Content Blocking, Restriction and Takedown Requests

Sr NoDateContent Takedown Requests, Restrictions and Removals
7521 July 2020Through a notification the PTA said that it identified “high volume of immoral content” served through Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) and that it was the responsibility of the operators to ensure no objectionable content was served. The PTA has also asked for a compliance report to be submitted within ten (10) days and threatened regulatory action in case of non-compliance.
7420 July 2020The PTA released a press release via a tweet whereby it announced that it has banned Bigo application in Pakistan and has issued a final warning to TikTok over “immoral, obscene and vulgar” content. The press release said that the PTA had issued notices to the companies “under law to moderate the socialization and content within legal and moral limits, in accordance with the laws of the country”. The PTA said that the response by the companies was not satisfactory. The PTA said that it drew its powers from PECA to block Bigo and issue a final warning to TikTok “to put in place a comprehensive mechanism to control obscenity, vulgarity and immorality”.

TikTok responded to Pakistan's final warning over "immoral, obscene and vulgar” content on 22 July 2020 through a statement where it said that the company's topmost priority was to maintain "a safe and positive in-app environment". The company said that it deployed "a combination of technologies, and moderation strategies to detect and review problematic content that violates our terms of use and comprehensive Community Guidelines, and implement appropriate penalties including removing videos and banning accounts".

TikTok further said that it had removed 3,728,162 user videos from 01 July 2019 to 31 December 2019 as according to its transparency report the videos were found to be in violation of regulations from Pakistan. It also shared the number of controls, tools and privacy settings available to users to report inappropriate content to claim that their moderation system “proactively caught and removed 98.2% of videos before a user reported them; of the total videos removed, 89.4% were taken down before these videos received any views”.

TikTok stated that it is increasing dialogue with the authorities to ensure user security.

Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry criticized the ban and warning by PTA via a tweet dated 22 July 2020 where he said that the Courts must stay away from their ill advised interference and PTA should not moral police and adopt “ban approach”. He said that such bans will destroy Pakistan’s tech industry and will permanently hamper development of technology.

On 28 July 2020, in a meeting called by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s focal person on Social Media Arsalan Khalid with Youtube Vloggers to discuss restrictions on social media platforms, the PTA chairman said that Tik Tok and Bigo have started cooperation with the local authorities and that the TikTok have removed 3.8 million links over complaints. He also said that Facebook has extended better cooperation as compared to other platforms adding that Youtube and PUBG cooperated least with the authorities.

On 30 July 2020, the PTA announced through a press release that it had unbanned Bigo application in Pakistan. According to the press release, PTA decided to lift the ban as a result of constant engagement and assurance by Bigo to continue to engage with PTA with regards to moderation of “immoral and indecent content” in accordance with Pakistani laws.
7301 July 2020The PTA released a press release via a tweet whereby it announced that it has banned Bigo application in Pakistan and has issued a final warning to TikTok over “immoral, obscene and vulgar” content. The press release said that the PTA had issued notices to the companies “under law to moderate the socialization and content within legal and moral limits, in accordance with the laws of the country”. The PTA said that the response by the companies was not satisfactory. The PTA said that it drew its powers from PECA to block Bigo and issue a final warning to TikTok “to put in place a comprehensive mechanism to control obscenity, vulgarity and immorality”.

TikTok responded to Pakistan's final warning over "immoral, obscene and vulgar” content on 22 July 2020 through a statement where it said that the company's topmost priority was to maintain "a safe and positive in-app environment". The company said that it deployed "a combination of technologies, and moderation strategies to detect and review problematic content that violates our terms of use and comprehensive Community Guidelines, and implement appropriate penalties including removing videos and banning accounts".

TikTok further said that it had removed 3,728,162 user videos from 01 July 2019 to 31 December 2019 as according to its transparency report the videos were found to be in violation of regulations from Pakistan. It also shared the number of controls, tools and privacy settings available to users to report inappropriate content to claim that their moderation system “proactively caught and removed 98.2% of videos before a user reported them; of the total videos removed, 89.4% were taken down before these videos received any views”.

TikTok stated that it is increasing dialogue with the authorities to ensure user security.

Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry criticized the ban and warning by PTA via a tweet dated 22 July 2020 where he said that the Courts must stay away from their ill advised interference and PTA should not moral police and adopt “ban approach”. He said that such bans will destroy Pakistan’s tech industry and will permanently hamper development of technology.

