakistani religious groups responded violently to the film Innocence of Muslims, leading to YouTube being blocked from September 17 last year. The ban was lifted for a few
hours in December before being reinstated following protests from religious groups.
A meeting to discuss supposedly blasphemous material and the ban on YouTube turned into an exchange of abuse as the Pakistan Telecom Authority lobbed the issue in the court of parliament, asking legislators to pass a new law and create a new set-up to
decide what is blasphemous.
After witnessing nasty scenes in the official meeting, the PTA proposed to the government to enact new laws through parliament for establishing an independent department having the mandate as well as the authority to
block access of such links on the internet.
The PTA feel pressure from all sides as the Government pushes for an end to the ban even though supposed blasphemy continues to be available. They clearly do not like being asked to make the decisions
about the impasse and would rather someone else did it. Official sources explained:
No one is ready to take responsibility for opening up of YouTube as the PTA is just executing the orders of the Inter-Ministerial
Committee and orders of other top officials. We have proposed to the government to table a bill in parliament and establish an independent forum having the authority to define the blasphemy material and then impose ban on it.
nothing in the PTA act authorising a ban on YouTube and it has been done so far on the directives of the inter-ministerial committee or the court orders. Without introducing a dedicated censor, the issue of blasphemous material on the internet cannot be
resolved, they added.
Official sources who attended the meeting told The News that representatives of an NGO, Bytes for All, accused the top officials of the PTA in the presence of several stakeholders saying you are a liar and threatened
to fix them. I have never seen such a disgusting attitude during an official meeting in my whole life, a participant of the meeting said.
The year-long saga of the Pakistan government's YouTube ban has just taken another twist, as a case to unblock the website has been referred to a panel of Lahore
High Court justices who will now decide whether the country's haphazard internet censorship regime is unconstitutional. It's another reprieve for the government's IT minister Anusha Rehman , who has overseen an increasingly oppressive online censorship
regime in Pakistan.
Authorities in Pakistan's southern Sindh province have banned Skype , Whatsapp and Viber in the name of security, triggering angry reactions from numerous users of the instant messaging applications.
The decision to enforce the ban for
three months was made at a meeting chaired by Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah. Provincial Information Minister Sharjeel Memon announced said:
Terrorists and criminal elements are using these networks to communicate
after the targeted operation was launched (against them).
Sindh's Home Secretary will contact the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to have these applications banned in the province. According to Memon, the Sindh government would
contact the federal government to ensure that illegal SIMs too are shut down.
IMDb, the widely used online entertainment news portal, a prominent source of reliable news and box office reports regarding films, television programmes and video games from all over the world, was blocked on 19 November, but the ban was lifted by
Netizens believe the ban was enforced to block the movie trailer for The Line of Freedom , a film that highlights the issue of the crises in Balochistan province showing Baloch separatists abducted by Pakistani security
agencies without charges in a bid to stamp out rebellion.
Nighat Dad of Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) said:
Our team did a quick survey with the help of tweeters around the country, said Dad. We checked
various other movie titles but only Line of Freedom seemed to be blocked on IMDb and several other websites were accessible otherwise.
I didn't even know there was a movie by this title which was giving the government so much
heartburn and so I just had to see what was so unsavoury that the government had to block the entire website. This is what happens, when you forcibly close the internet, word gets around and people get curious!
The Line of Freedom
is a 2013 UK war thriller by David Whitney. With Antonio Khela, Mansoor Al-Feeli and Tony Hasnath.
In 2011, an innocent student was abducted by
his country's security forces. After days of interrogation and torture, he was shot and dumped in the desert. But incredibly, he survived. This is his true story, and the story of thousands of his countrymen who have died in a secret and dirty war.
A localised YouTube service will be available in Pakistan. But users are far from happy
Who would've thought the news earlier this month of YouTube?? being finally made accessible in Pakistan , albeit as a local search engine, would open a floodgate
Minster of State for Information Technology and Telecommunications, Anusha Rehman certainly did not. She probably thought she had done a good turn --- wooed many young digital rights activists who had long been demanding unblocking
of the website and calmed others who had demanded blocking of objectionable content from it.
Instead of installing costly filtration mechanisms, Google will easily be able to block blasphemous content on the request of the Pakistan government,
Rehman told the Senate's Standing Committee on Information and Technology. Saudi Arabia and Malaysia have also reached a similar arrangement with Google, she added.
