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Twitter restores access to blasphemous material in Pakistan

Jun 18 2014, 19:46 IST
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SummaryPopular microbloging site Twitter has restored access to dozens of accounts and specific tweets in Pakistan which were blocked last month for allegedly posting blasphemous contents.

Popular microbloging site Twitter has restored access to dozens of accounts and specific tweets in Pakistan which were blocked last month for allegedly posting blasphemous contents.

According to a statement at the Chilling Effect Clearinghouse website, Twitter had imposed the restrictions last month after Pakistan authorities requested the removal of the material, claiming that it was "blasphemous" or "unethical".

The ban was lifted by Twitter yesterday.

"On May 18, we made an initial decision to withhold content in Pakistan based on information provided to us by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority," it said.

Twitter said it had now dropped the ban because the watchdog had not followed up its initial requests with further documentation.

"We have re-examined the requests and, in the absence of additional clarifying information from Pakistani authorities, have determined that restoration of the previously withheld content is warranted. The content is now available again in Pakistan."  

Twitter said that consistent with its longstanding policies, it provided notice to all of the affected account holders and published the actioned takedown requests on Chilling Effects to maximise transparency regarding its decision.

Chilling Effects is a website that keeps track of cease-and-desist demands sent to Internet-based organisations.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority officials earlier confirmed that the watchdog regularly sends advisories for blocking objectionable materials.

YouTube was banned in Pakistan in 2012 for posting a film which was termed as blasphemous. It triggered widespread riots.

Earlier, Facebook also blocked some accounts including progressive Laal music band, after Pakistan complained about the contents.

The blockade on Laal was lifted in days after severe criticism by music lovers and social activists in Pakistan.

No government official was immediately available to comment on the restoration of blasphemous material by Twitter, which may spark protests in the country.

Twitter introduced the ability to selectively block tweets on a country-by-country basis in 2012 - a move criticised at the time by freedom-of-speech organisations.

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