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Twitter blocks ‘blasphemous’ content in Pakistan after complaints

ISLAMABAD: Microblogging site Twitter has blocked dozens of tweets and accounts in Pakistan after officials asked for access to “blasphemous” and “unethical” content to be stopped. The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) submitted at least five requests from May 5 to 14 asking Twitter to block access to specific tweets and accounts for users in the country. It is thought to be the first time Twitter has withheld content specifically for users in Pakistan, though the government has shut the site down in the past. Most of the offending material concerned anti-Islam accounts and an annual online competition to draw blasphemous caricatures, but the accounts of three US porn stars were also listed. Pakistan blocked Twitter completely for a brief period in May 2012, along with Facebook, over the same competition. But according to the website Chilling Effects Clearinghouse the latest episode is the first time Twitter has agreed to withhold content for users in Pakistan. Chilling Effects is a collaboration between several US law schools which monitors attempts to suppress online content. Twitter works in partnership with the site to publish requests to withhold its content. Attempts by AFP in Islamabad to access the material in question were met with messages saying the content was withheld in Pakistan. In its requests to Twitter, PTA described the content as “blasphemous” and “unethical” and said it violated the Pakistani penal code. A PTA official said they regularly write to Twitter and Facebook asking them to remove objectionable content. “We had requested Twitter to remove the unethical and blasphemous tweets and searches and it is good that they have taken action,” the official told AFP. Twitter did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment. 

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Aaj Kal