Pakistan’s just made a move that’s not going to qualify it for any “friendly world citizen” awards: Its government’s said it’ll be filtering scores more Web sites for anti-Islamic content. Facebook, YouTube, and Wikipedia were just the start.
The Ministry of Information Technology gave the order today to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to begin monitoring and filtering many more Web sites suspected of playing host to anti-Islamic or merely blasphemous content. On the list: Google, Yahoo, Bing, YouTube, Hotmail, MSN, and Amazon–pretty much the most clicked-on links around the World.
In addition to this, 17 specific Web pages will be actually blocked, including Islam Exposed and Jehad.org. Partly this decision is motivated by a decision by a high court in an Eastern Pakistan city which ordered blocking of content from sites like YouTube because they contained material the judge deemed to be contrary to the “fundamental principles of Islam and its preaching.”
This of course comes after the nation controversially ordered the blocking of all of Facebook for two weeks last month when a single Facebook user crafted a page that included a competition designed, notionally, to promote freedom of expression by asking “Everyone [to] Draw Mohammed.” Islam’s stance on pictorial representations of Mohammed is that they are blasphemous.
While Pakistan does, by its own rules, have the right to take this sort of decision, it smacks of the kind of oppressive stance taken by China’s aggressive state sensors, the suppression of online dissent that arose in Iran after the controversial elections of 2009, and even the far-reaching and almost impossible-to-police demands being made for Net censorship in Australia. It’s also a move that’ll rankle with U.S. authorities, who are counting on Pakistan’s assistance in the ongoing operation against Islamic militants in Afghanistan, as many of the newly censored sites are U.S.-owned. You can be sure this affair is going to get global-political in a serious way, very fast.
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