But Farieha Aziz, director at Bolo Bhi, a not-for-profit geared towards
advocacy, policy and research in the areas of gender rights, government transparency, internet access, digital security and privacy, dismissed the news out right saying: There is no arrangement between the company and the government, unlike the
perception the government is projecting.
I don't want a localised version. Remember what became of Disney in India with everything getting dubbed in Hindi! I would definitely prefer the original version, said a resolute 12-year old
Khadeja Ebrahim, a YouTube buff. I love YouTube, my entire school loves YouTube and we hate the people who have blocked it, she added vehemently.
Facebook has censored the popular page of a liberal Pakistani rock band and others that criticise the Taliban at the request of the government, angering activists campaigning against censorship in the Islamic country.
Rock band Laal (Red)
formed in 2007 and are known for their progressive politics. Their Facebook page has more than 400,000 likes, with users frequently joining debates on issues ranging from feminism to the role of the country's army in politics. But it is now censored to
users from inside Pakistan.
Other pages like Taalibansarezalimans (The Taliban are oppressors) and Pakistani.meem which describes itself as pro-democracy and secularism, have similarly been blocked in recent days.
spokeswoman said: While we never remove this type of content from the site entirely, like most Internet services, we may restrict people from accessing it in the countries where it is determined to be illegal. Facebook have unhelpfully initiated
the block in such a way that users are not made aware of the censorship, requests for the banned page are simply redirected to the requestor's own profile page.
Laal's Facebook page was made accessible in the country after just two days. Good news? Yes, but not as much as you think. Remember that Laal has a pretty strong fan base and an equally strong support system with reach extending to lawyers, advocacy
groups, local and international media.
Other banned page owners who have been blocked cannot fight back in a similar way. Are these people left with any options after they're blocked? Roshni.pk and Talibaans Are Zaalimaans are only
two of the many other pages that remained blocked.
The unblocking of Laal may look like a win, but if you step back and assess the bigger picture, it only reveals the extent to which the government can censor with impunity.
unblocking was clearly a ploy to stop us from creating more outrage -- the unblocking of Laal was a minor battle won in a war we are losing.
Twitter has restored access inside Pakistan to dozens of tweets and accounts, after blocking them last month following official complaints about suuposed blasphemous content.
Twitter said it had changed its May 18 decision after the government
failed to provide sufficient clarification. The company said in a statement:
On May 18, 2014, we made an initial decision to withhold content in Pakistan based on information provided to us by the Pakistan
We have re-examined the requests and, in the absence of additional clarifying information from Pakistani authorities, have determined that restoration of the previously withheld content is warranted.
The content is now available again in Pakistan.
Most of the offending material concerned anti-Islam accounts, but the accounts of three US porn stars were also listed.
Pakistan's government is formulating a policy for online media, incorporating all restrictive provisions of the recently approved National Broadcast Policy.
Like the broadcast policy, the draft online policy seeks a ban or more or less everything. In
Publishing inconsistent and misleading information and data. No information and data can be published or broadcast demeaning the armed forces, law enforcement agencies and government officials who can
sentence people for criminal offences.
The online media cannot publish information and data that may spark separatism and unrest or create hatred among people of different castes, creeds and religions, or may satirise national
ideals, undermine people and harm the unity and solidarity of the country, intrude on privacy, impede state security and hurt religious values and non-communal spirit.
The draft seeks a ban on publishing anything indecent that
might affect children's psyche or something that might encourage harassment and violence against women and children.
The online media is not allowed to publish photographs and footage of murders and dead bodies that hurt human
feelings. Besides, there will be a ban on publishing abusive and terrorising photographs and videos of local and foreign films which militate against the culture of the country, according to the draft.
The conditions and restrictions
relating to advertisements in the draft online policy are also similar to those of the broadcast policy:
It puts restrictions on online publication of any information or advertisements that might hamper friendly
relations with foreign countries or may cause conflict with a friendly state.
Moreover, the online media will not be allowed to publish any advertisements, containing language and scenes that may hurt political and religious
sentiment. No photographs or video footage of mosques, temples and churches can be used in advertisements for commercial purposes.
At present, anyone can launch a website and put information, photographs, video or audio clips there.