On 28 July 2020, in a meeting called by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s focal person on Social Media Arsalan Khalid with Youtube Vloggers to discuss restrictions on social media platforms, the PTA chairman said that Tik Tok and Bigo have started cooperation with the local authorities and that the TikTok have removed 3.8 million links over complaints. He also said that Facebook has extended better cooperation as compared to other platforms adding that Youtube and PUBG cooperated least with the authorities.

On 30 July 2020, the PTA announced through a press release that it had unbanned Bigo application in Pakistan. According to the press release, PTA decided to lift the ban as a result of constant engagement and assurance by Bigo to continue to engage with PTA with regards to moderation of “immoral and indecent content” in accordance with Pakistani laws.
7230 January 2020Mariana Babbar Pashteen reports receiving a twitter notice that said that it received a request from Pakistan claiming that one of her tweets violates the laws of Pakistan.
7115 January 2020In the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication meeting, “the members stressed the need for legislation on posting of pictures without permission and defamation [of lawmakers] for the sake of money. They also urged imposition of Rs5 million fine and seven-year imprisonment for the culprit”.
Senator Rehman Malik asked the PTA to send a delegation to the Twitter headquarters for conveying the concerns of Pakistan about fake accounts with various names suggesting that the Twitter should be asked to close the fake accounts and in case of non-compliance the PTA should issue warning that Twitter would be banned.

