Feeds

Pakistanis revolt over Great Firewall plans

Censorship is illegal, claim activists

New hybrid storage solutions

Several Pakistanis are taking their government to court in a bid to stop the ‘illegal’ blocking of sites for political purposes and to force the authorities to shelve current plans for a nation wide web filtering system similar to the so-called Great Firewall of China.

Local newspaper The News International reported that the High Court in Sindh province, where Karachi is situated, has issued notices to the Ministry of Information Technology and regulator the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) from petitioner Ayesha Tammy Haq and others.

The petition reportedly accuses the government of illegally blocking certain sites and online forums which were critical of its policies without warning the sites' owners first.

It goes on to criticise plans for a proposed Great Firewall of Pakistan and calls on the court to rule that no web content can be blocked without prior notice and that the public should be allowed to comment on any proposed online censorship before such action is taken.

The High Court petition comes as the Pakistani government flip flops over its controversial plans for a nationwide web filtering system.

The PTA had gone as far as publishing a request for proposals for the scheme, a move which forced some tech companies such as Websense to publically distance themselves from the project.

However, Pakistani civil rights group Bolo Bhi was (YouTube video) told by national assembly member Bushra Gohar that she had personally received verbal assurances from IT minister Farooq Awan that the plans had been withdrawn.

No public statement exists, however, and the PTA and Internet Providers Association (ISPAK) confirmed to the Express Tribune that they support such a system.

“A cost effective, automated and transparent system for blocking of blasphemous and objectionable contents is fully supported by PTA,” PTA chairman Muhammad Yaseen said in a statement.

“The current process of blocking, being manual and tedious, is difficult to implement and has its limitations.”

In the face of such conflicting messages, Bolo Bhi and several other groups including Reporters Without Borders and the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote an open letter to the government earlier this month.

It argued that building a nationwide URL filtering and blocking system would have a grave impact on academia, businesses, trade, and civil society.

As members of civil society and organisations committed to ensuring the government upholds democratic principles in Pakistan, and with concerns about restrictions on privacy as well as access to information, we strongly urge the ICT R&D fund of the Ministry of IT to reconsider its decision to filter URLs in Pakistan and make a public commitment that they will not purchase the URL filtering and blocking technology. If the Pakistani government wants to further develop business, innovation, entrepreneurship, trade, and academia, it must realise the adverse effects this filtering system would have on these priorities, and hence, not go ahead with this plan.

®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International
Refusal to disclose GCHQ canteen menus and prices triggers Euro Human Rights Court action
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Heavy VPN users are probably pirates, says BBC
And ISPs should nab 'em on our behalf
Former Bitcoin Foundation chair pleads guilty to money-laundering charge
Charlie Shrem plea deal could still get him five YEARS in chokey
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.