[LINK] 'Facebook ban in Pakistan is shocking, says Bytes For All'

Roger Clarke Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
Mon May 24 22:32:28 AEST 2010

[Life is complex.

[I'm a beer-drinking, shiraz-swilling, middle-class intellectual, 
living in a society that's still free enough that I can fight to keep 
it civilised.  So I can spend some spare time drawing attention to 
Facebook's sins.

[Meanwhile, other people, with far more courage than I've ever 
needed, are dependent on ... the likes of Facebook.

[They need these flawed services as an antidote against a combination 
of people who dedicate their lives to controlling the lives of other 
people ('fundamentalists', in this case Muslims), and judges who have 
no understanding of the technologies and processes involved.]

Facebook ban in Pakistan is shocking, says Bytes For All
By Shahzad Ahmad for Bytes for All
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, 20 May 2010

Pakistanis woke up today to find sites like Facebook and YouTube 
blocked after a government crackdown on "blasphemous" websites. APC 
member Bytes For All issued the following statement through APC:

APC member Bytes For All and its members are shocked at the blanket 
ban exercised on Facebook in Pakistan. With the ongoing campaign of 
Muslim Facebook users against "Draw Mohammed Day", a campaign urging 
Facebookers to sarcastically draw the caricatures of Prophet Muhammad 
(PBUH), the Lahore High Court today ordered Pakistan 
Telecommunication Authority to block Facebook in Pakistani cyberspace 
until the next hearing of the case, scheduled on May 31 2010.

We consider this blanket ban of the website unnecessary, based on 
wrongful accusations, against civil liberties and it will further 
instigate hatred among international Muslim and non-Muslim 

We believe that the court was misinformed by the lawyers or 
supporting technical persons that the specific URL block is not 
possible, and as a result the entire site is blocked because of a 
single hate-speech page.

Responding to this as quoted in Dawn Newspaper, Mr. Wahaj-us-Siraj, 
Convener of Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan said 
"basically, our judges aren't technically sound. They have just 
ordered it, but it should have been done in a better way than by just 
blocking a particular URL or link."

"Blocking the entire website would anger users, especially youth and 
adults, because the social networking website is so popular among 
them and they spend most of their time on it."

Ms. Nighat Dad, Advocate High Court and renown women's rights 
advocate said "the petitioners [those who took the banning of 
Facebook to the Court] have in fact imputed Facebook for such 
"blasphemous" reporting, as they have no expertise/know-how in 
relation to the use of information technology, and especially using 
internet. Therefore, the Court may have been misled by the main 
petitioner, and as a result, the court order may have extensive 
negative effects related to internet governance in Pakistan.

Facebook is extremely popular among internet users in Pakistan. The 
court was told today that there are about 4.3 million Facebook users 
in Pakistan. However, as per http://www.checkfacebook.com/ the total 
number of Pakistani users is around 2.35 million.

According to Alexa.com, it is third most accessed website from Pakistan.

Bytes For All is also shocked about the argument given in the court 
today - that since China, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates 
blocked Facebook, Pakistan should also do the same. We believe that 
Pakistan, as a democratic country, is different to the mentioned 
dictatorial regimes. These countries block Facebook in order to 
prevent social mobilisation against dictators for democracy.

Sana Saleem, a young blogger from Karachi who writes for Global 
Voices also said "the 'Draw Muhammad Day' campaign appears to be 
nothing more than a desperate attempt to incite and provoke Muslims - 
let's not give them the satisfaction."

On the blanket ban of the Facebook, Sana said "the ban has left me 
dumbfounded. I mean the Country's high court has chosen to overlook a 
thousand piled up cases and react to a campaign on a social 
networking site? Truly ironic. This whole mess has only added more 
fuel to the fire and has given the campaign a publicity boost."

Dr. Awab Alvi, the most famous political blogger in Pakistan said 
"why should the people of Pakistan suffer for an action committed 
elsewhere, it may have better been to order a Pakistani lawyer to 
represent the people of Pakistan, filing a lawsuit in the 
jurisdiction of Facebook and accusing them of having violated their 
own terms of service listed on their own website. It may have taught 
them a lesson not to repeat such a mistake again. Little good this 
ban shall do now in Pakistan."

In a twitter message from abroad, Jehan Ara, President P at SHA said 
"it's ridiculous to ban Facebook. Who does it hurt but us? Suddenly 
Pakistanis have lost use of a social networking tool. When will sense 

Worried about possible violent clashes on the issue in the country, 
Fariha Akhtar, an IT Professional, Take Back the Tech! campaigner and 
women rights activist said "I consider blocking Facebook as a protest 
to a religious hatred group similar to burying your head in the sand. 
I want to join the Facebook group to "Honour the Prophet Muhammad 
(S.A.W)" and to record a peaceful protest to that hatred group but I 
cannot. The solution to the problem is not in turning your eyes away 
from the problem but in facing it head on and figuring out ways to 
SOLVE it so that it does not happen again. While I'm an advocate of 
freedom of expression, I also believe in respecting others' beliefs 
and do not approve of violence of any kind, be it Holocaust or 
continuous attacks on the character of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be 
upon him). Websites like Facebook should follow their policies that 
do not allow any sort of racism and should immediately delete all 
sorts of hatred groups. Furthermore, I appeal anti-violence activists 
from across the world to reject all forms of hate speech that can 
result in extreme violence."

Due to media frenzy, the situation in the country on this issue is 
getting increasingly heated with the passage of time. Local media is 
further hyping things up based solely on emotional grounds, without 
understanding the actual dynamics of the Facebook Ban. We have yet to 
witness rational discussion on this issue.

It is very unfortunate that a few of the civil rights activists 
against this ban have already gotten death threats or are being 
accused of blasphemy.

Adding more fuel to the fire, different religious leaders have called 
for the government to order total ban on diplomatic, social and 
economic relations with the West. Without understanding the core 
issue, different religious political parties have moved their youth 
wings in colleges and universities to demonstrate against Facebook, 
which can result in violent clashes and loss of life and property as 
was witnessed during Danish caricatures saga.

The Facebook ban also impacted Google search engine, which was 
temporarily blocked, as well as Wikipedia. The popular video 
streaming site, Youtube, is now also inaccessible from the country. 
Other services like Blackberry that were also blocked are now slowly 
coming back, however cell phone bandwidth also blocks Facebook and 

While we stand for civil liberties and open net in the country, 
Pakistani internet users are the ones who suffer, while hate speech 
mongers and extremist on both sides continue to gain more ground. 
Let's hope that sanity prevails in the long run!

Roger Clarke                                 http://www.rogerclarke.com/
Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd      78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
                    Tel: +61 2 6288 1472, and 6288 6916
mailto:Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au                http://www.xamax.com.au/

Visiting Professor in the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre      Uni of NSW
Visiting Professor in Computer Science    Australian National University

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