Facebook has again been accused of unlawful collusion with the Pakistan government after the publication today of a list of url’s that have been blocked by the company – including an influential page dedicated to human rights and political discourse.
A partial list of blocked pages is published below.
there appears to be no legal basis for Facebook’s agreement to remove pages that seek to encourage free expression and political discourse.
Earlier this year Privacy Surgeon reported that a senior Pakistan government official told the High Court of Lahore that Facebook has entered into a covert working relationship with national authorities to censor its content.
The claim was made during a hearing of public interest claims brought by Bytes for All Pakistan (B4A) against the government’s policy of widespread online censorship. The government policy has already resulted in an outright ban on YouTube.
In response, Facebook denied that it was “colluding” with Pakistan’s authorities and asserted that it acted strictly in accordance with policy and law.
“In the case of Pakistan, we have received legal advice that the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority is a body authorised under Pakistani law to require Internet service providers to restrict content. These orders are made pursuant to court decisions and directives from government agencies as specified in Pakistani law. Pursuant to this authority, the Pakistan Telecommunications Agency sends blocking notices to Facebook from time to time.”
“When we receive a request from the Pakistan Telecommunications Agency pursuant to its authority to require ISPs to restrict content, we evaluate it according to the process described above. Consistent with our policies, if we have a good faith belief that the content in question violates the law in Pakistan, then that specific content may be made unavailable in Pakistan in accordance with the terms of the order. These requests relate to a relatively small amount of content on Facebook: we estimate that blocking orders received from Pakistan this year relate to fewer than 100 items of content.”
However the removal this week of Roshni, a popular page promoting human rights and free speech, calls into question Facebook’s assertions. The page contained no religious obscenity or unlawful content and its removal appears to have been a political matter inspired by pressure from influential extremist clerics.