Islamabad: After a Pakistani court last week threatened to ban social media networks if they failed to censor content considered insulting to Islam, the country’s main investigation agency said it’s asked Facebook to block “blasphemous” content. It added that the agency is also in talks with Interpol to identify “blasphemous” content, reported Pakistani newspaper Dawn on Thursday.
Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) told a high-level meeting yesterday that the agency has sent a formal request to Facebook but the company’s management has yet to respond. A senior diplomat at Pakistan’s embassy in Washington was tasked with contacting Facebook to seek the requisite information under US Right to Information laws, Dawn wrote. 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,” he was quoted as saying in a ministry statement, according to Dawn.
Khan also said that the government would use all available options to ensure the removal of “blasphemous” material from social media sites. Both these requests come after the Islamabad high court last Thursday 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 previously banned Facebook for hosting allegedly blasphemous content for two weeks in 2010. As well, YouTube was unavailable from 2012 to 2016, over an amateur film about the Prophet Muhammad that led to global riots, AFP added.
Islamabad later came to agreements with major Internet firms to block – within Pakistan – material that violated its laws, once the companies had performed their own cross-checks.
Meanwhile, Dawn also reported that an interior ministry statement said at least 11 people allegedly involved in uploading and sharing “objectionable material”, had been identified and were being questioned. The FIA planned to seek help from Interpol in questioning some of these suspects as well, indicating that some of them may not be in the country.