7005 November 2019
The human rights watchdog Freedom House said in its annual report Freedom On The Net 2019 that Pakistan's score was 26 on a scale of 100, which classified it to be among the states where the internet is “not free". The report further expressed concern over the government's surveillance, social media monitoring and continued lack of data protection laws in the country”.
It also said that the internet freedom has declined in Pakistan due to the increased blocking of political, social, and cultural websites highlighting that over 800,000 websites were blocked, including political, religious, and social content.
6918 July 2019Hasan Zaidi tweets that he was unable to access website Politico without VPN. Storm Fiber, a private internet service provider, responded to his tweet confirming that the website was blocked as per PTA directives.
6807 July 2019Twitter sent a notice to Hasan Zaidi and informed him that it received a request from Pakistan that claims that one of his tweets violates the laws of Pakistan.
6725 May 2019According to Facebook’s transparency report Pakistan ranked second in the list of countries where Facebook restricted maximum content restricting 4,174 items within Pakistan during the second half of 2018.
6613 May 2019
Twitter temporarily suspended the account of Dr Shahbaz Gill, the Punjab Chief Minister’s Spokesperson, upon complaints that he shared personal health information of former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif.
6501 April 2019Facebook deleted 712 accounts and 390 pages in India and Pakistan for “inauthentic behaviour”. In Pakistan, it removed 57 accounts, 24 pages, 7 groups and 15 Instagram accounts, as part of a network that originated there and was allegedly linked to employees of a unit of the Pakistani military. ISPR rejected claims that the blocked accounts were controlled by the military.
6420 Feb 2019
Twitter temporarily suspended the account of Pakistan foreign office spokesperson, Dr Mohammad Faisal over ‘ indian complaint’ of his tweets regarding the Kashmir issue.
6321 Jan 2019Twitter sent a notice to Nida Kirmani that her picture with Manzoor Pashteen violated Pakistani law/twitter rules.
6221 Jan 2019Twitter sent a notice to Reema Omer that her tweets questioning the procedures of military courts, were in violation Pakistani law.
6103 January 2019Twitter sent a notice to senior journalist Mubashir Zaidi against one of his tweets regarding the murders of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa SP Tahir Dawar and MQM leader Ali Raza Abidi for being "in violation of Pakistani law".
60January 2019According to Facebook’s Transparency Report for July-Dec 2018, Pakistan made 4,165 requests to Facebook for content restriction. There were 4174 total restrictions.
According to Twitter’s Transparency Report for July - December 2018, Pakistan (government agency, police, other) made 192 requests to Twitter for content removal and 2349 accounts reported. 1 account removal request was made through court order. Some content from 204 accounts removed for violating terms of service.
5914 December 2018Pakistan made 234 content restriction requests and reported 3,004 accounts between January 2018 to June 2018. Twitter did not comply with any of the requests.
5813 December 2018
The Urdu and Pashto websites of international news organisation Voice of America (VOA) were reportedly blocked in Pakistan. An official who works for VOA said that the Pashto website had been blocked a few months ago, “however, the Urdu website became inaccessible last week after the coverage of a press conference held by the leader of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), Mohsin Dawar. Initially, we received complaints that the website was not accessible at some places, but later it was completely blocked”.
5719 November 2018 The National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) revealed that 208 cases of online sectarian and anti-state propaganda have been registered in Gilgit Baltistan since the inception of the Special Branch's Information Technology cell in 2017. Of these, 75 cases pertained to sectarian propaganda, and 133 cases pertaining to anti-state propaganda on social media.
5613 November 2018
Twitter sent a notice to columnist Gul Bukhari for her tweet in which she criticized the government’s lack of action against Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) Chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi.
5510 November 2018Twitter sent a notice to Taha Siddiqui citing some of his tweets as being in violation of Pakistani law.
5404 November 2018Khadim Hussain Rizvi's Twitter account suspended. Upon visiting the handle @KhadimRizviReal, an error notification appeared, stating that the account had been suspended "for violating Twitter rules".
5320 October 2018PTA blocked 800,000 websites and pages for blasphemous, anti-state and other objectionable content. The content was on Daily Motion, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other miscellaneous sites. In two years, 769,870 porn sites or pages were blocked, 5,064 websites or web pages with anti-state content and 4,528 with anti-judiciary content. 3,086 anti-judiciary pages were also blocked on Facebook.
5206 July 2018Punjab government decided to refer ‘hurtful’ social media posts during the election campaign to the FIA. In this regard, the Home Department had been directed to coordinate with FIA and refer reports received from divisional and district authorities about hurtful posts.
51July 2018According to Facebook’s Transparency Report for Jan-June 2018, Pakistan made 1,233 requests to Facebook for content restriction. There were 2203 total restrictions.
According to Twitter’s Transparency Report for Jan-June 2018, Pakistan (government agency, police, other) made 240 requests to Twitter for content removal and reported 3004 accounts. 3 account removal requests were made through court orders. Some content from 141 accounts removed for violating terms of service.
According to Google’s Transparency Report for Jan-June 2018, Pakistan made 196 requests to Google for account removal.
5003 June 2018
Awami Workers Party (AWP) website blocked by PTA just weeks before the general election.
4902 June 2018A total of 6,149 websites were blocked by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) last year on the recommendation of Web Evaluation Cell (WEC) which was established by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Inter-faith Harmony. So far, WEC has evaluated as many as 46,200 websites out of which 15,481 were those identified through complaints by the public.
4811 May 2018Facebook blocked Dawn.com’s Facebook post linked to a politician Javed Hashmi’s statement’s criticising judiciary for allegedly “violating local laws.” The post was then restored on 12 May 2018 with Facebook apologising for the content being "incorrectly restricted."
4724 April 2018
The Twitter account of Manzoor Pashteen appeared to be suspended for less than 24 hours in relation to his online activity for the Pashtun Tahaffus Movement.
46January 2018According to Facebook’s Transparency Report for July-Dec 2017, Pakistan made 1,320 requests to Facebook for content restriction. There were 301 total restrictions
According to Twitter’s Transparency Report for July-Dec 2017, Pakistan (government agency, police, other) made 75 requests to Twitter for content removal and reported 674 accounts. Some content from 42 accounts removed for violating terms of service.
According to Google’s Transparency Report for July-Dec 2017, Pakistan made 27 requests to Google for account removal.
4520 November 2017Twitter suspended verified account of “Pakistan Defence” [@defence.pk] reportedly over a complaint filed by an Indian student from New Delhi whose photograph had been misused by the handle.
44July 2017According to Facebook’s Transparency Report for Jan-June 2017, Pakistan made 1,050 requests to Facebook for content restriction. There were 177 total restrictions.
According to Twitter’s Transparency Report for Jan-June 2017, Pakistan (government agency, police, other) made 24 removal requests and reported 82 accounts. Some content from 19 accounts removed for violating terms of service.
According to Google’s Transparency Report for Jan-June 2017, Pakistan made 14 requests to Google for account removal.
4325 January 2017Khabaristan Times, a satirical website, was blocked. According to the PTA, they received complaints against the website for “objectionable content,” however no notice was served to the website or its editors, nor avenue for an appeal or hearing provided. The ban was initiated under Section 37 of PECA.
42January 2017According to Facebook’s Transparency Report for July-Dec 2016, Pakistan made 1,002 requests to Facebook for content restriction. There were 6 total restrictions.
According to Twitter’s Transparency Report for July-Dec 2016, Pakistan (government agency, police, other) made 13 removal requests to Twitter and reported 19 accounts. Some content from 12 accounts removed for violating terms of service.
According to Google’s Transparency Report for July-Dec 2016, Pakistan made 6 requests to Google for account removal.
41July 2016According to Facebook’s Transparency Report for Jan-June 2016, 25 total restrictions were made on facebook according to government take down requests.
According to Twitter’s Transparency Report for Jan-June 2016, Pakistan made a total of 8 removal requests from Twitter. Twitter complied with 05 of requests.
40March 2016 PTA submitted a report in the Supreme Court stating that access to at least 84,000 websites and pages have been restricted in Pakistan on account of salacious content. The report further informed the court that another list containing 400,000 links was also handed over to ISPs for blocking at domain level. PTCL informed that it had blocked 200,000 links.
39January 2016According to Facebook’s Transparency Report for July-December 2015, 6 total content restrictions on Facebook according to government takedown requests
According to Twitter’s Transparency Report for July-December 2015, 12 content removal requests, Twitter complied with 0% of requests.
38July 2015According to Facebook’s Transparency Report for Jan-June 2015, 0 total content restrictions on Facebook according to government takedown requests

