Pakistan among countries with the worst online censorship

Report suggests that Pakistan places heavy restrictions on political and social media


Tech Desk September 09, 2020
PHOTO: REUTERS

Pakistan is amongst the list of countries with the worst online censorship in the world. The Internet has become an inherent part of our reality, with almost 4.1 billion people around the world using the internet, however, the luxury of easy access to social media platforms and websites is not enjoyed by everyone around the globe.

A recent study by Comparitech conducted a country-by-country comparison to see which countries impose the harshest internet restrictions and where citizens enjoy the most online freedom.

Each country was scored on five criteria, each worth two points. One point earned if the content—torrents, pornography, news media, social media, VPNs—is restricted but accessible, and two points if it is banned entirely. Higher the score the more heavy the censorship.

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According to the report, Pakistan scored 7/10 in internet censorship.

Last year, the country’s telecommunication authority told a parliamentary panel that it has blocked over 800,000 websites and 11,000 internet proxies containing pornographic content on the internet but has no proof that such content is uploaded from Pakistan.

PTA said it is working to introduce a new system for monitoring of the VPN and has sought advice from Google regarding monitoring of the pornographic content.

 

Pakistan has banned access to porn sites following data released by Google in 2015 suggesting that the country tops the list of most porn-searching countries and leads the way in porn searches for animals like pigs, donkeys, dogs, cats, and snakes, news website Salon reported.

While banning porn may have its merits, the study suggests that political media is also heavily censored in Pakistan, the Freedom Network launched a report titled 'Murders, harassment and assault: The tough wages of journalism in Pakistan', documents 91 assaults and other violations against journalists during the past 12 months.

Data collected by the media rights watchdog shows that no place in the country, including the federal capital, is safe for media practitioners.

Last year, the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights formed a sub-panel to fix responsibility for the undeclared censorship imposed on Pakistan’s media.

There are also restrictions placed on social media platforms, according to the Facebook Transparency Report, the amount of content it restricted access to in Pakistan increased by over 30% during the reporting period – 5,690 items as compared to 4,174 from the second half of 2018.

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On Instagram, the photo and video-oriented social network owned by Facebook, a total of 178 items were restricted within Pakistan – 171 posts and seven profiles.

The social media giant reported that it restricted access in Pakistan to items reported by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for “allegedly violating local laws prohibiting blasphemy, anti-judiciary content, defamation, and condemnation of the country's independence”.

The government demands for user data in the country also rose by 5.3% – from 1,752 in the second half of 2018 to 1,849 in the January-June 2019 period – a record high.

Pakistan also actively blocks torrenting sites, which includes restriction in the copyright law or in the uploading of content however, the country is still free of restrictions for VPNs unlike all of the other countries which restrict, but do not ban their use. 

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