Government Announcements to Crackdown and Regulate Social Media
|Sr No||Date||Government Announcements
|1||30 December 2016||
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan made an announcement in response to a fake picture being shared on social media networks. In a press conference he said, “We are in contact with Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and other social media sites to expose the elements and their hidden motives for launching a negative campaign to damage credibility of the state institutions.”
|2||09 March 2017||Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan threatened to block all social media websites with 'blasphemous content'. This followed an Islamabad High Court (IHC) directive to the government to open an investigation into online ‘blasphemy’ in response to the case of five activists reported missing in January.|
|3||14 May 2017||
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan ordered the FIA to initiate action against individuals running “anti-military” campaigns on the Internet. According to the Minister, “under constitutional guidelines on freedom of expression, unwarranted criticism of security forces and other institutions responsible for the defence of the realm is not allowed. No citizen can be involved in a campaign that tarnishes the reputation and respect of the armed forces”.
|4||22 May 2017||
The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) identified several suspects for allegedly posting anti-military material on social media, many of whom were taken into custody for interrogation. It also finalized a list of 200 Twitter accounts and Facebook pages for investigation.
|5||23 May 2017||
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan announced the need for rules and standard operating procedures to regulate the use of social media. “We all realise the importance of social media. There are rules for every institution, organisation and government, but, unfortunately no such rules exist for social media” Nisar told a press conference.
|6||29 June 2017||Chaudhry Nisar directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to take action against social media campaigns that served to promote ‘sectarianism’.|
|7||07 July 2017||
The Interior Ministry announced progress made in a meeting with Vice President of Facebook, Joel Kaplan in Islamabad, to discuss ways to address the issue of the misuse of social media platforms. The ministry emphasized the issue of blasphemous content which is illegal in Pakistan. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that “nothing is more sacred to us than our religion and our holy personalities.”
|8||28 March 2018||The National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) developed an online reporting portal geared towards countering online extremism as well as the abuse of the internet and social media. Surf safe allows Pakistanis to report extremist online-content freely, securely and anonymously.
|9||12 July 2018||
Chairman Senate Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani directed Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to block all the websites and pages containing blasphemous material against holy Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH).
|10||15 August 2018||
Twitter stands in danger of being banned because it refuses to comply with government content restriction requests. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) informed the Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat that while Facebook, YouTube and other social media platforms complied with requests from the government to block objectionable content, Twitter did not oblige.
|11||04 November 2018||
Federal Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry spoke about the importance of regulating social media in relation to the spread of fake news and the incitement of violence.
|12||14 December 2018||Federal Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry announced that social media companies like Facebook and Twitter were cooperating with the government to prevent hate speech. "We desire the prevention of hate speech and not to curb free speech," he stated.|
|13||17 Jan 2019||
Sindh police Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) set up a technical team to monitor social media against its growing use for the “promotion of ideology of hatred, anti-state activism and militancy”
|14||20 Jan 2019||
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) established a Cyber Vigilance Division (CVD) and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to handle complaints against unlawful online content under Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA).
|15||13 February 2019||
Federal Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry announced that the Government was preparing to launch crackdown against extremism and hate speech on social media. He proposed “a new authority called the Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority which will serve as a one-window operation for digital, print and electronic media.”
|16||25 February 2019||
The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) claims to have devised a monitoring system to combat extremism and hate speech on social media. This was after the government announced a crackdown on social media against extremism. The FIA stated it would take action against individuals committing such an offense without waiting for a complaint, in accordance with the powers granted under PECA.
|17||10 May 2019||
The Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Azam Khan Swati rubbished the news that the PTA had signed any contract for monitoring of Internet Traffic with any vendor. Despite that on 24.05.2019 it was reported that the Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat was probing the matter of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) signing an agreement with US-based Sandvine Corporation, a company allegedly working as a partner with Israeli intelligence, for monitoring, analysing, and curbing grey traffic.
|18||12 June 2018||
In response to the Petition of Hafiz Ihtesham Ahmad aggrieved by the FIA and PTA’s alleged inaction against blasphemous content online, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) directed FIA and PTA to take action against people involved in uploading blasphemous materials on social media.
|19||12 July 2019||
Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) published an advertisement urging the readers to exercise free speech but not commit offences and report any such offences to PTA.
|20||17 July 2019||
Chairman PTA Amir Azeem Bajwa briefed the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology that PTA has restricted access to at least 11,000 proxy servers, and further intends to regulate the use of Virtual Private Network (VPN) in Pakistan through a new model that they are trying to set up.
