Facebook to Talk with Pakistan Government About Censoring ‘Blasphemy’

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By Joe Simonson | 5:05 pm, March 17, 2017

Is Mark Zuckerberg gonna rat you out to a bunch of religious lunatics in Pakistan?

Facebook will send a group of employees to Pakistan to address concerns about potentially blasphemous content circulating on the social media site.  The government noted three pages in particular that it blamed for spreading profane material.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif issued a statement earlier in the week saying “effective steps must be taken immediately to remove and block this material.”

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar went a step further and said “Facebook and other service providers should share all information about the people behind this blasphemous content” with the Pakistani government.

Islam is the official state religion of Pakistan, with the country’s religious authorities holding considerable power.

Facebook hasn’t commented on the upcoming meeting, but some believe the website shouldn’t cooperate with the government’s requests and protect its users’ speech rights. Last year, news broke that Facebook created censorship tools for its site in order to please the Chinese government. Between July and December of 2015, Facebook blocked roughly 55,000 pieces of content in about 20 countries.

On March 7, the Islamabad High Court stated that the Pakistani government failed in controlling the proliferation of blasphemous material, and argued that if the government didn’t do more, the country would see more instances of vigilante justice.

“This matter requires immediate attention otherwise patience of the followers of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) may run out,” the court wrote.

Approximately 15 million Pakistanis have Facebook accounts.  The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority frequently blocks websites it deems offensive, with sites like YouTube facing nationwide bans in the past.

Those found guilty of blasphemy face particularly harsh sentences in Pakistan.  After the government updated its laws in the 1980s, punishments for insulting the Prophet Mohammad including “death or imprisonment for life.”

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