Twitter unblocks 'blasphemous' tweets in Pakistan

Twitter Image copyright Twitter
Image caption Twitter has restored access to tweets in Pakistan, but still bans other material elsewhere

Twitter has unblocked access to dozens of accounts and specific tweets that it had made unavailable in Pakistan.

The social network had imposed the restrictions last month after complaints from the country's telecoms authority that the material was "blasphemous" and "unethical."

Many of the examples mocked Islam.

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

It publicised the move by informing Chilling Effects, a website that keeps track of cease-and-desist demands sent to internet-based organisations.

"On May 18, 2014, we made an initial decision to withhold content in Pakistan based on information provided to us by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority," Twitter told the site.

"Consistent with our longstanding policies we provided notice to all of the affected account holders and published the actioned takedown requests on Chilling Effects to maximise transparency regarding our decision.

"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."

Banned content

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, including Reporters Without Borders.

Twitter received five batches of complaints from Pakistan in May, according to the information provided to Chilling Effects.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Pakistan briefly blocked access to Twitter in 2012 after complaints about anti-Islamic content

They included requests to block:

  • accounts dedicated to posting anti-Islamic comments
  • accounts sharing drawings of the Prophet Muhammad - such images are forbidden by many Islamic leaders
  • tweets showing photos of the Koran being burned
  • an Arabic-language-based account that urges Muslims to become atheists
  • accounts used by three North American porn actresses

Some of the accounts involved have since been suspended across the whole of Twitter, but the majority of the material is still online.

While Twitter has dropped its Pakistan-imposed blocks, other country-specific bans remain in place, including:

  • Restrictions in Germany against a neo-Nazi account
  • A ban in France against a series of homophobic tweets
  • Censorship in India of claims that a soft drinks company had distributed contaminated products

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