Content Blocking, Restriction and Takedown Requests
|Sr No||Date||Content Takedown Requests, Restrictions and Removals|
PTA 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
February 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.
SC Order on Ban of Blasphemous Websites
The government was directed by the Supreme Court to ban all sites displaying sacrilegious cartoons.
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
Increase 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.
February 22nd- 26th 2008
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.
|7||June 4th -15th 2009||
Monitoring 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.
May 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.
Effective Monitoring Policy Guidelines Revealed
Confidential Pakistani document reveals plans for stricter control of the internet and freedom of expression
November 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.
December 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.
|12||February 24th 2012||
Proposals 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.
February 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.
|14||February 27 2012||Anti-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.
|15||March 1st 2012||
Global 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.
|16||March 2nd 2012||
Electronic Frontier Foundation on Filtering Software Companies
It was discovered that the censorship regime would enable blocking of 50 million URLS without any delays.
|17||March 2nd 2012||
Websense Applauded for Declining Contract of Censorship Partnership
Human Rights First urges companies to follow suit and decline contracts that help develop internet filtering systems.
|18||March 15th 2012||
Pledge to NOT Help Pakistan
Companies pledge not to aid the Pakistani government in developing filtering technology.
April 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
|20||April 12th 2012||Government 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.
April 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.
|22||May 20th 2012||
Temporary 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.
YouTube 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
November 9th 2012
YouTube Ban Review
Interior Minister Rehman Malik forms committee to review the ban on YouTube.
November 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
|26||May 29th 2013||Potential Ban on Facebook
Peshawar High Court discussed immediate steps with authorities to block “blasphemous material” on Facebook and demand response in 20 days.
June 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.
|28||June 13th 2013||Pakistan Demands Filters on YouTube
Pakistan pushes Google to install filtering systems on YouTube before lifting its ban
|29||June 20th 2013||Netsweeper 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.
|30||November 2013||Internet Movies Database (IMDb) blocked in the country. The ban was later reversed.|
|31||25 November, 2013||
First 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.
|32||Jan 2014||Between July to December 2013, Facebook restricted 163 pieces of content in Pakistan under local blasphemy laws and prohibition of criticism on the state.|
Between 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).
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.
|35||Jan 2015||Between July to December 2014, Facebook restricted 54 pieces of content in Pakistan|
The Inter-Ministerial Committee for the Evaluation of Web Sites (IMCEW) was disbanded and the PTA was authorized to undertake content management.
PTA 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.
According 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.
|39||January 2016||According 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.
|40||March 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.
|41||July 2016||According 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.
According 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.
|43||25 January 2017||
Khabaristan 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.
According 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.
|45||20 November 2017||
Twitter 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.
|46||January 2018||According 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.
24 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.
|48||11 May 2018||
Facebook 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."
|49||02 June 2018||A 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.|
03 June 2018
|Awami Workers Party (AWP) website blocked by PTA just weeks before the general election.|
According 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.
|52||06 July 2018||
Punjab 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.
|53||20 October 2018||
PTA 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.
|54||04 November 2018||
Khadim 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".
|55||10 November 2018||
Twitter sent a notice to Taha Siddiqui citing some of his tweets as being in violation of Pakistani law.
13 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.
|57||19 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.|
13 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”.|
|59||14 December 2018||Pakistan 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.|
According 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.
|61||03 January 2019||Twitter 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".|
|62||21 Jan 2019||
Twitter sent a notice to Reema Omer that her tweets questioning the procedures of military courts, were in violation Pakistani law.
|63||21 Jan 2019||
Twitter sent a notice to Nida Kirmani that her picture with Manzoor Pashteen violated Pakistani law/twitter rules.
20 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.
|65||01 April 2019||
Facebook 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.
|66||13 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.
|67||25 May 2019||According 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.|
|68||07 July 2019||
Twitter 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.
|69||18 July 2019||Hasan 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.|
05 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.
|71||15 January 2020||In 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.
|72||30 January 2020||
Mariana 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.