Senate panel grills govt over X ban

Tarar said X has no policy to block obscene or hateful content

Naeem Asghar July 11, 2024
Federal Information Minister Attaullah Tarar in National Assembly. PHOTO: PID/FILE


The Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting on Wednesday sought a report on suspension of social media platform X—formerly known as Twitter—in Pakistan.

In its meeting, the committee chairman, Syed Ali Zafar, inquired about the government’s stance on the shutdown of X. In response, Minister of Information Ata Tarar said the matter is currently sub judice. However, he clarified that the ban was imposed during the caretaker government.

He said X has no policy to block obscene or hateful content, claiming that there are entire accounts filled with pornographic videos. He also criticized X’s compliance rate as very poor. He cited an incident in Australia where a man attacked a church with a knife, and despite the Australian government’s request, X did not remove the video but only blocked it within Australia. Similarly, a video of an attack on a sensitive location in Pakistan was broadcast live.

During the Standing Committee meeting, Senator Irfan Siddiqui said there is a need to find a balance between freedom of expression and responsibility. He said a false article attributed to him in support of the Taliban is circulating on social media.

“Despite reporting this to the FIA [Federal Investigation Agency] and other authorities, no action has been taken,” he said. Siddiqui said fake and fabricated news about Punjab CM Maryam Nawaz building a fortress for her office in Lahore is also being shared on social media. He urged people to use their freedom of expression responsibly and respect others’ dignity.

Committee member Jam Muhammad stressed the importance of freedom of expression but also called for a strategy to curb fake and fabricated news. “As representatives of society, we must play a more effective role and use this forum for the benefit of the country and the nation.”

Senator Pervaiz Rashid noted that social media is not only a platform for lies but also uses language that contradicts Islamic and social values. He expressed disappointment with the use of foul language by political figures.

Discussing the Pakistan Censor Board, he lamented the lack of films for public entertainment, blaming four decades of deprivation on stringent censorship. He said Pakistan’s film industry has suffered while foreign industries have thrived, mistakenly believing that people are being protected from harmful content. He called for an end to the film ban, stating that if films pose no threat to children worldwide, they should not pose a threat to Pakistani children either.



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