PAKISTAN SEEKS SHUTDOWN OF OVER 3000 TWITTER ACCOUNTS FOR HATE MATERIALS
Monday, 17 December 2018
Pakistani authorities sought shutdown of more than 3,000 twitter accounts in the first six months of 2018 for alleged offences such as spreading hate material and inciting violence.
After Turkey and Russia, Pakistan has the highest number of accounts specified for the given period. Twitter received legal demands specifying 27,811 accounts from 38 different countries, including Oman and Panama, which appeared for the first time. “We first review all reported content in each demand for TOS violations, which resulted in some content being removed from Twitter on 7,808 accounts,” the platform said. Twitter also suspended a total of 205,156 accounts for promotion of terrorism during the period under review.
It pointed out that during the reporting period, 135 accounts of verified journalists and news outlets were the subject of legal demands.
This was revealed in a biannual transparency report of the social networking website that said that between January and June this year the government sent requests for removal of 243 accounts and reported 3,004 profiles to Twitter. Of the profiles specified, some content was removed from 141 accounts for violating Twitter’s terms of service (TOS).
As far as Pakistan is concerned, last year, there were only 75 removal requests between July and December, and 674 accounts were reported to Twitter.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said complaints of accounts are sent to social networking website for spreading hate material’ and inciting violence.
Unlike last year when all requests were sent by the government and law enforcement agencies, in 2018 three requests for account removal were sent through court orders. In terms of information requests for accounts, Pakistan made such requests for 22 accounts and specified 54 this year as opposed to 24 information requests and 25 accounts specified last year. Twitter, however, declined all the requests for account information and removal.
Explaining the reasons for not taking action on content reported by government authorities, Twitter said: “We received a legal demand from the Pakistani government specifying 79 tweets for violations of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA). The majority of the tweets contained depictions and caricatures of Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him]. The reported tweets did not violate our TOS and, therefore, no action was taken.”
“If you look at the compliance rate for India and other countries, Twitter has responded to authorities positively. But when it comes to Pakistan’s requests, it does not comply in the interest of the state,” said Nisar Ahmed, the director general of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority for internet policy and web analysis.
According to Mr Ahmed, a majority of the reported accounts were specified for propagating anti-state and propaganda content. “The number of accounts reported is so high because propaganda accounts operate in dozens and are often created shortly before an [online] campaign goes viral,” he said, adding that the authority selects a chain of such accounts and reports them to Twitter.
He pointed out that in Pakistan only PTA was allowed to report (to Twitter) and block content as per the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act-2016 (Peca). He added that besides the public, the authority received requests from 30 stakeholders, which included the Federal Investigation Agency, law enforcement agencies, ministries, and home departments of all the provinces.
Earlier this year, the authorities threatened to block Twitter if the company did not remove content the government found offensive. “We need Twitter to entertain requests in accordance with Pakistan’s laws like Facebook to help us stem propaganda,” he said.