Twitter: We received six requests from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). We denied all requests to limit speech about territorial conflicts involving Pakistan.
37April 2015PTA also blocked a political forum Siasat.PK, which has a known anti-government stance. Siasat.pk is a famous platform where people express their criticism against the government. The case was reported in Pakistani media and after receiving public pressure, the government restored the forum.
36March 2015The Inter-Ministerial Committee for the Evaluation of Web Sites (IMCEW) was disbanded and the PTA was authorized to undertake content management.
35Jan 2015Between July to December 2014, Facebook restricted 54 pieces of content in Pakistan
34December 2014 The Islamabad High Court restrained the Inter-Ministerial Committee for the Evaluation of Web Sites (IMCEW) from blocking websites until any conclusion on its role is reached, following a petition challenging IMCEW’s authority.
33July 2014Between January to June 2014, Facebook restricted 1,773 pieces of content in Pakistan under local blasphemy laws and prohibition of criticism on the state.
Twitter: Following a demand made by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to block content which violated local blasphemy law that we had originally complied with, we reversed our action and restored access to all previously withheld content (23 accounts and 15 Tweets).
32Jan 2014Between July to December 2013, Facebook restricted 163 pieces of content in Pakistan under local blasphemy laws and prohibition of criticism on the state.
3125 November, 2013First case of selective blocking, where the government managed to target specific pages rather than entire platforms.
Users across the country reported the inaccessibility of Baloch movie “The Line of Freedom”. While IMDb, Vimeo and other sites remained accessible, the pages of the aforementioned movie were blocked.
30November 2013Internet Movies Database (IMDb) blocked in the country. The ban was later reversed.
29June 20th 2013Netsweeper Filtration Equipment Discovered in Pakistan – Research
The Citizens Lab (Toronto based research group ) discovered the installation and use of Netsweeper filtering products at national levels in Pakistan.
28June 13th 2013Pakistan Demands Filters on YouTube
Pakistan pushes Google to install filtering systems on YouTube before lifting its ban

27June 9th- 13th 2013
Ministry of Information Technology Announces Plans For Filters Before Unblocking Youtube
Anusha Rehman, Minister of IT, tweets about filtration and unlocking YouTube after filtration is done to eliminate the presence of blasphemous and pornographic material in Pakistan.
26 May 29th 2013Potential Ban on Facebook
Peshawar High Court discussed immediate steps with authorities to block “blasphemous material” on Facebook and demand response in 20 days.

