After lifting the nationwide Facebook ban on May 31, the Lahore High Court directed authorities to devise methods to permanently block “blasphemous content” on the internet in Pakistan. “We believe that this order will be misused by the government to block citizens access to online activism and curb voices against corruption and corrupt practices by the government functionaries and that an open internet is essential in the fight for transparency,” says internet rights defender Bytes For All.
Pakistanis woke up on Thursday 20 May to find sites like Facebook and YouTube blocked after a government crackdown on “blasphemous” websites. “We consider this ban unnecessary, based on wrongful accusations against civil liberties and it will further instigate hatred among international Muslim and non-Muslim communities,” APC member Bytes For All tells APCNews. In an update, we are told that more than 1000 sites are now being blocked. “We are in the midst of a major crisis,” says Bytes For All.
The proliferation of sexual content on the internet and the considerable size of the pornography market online is a concern to lots of different groups. However while the online adult sex industry accounts for 12% of web pages, the internet has also been used to express and explore a range of sexual experiences, relationships and content that cannot be considered “harmful”. This kind content is very important to people’s right to freedom of expression and right to information. Especially for people who have little access to resources, rights and spaces in the “off-line” world. Learn more about these issues and the research that APC is doing to understand them better.
A poster promoting a new book called "Access Controlled" was removed by the IGF's organisers who claimed a sentence in the poster violated UN policy. The sentence in question reads "The first generation of Internet controls consisted largely of building firewalls at key Internet gateways; China's famous "Great Firewall of China" is one of the first national Internet filtering systems."
It is obvious that the discourse around content regulation has shifted mostly towards the protection of children from harmful content and child pornography on the internet. Any references to gender-related concerns were dropped, including even problematic conceptions that women and children need the paternalistic protection of the state or international bodies from harmful content. One can speculate that this could possibly mean (in a positive sense) that women are no longer viewed only as “victims” and because of their own agency do not require the protectionist attitude of the state. Or, on the other hand, women’s movements, feminists and others working on gender have encountered and realised the hazards of demanding protection from the state, in the interests of their own freedom of expression and because of their alliances with civil society, non-governmental organisations and social movements.