KARACHI: Facebook is used by over 400 million globally. In Pakistan, over two million people use Facebook to stay in touch with their friends and family, conduct business, manage events, and share photos, news, and other content.
While we recognise that sites on the internet are used to spew hatred and incite violence, we steadfastly believe that governments have no right to control access to information. We believe that every citizen has an inalienable right to freely access information and by censoring Facebook, the government of Pakistan has taken away that right. This action will have a very negative impact on Pakistan, especially considering that countless small businesses, nonprofit organisations, restaurants, art galleries, magazines, and media outlets use Facebook to conduct day-to-day business.
In 2006, the Supreme Court banned the entire blogspot.com domain for over 18 months over a similar incident where only one blog carried blasphemous cartoons. Thousands of Pakistani bloggers were deprived of the freedom to express themselves and interact with others. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority now has the ability to block specific pages on the internet and could have banned just the single blasphemous page — which it in fact did initially, until ordered by the court to block the whole site.
As members of civil society and professionals who depend on social media networks for our daily communications, we demand the immediate restoration of Facebook and an end to Internet censorship by the government of Pakistan.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 21st, 2010.