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Pakistan leads in number of censorship requests sent to Facebook

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Islamabad, Nov 15, 2019-

Of the 17,807 content restrictions made by Facebook globally, the highest number, over 31 per cent, of the requests originated from Pakistan between January and July 2019, according to the platforms latest transparency report.

According to the report released on Wednesday, Facebook restricted 5,690 items within Pakistan during the first half of 2019, as compared to 4,174 pieces from the second half of 2018, Dawn news reported on Thursday.

Facebook said it restricted access in the country to items reported by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) as allegedly violating local laws prohibiting blasphemy, anti-judiciary content, defamation, and condemnation of the country’s independence.

“Upon a routine review of our actions, we determined that we restricted access to 17 items in error during this period, including 11 items that should have been deleted for violating the Community Standards and six items on which we should have taken no action. We have corrected these mistakes,” it said.

In January 2019, Facebook received a formal takedown request from the PTA, alleging that two Facebook posts, linked to an article discussing wife swapping and swingers events, constituted illegal obscenity under Section 37 of the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act (PECA).

According to the breakdown of the content restricted in Pakistan, Facebook suspended 5,376 posts, 128 pages and groups, six profiles and two comments.

On Instagram, the platform restricted a total of 178 items – 171 posts and seven accounts. This is a massive jump from last year where Facebook restricted only nine items on Instagram, the report said.

The government’s requests to Facebook also spiked in the period under review – the highest ever-as the authorities sent 1,849 data requests and sought data of 2,594 users/accounts.

Of the total requests, 1,674 were processed legally.

“While Facebook is not bound to follow local laws in Pakistan, we have seen that compliance has steadily risen over the years,” Shmyla Khan of the Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), told Dawn news on Thursday.

“This is particularly worrying when it comes to content restrictions based on the stated criteria: ‘prohibiting blasphemy, anti-judiciary content, defamation, and condemnation of the country’s independence’.”  (Agency)

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