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Pakistan blocks Twitter, then changes its mind

Offensive tweets put officials in a spin

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Tweets offensive to Islam have prompted Pakistan’s government to block Twitter – but a strong public reaction saw the ban lifted after eight hours.

The ban had been prompted by tweets promoting a competition to produce images of the prophet Muhammed that led the country’s telecommunications authority to block access to the microblogging site. Some Muslims feel creating images of the prophet is an insult to Allah and Mohammed, or dangerously close to idolatry.

However, according to the Associated Press, that decision was reversed a mere eight hours later.

Defending the ban, Mohammed Yaseen, chairman of the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority, said Twitter had declined to remove the offending posts, whereas Facebook had “agreed to address Pakistan’s concerns”.

The Christian Science Monitor notes that activists were working to bypass the ban when it was lifted. It speculated that the block-then-unblock decision may have been designed to test the country’s censorship mechanisms ahead of upcoming elections.

Tweets by Pakistan’s interior minister, Rehman Malik, attributed the lifting of the ban to an order by prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. ®

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