KARACHI: On Wednesday Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) said it had “degraded” Wikipedia services over non-compliance of an earlier direction to remove “unlawful” content. Without explaining the measures taken against the platform, the statement said that the site will be halted if it fails to remove the content in question.
“With a little effort, you can block the objectionable pages yourself on Wikipedia instead of degrading the full service,” responded a Twitter user to a PTA tweet.
Wikipedia was approached for blocking/ removal of the said content by issuing a notice under the applicable law and court order(s). An opportunity for a hearing was also provided; however, the platform neither complied by removing the blasphemous content nor did it appear before the authority, as per the statement.
Pakistan also regularly degrades or blocks sites during protests. In 2017, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were all blocked as clashes with law enforcement occurred in Faizabad. In April 2021, social media – Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Telegram – was cut for just four hours. And last May, the internet went offline altogether during a march protesting the ousting of prime minister Imran Khan.
“Alternatively, restrictions may be placed on these websites and warnings may be issued to deal with such issues tactfully. Wikipedia is paramount in the functioning of society and it is not favourable to ban such an important tool. Hence, the government and its cyber-security department should focus on banning access to links containing blasphemous content instead of banning the website in its entirety”
The restoration of Wikipedia’s services will be reconsidered subject to blocking/removal of the reported unlawful content, said the authority in a statement adding that PTA is committed to ensuring a safe online experience for all Pakistani citizens according to local laws.
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