Minister, We the People Need to be Heard

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We believe it is necessary for the government to include citizens in the policy-making process. As the government devises policies concerning our online spaces, netizens views need to be taken into account. We believe in communicating reasonably, our point of view to the Minister and the Ministry. We the people need to be heard.

Whether from a rights perspective, or a purely technological view on filters, pen down your thoughts and email the Ministry. Forget whether you get a response, they read or don’t read. At least make the attempt. Get the information and view out there. It’s a start. It’s time to channelize our words in the right direction. Write to the Ministry. Make your letters public. See how many others share your view.  We are sharing our email to the Ministry below, post yours as a comment if you have also written to them. This will enable people to sift through responses, learn and be better informed, as well as draw parallels. The counter-narrative has to adopt a multi-tiered approach.

Note: Please be respectful and measured in your approach – abusive and foul language and remarks are counter productive.

Copied below is the email we wrote to the Minister and Ministry officials on August 22, 2013, to which we still await a response:

We at Bolo Bhi write to you to seek clarity over statements issued by the Ministry which appeared on news channels last night and in a newspaper this morning asserting that a solution has been found to unblock YouTube by way of filters which are being given to MoITT by PTCL, for free, for a year.

(Please find a screenshot of a ticker on the channel and link to the newspaper article: http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/editors-picks/22-Aug-2013/govt-devises-mechanism-to-filter-objectionable-material-on-youtube)

We have been involved in the court hearings at the Lahore High Court regarding the YouTube case, and what is perplexing is how the situation has changed in only a matter of weeks and technology has been unearthed that can block absolutely, that too HTTPS traffic? The PTA in its written submission to court stated there exists no system to block HTTPS URIs. This was made on July 25 after a meeting was held with operators and technology professionals.

The view that HTTPS traffic cannot be blocked without breaking through encryption which is detrimental not only to commerce and industry but also user privacy and security has been endorsed by independent technology in and out of court.  The risks of such a system have been repeatedly highlighted.

Previously, we have reached out to the Ministry in attempt to understand the challenges and way forward in resolving the issue of ad-hoc blocking. More recently, we once again reached out to share feedback provided by a wide range of stakeholders on the issue, however it was met with no response.

We seek clarity on whether this is indeed the case and if so, when and through whom the filters were purchased, what the capability of the filters, how they can absolutely block HTTPS traffic that too, without breaching security protocols. We request this information for public consumption in the interest of citizens so informed and reasoned dialogue can take place.

Look forward to a response.

Regards,

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