25November 11th 2012
Options for Filtering YouTube
Interior Minister Rehman Malik discusses the government’s plan to form a committee that would find a way to filter anti Islamic content on YouTube
24November 9th 2012
YouTube Ban Review
Interior Minister Rehman Malik forms committee to review the ban on YouTube.
23September 2012YouTube Blocked in Pakistan
YouTube’s hosting of the video “Innocence of Muslims” caused uproar amongst Muslim countries, which led to it being banned in some, including Pakistan. Along with YouTube, other anti Islamic video websites have been blocked. YouTube is currently still banned
22May 20th 2012Temporary Twitter Ban
Ministry of Information Technology banned Twitter for a few hours due to Twitters failure to respond to the published blasphemous content. Ban was lifted few hours later.
21April 17th -24th 2012
Sindh High Court Rules in Favor of Citizens.
Bolo Bhi’s petition was successfully received by the Sindh High Court, which called for PTA to stop illegal website censorship.
20April 12th 2012Government Forced to Backtrack Internet Filtering
Anti-censorship campaigns and vocal discontentment of citizens caused the Pakistani government to shelve their plans of developing a national internet filtering system.
19April 7th 2012
Websense Promises not to Honor Proposal
Websense refuses to respond to any RFP and urges other providers to do the same and protect the rights of the citizens of Pakistan
18March 15th 2012Pledge to NOT Help Pakistan
Companies pledge not to aid the Pakistani government in developing filtering technology.
17March 2nd 2012Websense Applauded for Declining Contract of Censorship Partnership
Human Rights First urges companies to follow suit and decline contracts that help develop internet filtering systems.
16March 2nd 2012Electronic Frontier Foundation on Filtering Software Companies
It was discovered that the censorship regime would enable blocking of 50 million URLS without any delays.
15March 1st 2012Global Network Initiative (GNI) Statement on Pakistan’s RFP: made it clear that the companies would be going against users’ right to free expression and privacy if they would respond to the RFP.
Bolo Bhi initiated a petition in response to the Ministry of Information Technology’s announcement of RFP for filtering and blocking system.
14February 27 2012Anti-Censorship Campaign
Bolo Bhi launched an anti censorship campaign and reached out to the CEOs of 8 companies asking them to publicly not to comply with the national filtering and blocking systems or apply for any such license.
13February 26th 2012
$10 million calculated costs of Filtering Systems
It was calculated that the internet filtering and blocking systems wanted to be developed would cost a total of $10 million.
12February 24th 2012Proposals for National Filtering and Blocking System
PTA released a Request for Proposals (RFP) in order to enhance the development, deployment and operations of national filtering and blocking systems.
11December 19th 2011
Misuse of Electronic Equipment Bill
Rehman Malik formed a committee to examine draft bill regarding any misuse of electronic equipment, including but not limited to, emails, SMS, MMS, in relation to national security activities.
10November 14th – 21st 2011
PTA Bans 1,695 Words (later revoked)
Mobile phone companies were given a list of words that they had to block from being used over text messages. Companies were threatened with legal action if they didn’t comply; this was revoked later due to public ridicule.
9June 2010Effective Monitoring Policy Guidelines Revealed
Confidential Pakistani document reveals plans for stricter control of the internet and freedom of expression
8May 31st – June 14th 2010
Facebook banned in Pakistan
PTA blocked Facebook for 2 weeks in response to a competition that encouraged users to post cartoons of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). While the ban was eventually lifted, those pages remained blocked.
7June 4th -15th 2009Monitoring of VOIP
PTA decision for ISPs to monitor voice traffic, such as Skype, but ISPs urged the decision to be reversed due to high expenditure.
6February 22nd- 26th 2008
YouTube Blocked
Due to hosting of Geert Wilder’s film “Fitna”, PTA attempted to block Youtube in Pakistan; while they successfully managed to block it in Pakistan, a misconfiguration caused a worldwide blackout of Youtube. This ban was later lifted as Youtube complied with the government to remove this video.
5May 2007Increase in Internet Censorship
A survey of the Pakistani government’s internet filtering systems revealed that the government does indeed censor or block internet content, and has been increasing their censorship over the years.
4March 2007
Search Engines and News Sources among Websites Blocked due to PTCL fumble
Due to PTCL fumble on censorship, Google, Yahoo, BBC, CCN and many other websites were inaccessible to the citizens of Pakistan
3March 2006SC Order on Ban of Blasphemous Websites
The government was directed by the Supreme Court to ban all sites displaying sacrilegious cartoons.
2February 2006- April 2006
A website, www.blogspot.com, was censored, which did not receive much publicity; however the accidental ban of this website caused a campaign to be launched to restore it.
12006PTA blocks more than a 1000 websites due to SC ruling on blocking of “blasphemous” websites, however more than pornographic or offensive content websites were blocked

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