Long Story Short: Blocking on the Internet

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Here’s the long story short on blocking on the Internet:

1) Internet is a passive medium – unless you make a conscious effort to access certain content, you don’t see it

2) In rare instances when you are confronted by content you don’t want to see i.e. something appears on your Facebook or Twitter feed, there are ways of stopping that by altering your settings, using certain plug-ins (or simply being smart about who you follow or are friends with!)

3) Even when you block websites/content, there are ways of circumventing and so blocking can never be effective

4) By blocking content you don’t want others to see, you actually draw more attention towards it and more people end up seeing what they previously knew nothing about

We believe it is not the government but individuals who should decide what they want to see or not. Parents can decide for their children, and adults for themselves.

a) Because blocking is not possible

b) And the right to decide what is suitable or not should lie with citizens and not the government

Please note we are talking about suitability and sensibilities here, and not crime online. This is a distinction which many people including those in government wish to blur. Sensibilities and crimes are two separate issues and don’t need to be mixed. Criminal activities will not be stopped by blocking websites and material. Besides, online crime will need to be dealt with under cyber crime legislation through due process and adequate safeguards. Let’s not allow ‘but we must act against criminals’ to be connected to an issue that has no relevance to it, and used as an excuse to deprive us of our rights.

Resources:

Pakistan’s Internet BANwagon – A Documentary by Bolo Bhi

Farieha Aziz is a Karachi-based, APNS-awardwinning journalist. She is a co-founder and Director at Bolo Bhi. She has a masters in English literature. She worked with Newsline from July 2007-January 2012 and taught literature to grades 9-12. She served as an amicus curiae in a case filed in the Lahore High Court in 2013, challenging the ban on YouTube, and is currently a petitioner on behalf of Bolo Bhi in a case filed in the Islamabad High Court challenging government's censorship on the Internet and the powers of the regulator. She can be found on Twitter: @FariehaAziz and reached via email: farieha@bolobhi.org

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