It sounds like Pakistan’s lawmakers want changes to be made at Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and pretty much every other social media platform. Some media reports this week claim that they’re considering a ban on all social media, while others say that they might demand a local version of the websites. Officials are reportedly responding to the recent act of alleged “character assassination” involving what some say is a fake picture circulating on social media.
Facebook and Google are also under attack from newspapers in the U.K., which are seeking more regulation of the sites due to the spread of fake news in some countries.
The Independent reported on Wednesday that Islamabad High Court Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui is calling for Facebook and other social media websites because people are using them to spread “blasphemous” images. He also wants to keep those who have posted such content online from leaving the country by placing their names on the Exit Control List.
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The judge reportedly claimed that he hasn’t been sleeping since he saw content that offended him and reportedly drew a comparison between blasphemers and terrorists. Facebook is said to be working on removing the offending pages.
In Pakistan, blaspheming the Prophet Muhammad is considered a capital crime. Other religious offences are also listed as crimes, including “defiling the Quran” and “wounding religious feelings.” Making “derogatory remarks” is also a crime in Pakistan.
Siddiqui also asked for support from Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, even to the point of blocking all social media sites. More than 2,000 rallied in Islamabad in support of strong action against social media sites.
On Wednesday, Khan called for rapid development of a strategy within days to cut use of social media for character assassination. He told the Ministry of Interior to work with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to work on a plan that wouldn’t negatively impact freedom of speech but would also keep people from misusing the right to free speech, reports Samaa TV.
The case is related to a report Khan received from the Federal Investigation Agency regarding a picture of a “high level judicial personality” that it says is fake and being circulated on social media. Pakistan officials requested information from Facebook and the U.S. government but Facebook reportedly refused to provide any information.
He also said that Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp should be ordered to roll out local versions of their websites and work to keep controversial material about people from being circulated.
Pakistan versus other sites
This isn’t the first time Pakistani officials have battled major tech companies. They did carry out on their threats to ban YouTube a couple of years ago due to controversial and offensive content. Ride-sharing apps Uber and Careem have also felt the wrath of Pakistani officials, although for them, it was related to certificates that are required by the government.