Twitter blocked for several hours in Pakistan, an attack against freedom of expression?

Twitter blocked for several hours in Pakistan, an attack against freedom of expression?

Twitter blocked? Yes. “The reactions were mixed. Some thought it was outrageous to put a stop to the voice of youth. While some were glad that now my daughter/son will finally spend some time with us.” This is what a young Pakistani writes on his blog about Twitter block occurred the 20th of May.

Can Twitter Blocked be a Reality Again and Again?

Supposedly for having spread “blasphemous material” about the Prophet Mohammed, two days ago Pakistan briefly blocked the microblog and restored access few hours later.

As we can learn from, it was banned for several hours because “it refused to remove posts considered offensive to Islam,” said one of the country’s top telecommunications officials.
The tweets were promoting a competition on another Social Network, Facebook, where images of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad were posted, said Mohammad Yaseen, chairman of the Pakistan Telecommunication’s Authority. Many Muslims consider depictions of the prophet, even favourable ones, as blasphemous.

“Both Facebook and Twitter blocked were involved. We negotiated with both. Facebook has agreed to remove the stuff but Twitter is not responding to us,” he said. For this reason it suffered the ban. Nothing new, in any case, considering that these two Social Media were blocked, along with Youtube, for two weeks in May 2010 due to a competition organised by an anonymous user who called on people to draw the Prophet Mohammad to promote “freedom of expression”.

It goes without saying that what is really interesting in all of these cases is the users’ ability in bypassing the censorship obstacle by using different tricks. In fact, even before the service reactivation, they had already batten down the hatches using cell phones to send the micro messages, secure browsers like Opera Mini or advanced proxy softwares like Vtunnel.

Today is increasingly easy to put under control single or few computers through the use of remote computer monitoring systems and keyhunters, but facts show how difficult it is to place under surveillance millions of people on the Web.

In fact, this is precisely what Twitter blocked tried to underline in its own defence. The microblogging site, which in February reached 500 million active users, said, in reply to accuses, “We are not able to stop any individual who does something of this nature on the website.”

Another relevant point of the question, which sounds a little bit bizarre, is that Yaseen said Sunday afternoon that Pakistan’s Ministry of Information Technology had ordered the telecommunications authority to block Twitter because the company refused to remove the blasphemous tweets, but we still do not know what led the ministry to the decision of restoring access to Twitter Sunday evening, even though the Social Medium had not removed the offending contents yet.