Many government officials, especially deputy commissioners (DCs), have been pressing for a policy to impose restrictions on such online media workings.
The largest blogging platform of the world, WordPress.com, has been banned in Pakistan which a tech blog says has been done on orders of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).
According to the ProPakistani blog, who claims to have been confirmed
by an anonymous source within PTA, reports that WordPress.com has been blocked due to references to the Pakistan Day. The exact nature of threat on WordPress.com that triggered the blocking is unreported.
The blog also reports the ban might
be lifted in next two days
PTA has a history of blocking websites without giving any prior notice or reason of doing so.
Pakistani ISP are getting ready to write a lot of firewall censorship rules, with the country's telecommunications censor issuing a list of 429,343 banned porn Websites.
According to newspaper The Express Tribune , ISPs will be expected to implement
the blocks at the domain level . The outlet explains that the regulatory order followed instructions from the Supreme Court that it take remedial steps to quantify the nefarious phenomenon of obscenity and pornography that has an imminent role
to corrupt and vitiate the youth of Pakistan .
ISPs aren't impressed, complaining that they'll need both time and equipment to implement such a large block-list.
Despite near universal condemnation from Pakistan's tech experts; despite the efforts of a determined coalition of activists, and despite numerous attempts by alarmed politicians to patch its many flaws, Pakistan's Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill
(PECB) last week passed into law. Its passage ends an eighteen month long battle between Pakistan's government, who saw the bill as a flagship element of their anti-terrorism agenda, and the technologists and civil liberties groups who slammed the bill
as an incoherent mix of anti-speech, anti-privacy and anti-Internet provisions.
But the PECB isn't just a tragedy for free expression and privacy within Pakistan. Its broad reach has wider consequences for Pakistan nationals
abroad, and international criminal law as it applies to the Net.
The new law creates broad crimes related to cyber-terrorism and its glorification online. It gives the authorities the opportunity to threaten, target
and censor unpopular online speech in ways that go far beyond international standards or Pakistan's own free speech protections for offline media. Personal digital data will be collected and made available to the authorities without a warrant: the
products of these data retention programs can then be handed to foreign powers without oversight.
PECB is generous to foreign intelligence agencies. It is far less tolerant of other foreigners, or of Pakistani nationals living
abroad. Technologists and online speakers outside Pakistan should pay attention to the first clause of the new law :
This Act may be called the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016.
It extends to the whole of Pakistan.
It shall apply to every citizen of Pakistan wherever he may be
and also to every other person for the time being in Pakistan.
It shall also apply to any act committed outside Pakistan by any person if the act constitutes an offence under this Act and affects a person, property,
information system or data location in Pakistan.
Poorly-written cyber-crime laws criminalize these everyday and innocent actions by technology users, and the PECB is no exception. It criminalizes the violation of terms of service in some cases, and ramps up the penalties for many
actions that would be seen as harmless or positive acts in the non-digital world, including unauthorized copying and access. Security researchers and consumers frequently conduct unauthorized acts of access and copying for legitimate and lawful
reasons. They do it to exercise of their right of fair use, to exposing wrongdoing in government, or to protect the safety and privacy of the public. Violating website terms of service may be a violation of your agreement with that site, but no nation
should turn those violations into felonies.
The PECB asserts an international jurisdiction for these new crimes. It says that if you are a Pakistan national abroad (over 8.5 million people, or 4% of Pakistan's total population)
you too can be prosecuted for violating its vague statutes. And if a Pakistan court determines that you have violated one of the prohibitions listed in the PECB in such a way that it affects any Pakistani national, you can find yourself prosecuted in the
Pakistan courts, no matter where you live.
Pakistan isn't alone in making such broad claims of jurisdiction. Some countries claim the power to prosecute a narrow set of serious crimes committed against their citizens abroad under
international law's passive personality principle (the U.S. does so in some of its anti-terrorism laws). Other countries claim jurisdiction over the actions of its own nationals abroad under the active personality principle (for instance,
in cases of treason.)
But Pakistan's cyber-crime law asserts both principles simultaneously, and explicitly applies them to all cyber-crime, both major and minor, defined in PECB. That includes creating a sense of insecurity in
the [Pakistani] government (Ch.2, 10), offering services to change a computer's MAC address (Ch.2, 16), or building tools that let you listen to licensed radio spectrum (Ch.2, 13 and 17).
