Several porn-free sites show up on restricted list

Published: February 7, 2016
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PHOTO: AFP

PHOTO: AFP

KARACHI: 

In a move that is likely to reignite the debate over internet censorship in the country, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PAT) has included many conventional and porn-free websites in a list of domains to be blocked as part of its drive against pornography.

In January, the telecom sector’s regulatory body directed internet service providers (ISPs) across Pakistan to block smutty and pornographic websites and provided the latter with a list of 429,343 domains that needed to be blocked.

Blocking all offensive websites is impossible, says PTA

The renowned American microblogging and social networking website Tumblr.com sits on top of the aforesaid list. Tumblr.com is not the only decent website on the government’s radar. The PTA’s list includes scores of ‘non-objectionable’ websites without any traces of pornography. A quick scan of the domains indicated that several photography, ecommerce, blogging and business websites were also included in the list, which was originally meant for smutty websites only.

Susancarter.blogspot.com, a blog on iPod accessories; Lucyislawless.com, a website for wedding rings; Abshopping.com and aceofhearts.com.au, ecommerce portals; Bodypolitics.com.au, a public relations website; Wingodingo.com, a logical gaming website; Phoenixmedia.com, a print business; Michaelpaulphotography.com, a private photography website; Clearsong.com, a record company and Spinnernetdesigns.com, an online fabric stores are only a handful examples from an array of domains that are not smutty or pornographic in nature yet present in the PTA’s list.

The PTA issued this particular directive to the ISPs in the wake of a January 12 order by the Supreme Court – a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune.

The order’s scope does not go beyond smutty, obscene or pornographic websites. The PTA, too, said it has been asked by the apex court to ‘take remedial steps to quantify the nefarious phenomenon of obscenity and pornography that has an imminent role to corrupt and vitiate the youth of Pakistan’.

Pakistan to block over 400,000 porn websites

However, the inclusion of non-objectionable websites in the PTA’s list – already shared with the ISPs for blocking – concerns rights organisation that have reservations over the entire process and fear internet censorship by the government.

“The last time PTA filtered out obscene content, they took down a website of a start-up by the name of hometown. Earlier, PTA also took down Instagram briefly because it had ‘pornographic content’ and breast cancer research was unavailable on PTCL at one time,” said Farieha Aziz, director of Bolo Bhi, a rights organisation.

In November, 2011, the government issued a similar directive to the ISPs asking them to block 1,000 most-visited porn websites. However, many conventional websites were blocked back then as well.

Lack of clarity on how one can have a website restored if blocked mistakenly or for the wrong reasons also poses a problem.

Access to networks, such as Xbox Live, PlayStation Network and Game Ranger was denied in February, 2014, according to Bolo Bhi’s website – and that happened without any reason or explanation offered to the public who believed that the blockade was accidental. Similarly, access to the popular Internet Movie Database (IMDB) was blocked in November 2013. Though the ban was lifted, there exists no official explanation on why access to the IMDB website was blocked.

It is the historical context of internet censorship in the country that remains a subject of much debate and inclusion of non-objectionable websites in the PTA’s list has raised many eyebrows. The Express Tribune shared its queries with the PTA a week ago but no response was submitted till the filing of this report.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2016.

Reader Comments (9)

  • Nael
    Feb 7, 2016 - 6:03AM

    Now if only the government would show half as much zeal against extremism. You know the stuff that actually kills people.Recommend

  • Sajid
    Feb 7, 2016 - 8:25AM

    Bravo, this is actually a very good step by the Government of Pakistan. We are in habit of criticizing everything good or bad by the government. Also take a look at China. They also block Porn along with any Anti-China and Anti-Communist websites. They have developed their own search engine weibo, Alibaba Express instead of Ebay, and many other websites that favor China in Web Commerce. Many Muslim countries also block obscene websites. People lived very well before these porn sites, so people can live well without them. There is nothing good for humanity in it.

    They are number#1 cause of marital discord and marriage break ups. Male Erectile dysfunction is also now blamed on heavy Porn viewing, and if you factor in time wasted and brains corrupted and permanent re-wired to a point where a male does not find his own wife, if married, attractive anymore then that is the biggest damage.

    Growing instances of rapes in India and elsewhere can also be blamed on these porn sites by the youth who get encouraged and want to do the act desperately after viewing it hundreds of times on the internet. So what’s wrong with banning these obscene sites which are nothing but trouble for the whole society.Recommend

  • Confused
    Feb 7, 2016 - 9:43AM

    When guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns. Recommend

  • so
    Feb 7, 2016 - 3:19PM

    meanwhile anti pakistan baloch websites open without problem.Recommend

  • Hameed
    Feb 7, 2016 - 5:04PM

    @Sajid:
    Did you even read the title???Recommend

  • Pakhtun
    Feb 7, 2016 - 6:22PM

    @Sajid:

    Yeah very good step. Another good step would be to ban google and overall internet. Isnt it?Recommend

  • Dong
    Feb 7, 2016 - 7:27PM

    @Sajid idiots like you who have no control over themselves support such personal space violating actions. What do want the government to do next, tell you how to treat your wife in bed? or what to wear or what to eat?

    40% of internet is porn, only a half-wit with no idea of how internet works, thinks that it can be banned. China is one of the top consumers of internet porn, so is Saudi Arabia despite their “glorious” systems.

    Look at all the child molesters in our society, even 5 year old girls aren’t safe in our sexually retarded country and you are talking about suppressing them even further.

    Even birds will have to fly with a wing protecting their backs if we keep on suppressing our society.Recommend

  • Ali Zeb
    Feb 7, 2016 - 8:56PM

    Yeah right !! And what exactly are you supposed to do about the pornography going in each home behind the walls ? Get a grip. Stop alienating stuff and put your head towards the things that actually matter. Recommend

  • Jamal
    Feb 8, 2016 - 1:51AM

    Banning porn is good but websites preaching hate and fanaticism should also be banned pronto.Recommend

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