After more than a year and a half, Ufone has managed to restore Facebook and Twitter apps for BlackBerry users after developing a content filtering solution which blocks specific pages of a website, a technology not yet available with BlackBerry mobile manufacturer Research In Motion.
Ufone’s BlackBerry service subscribers have been able to use their Facebook and Twitter apps since last Thursday, a service which was blocked in May 2010.
A company official who requested anonymity confirmed that Ufone – in consultation with Research in Motion (RIM), the Canada-based manufacturer of BlackBerry – has installed a content filtering solution which restricts access to specific Facebook pages banned by the local authorities.
The development will help restore some confidence among BlackBerry users in Pakistan who were hit by a week long blackout of services including the infamous BB messenger and, unlike their foreign counterparts, were not compensated by RIM. Blackberry had announced it is offering free apps worth £63 to appease customers hit by its three-day global blackout. It is worth mentioning that BlackBerry’s app world is a service that is currently not available in Pakistan.
The content filtering solution may also help restore customer confidence in the device, as many BlackBerry users were looking to switch to other platforms like Apple’s iPhone or Android-powered devices as entire BlackBerry services are not available in the country.
On May 18, 2010, Lahore High Court – in response to a petition – ordered Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to block Facebook and other websites containing blasphemous content across Pakistan. The move was triggered after a contest invited users to draw caricatures of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Telecom regulator PTA blocked Facebook and other websites with blasphemous material including Facebook app on BlackBerry devices.
Later on, when access to the controversial page was blocked, the court directed PTA to unblock the website.
Another petition was filed after the creation of the second annual Draw Muhammad Day contest this May, seeking permanent ban of Facebook. The largest social networking site was not banned but the government was instructed to block all pages containing blasphemous content.
While internet service providers across the country were able to unblock Facebook and other websites amid blocking access to certain pages, RIM could not do the same as it does not have the technology to block specific pages, official said.
When Ufone approached RIM, they were told to either block or unblock the entire websites, official added.
RIM asked us to develop something on our own, the official said, which we did and they approved it.
BlackBerry users of different telecom networks who spoke to The Express Tribune informed that they were able to use Facebook through the BlackBerry browser and not the app, which is more convenient. Only Ufone subscribers said Facebook and Twitter were working again.
RIM has unblocked everything, the source said, but Ufone is filtering the same before passing the service to customers.
Other telecom companies will also follow and apply content filtering solutions for their BB subscribers, the official further said.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 14th, 2011.