Permanent fix on the cards

Profane material on social media

Zahid Chaudhary


Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has firmed up its plan to find a permanent solution to the issue of blasphemous content on the social media.
Pakistan has sent a letter to Facebook and their officials will soon visit the country, PTA Chairman Dr Syed Ismail Shah told a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication on Wednesday. The Islamabad High Court in a recent judgment directed the PTA to evolve some comprehensive and delicate mechanism to identify the pages/websites containing blasphemous content in order to take some remedial steps. It directed the secretary interior to identify the nongovernmental organizations that were allegedly behind circulating blasphemy and pornography and securing financial assistance from different groups within or outside Pakistan.
Both the houses of parliament recently passed unanimous resolutions urging the government to take necessary measures to block and prevent circulation of objectionable material on social media. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had also directed the relevant authorities to take the requisite steps to stop blasphemous content on the social media.
Briefing the standing committee, the Chairman PTA said that most government requests to Google and Facebook for removing or restricting undesired content come from the United States. Pakistan comes in at number four behind the US in the list of countries requesting removal of undesired content, he said. When asked if any requests were sent by Saudi Arabia to block blasphemous content, PTA officials said that they had neither heard nor had knowledge of any such requests by Riyadh.
PTA officials are also making efforts to develop a local mechanism to block undesired content. Experts and latest equipment are needed to develop such a mechanism which is costly, said the PTA chairman.
The PTA is required to submit audit papers and give explanations to the Public Accounts Committee when it undertakes such costly projects. To which the committee chairman assured the PTA that it would be supported in any step it takes in the national interest.
The committee chairman said that steps should be taken to block blasphemous and undesired content from social media.

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