The universal application of such
arbitrary laws could have practical consequences for the thousands of overseas Pakistanis working in the IT and infosecurity industries, as well for those in the Pakistan diaspora who wish to publicly critique Pakistani policies. It also continues the
global jurisdictional trainwreck that surrounds digital issues, where every country demands that its laws apply and must be enforced across a borderless Internet.
Applying what has been described as the worst piece of
cyber-crime legislation in the world to the world is a bold ambition, and the current Pakistani government's reach may well have exceeded its grasp, both under international law and its own constitutional limits. The broad coalition who fought PECB
in the legislature will now seek to challenge it in the courts.
But until they win, Pakistan has overlaid yet another layer of vague and incompatible crimes over the Internet, and its own far-flung citizenry.
Popular pornography websites XVideos, Redtube and Pornhub have been blocked by two ISPs in the Philippines.
Customers of Smart and Sun Cellular have already been blocked and others are set to follow.
The Philippines government has not given any
official explanation of why the sites have suddenly been blocked. However, the country's National Telecommunications Commission confirmed to CNN that it had ordered all the nation's ISPs to block access from 14 January,
The censorship seems to
have been triggered by a report from Pornhub suggesting that their customers in the Philippines spent the longest average time on its site, (12 minutes and 45 seconds, about three minutes longer than the global average).
Pakistani has threatened to ban social media networks if they failed to censor content considered insulting to Islam. The government's Fderal Investigation Agency (FIA) is also in talks with Interpol to identify supposedly blasphemous content.
The FIA has sent a formal request to Facebook but the company's management has yet to respond. Pakistan's interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan urged Facebook to comply:
I hope that the management of Facebook will respect the religious sentiments of 200 million Pakistanis and tens of millions of users of Facebook in Pakistan and will cooperate in that regard.
requests come after the Islamabad high court ordered the government to start an investigation into online blasphemy and threatened to ban social media networks if they failed to censor content deemed insulting to Islam, lawyers told AFP.
Pakistan's federal cabinet has approved an amendment to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (Peca), 2016, aimed at bringing blasphemy and pornography within the ambit of the cybercrime law.
The issue of offences relating to blasphemy was recently
taken up by the Islamabad High Court during the hearing of a petition filed against alleged uploading of supposedly objectionable material on social media.
Additional Attorney General Afnan Karim Kundi had last week informed the court that the
federal government was amending Peca to include blasphemy and pornography as scheduled offences in the cybercrime law.
The chairman of the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) Amir Azeem Bajwa has called on the government to block social media websites in the country in consideration to the circulation of blasphemous content through these mediums.
Senate Standing Committee, Bajwa asked the government to formulate a policy to block social media networks which are being operated outside the country, and in its stead develop indigenous social networking websites, just as in the UAE and China.
Bajwa said that the PTA has blocked more than 39,000 URLs since 2010, and blocked as many as 8,000 websites related to pornography. In addition, the PTA has received over 8,000 complaints regarding blasphemous content on the internet.
The Pakistan government should immediately roll back a set of social media censorship measures that were passed in secret, the Committee to Protect Journalists has said..
On January 28, the federal cabinet approved the Citizens Protection (Against
Online Harm) Rules, 2020, a set of regulations on social media content, without public consultation; the measures were enacted in secret.
A copy of the regulations, which was leaked online, shows that the rules empower the government to fine or ban
social media platforms over their users' content. The regulations provide for a National Coordinator to be appointed within the Ministry of Information and Telecommunications responsible for enforcing the rules.
Steven Butler, CPJ's Asia program
These stringent but vague rules approved by Pakistan's federal cabinet threaten the ability of journalists to report the news and communicate with their sources. The cabinet should immediately
reverse course and seek broad consultations with legislators and civil society, including the media, on how to proceed with any such regulations.
Social media companies are required to remove content deemed objectionable by the National
Coordinator within 24 hours, and to provide to the regulator decrypted content and any other information about users on demand. The companies are also made responsible for preventing the live streaming of any content related to terrorism, extremism, hate
speech, defamation, fake news, incitement to violence and national security.
If a service is does not comply, the National Coordinator is granted the power to block services and levy fines of up to 500 million rupees ($3.24 million).