Authorities in Pakistan have asked Facebook to help them in their investigation of blasphemous content posted by Pakistanis. A court hearing in Pakistan last Thursday threatened to ban Facebook altogether, along with other social media sites, if they fail to censor posts that insult Islam.
Pakistan’s top level investigation bureau, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), said that they have sent an official request to Facebook regarding the matter. According to the Times of India, a top-level diplomat working in the Pakistani embassy in Washington was given the task of contacting Facebook. According to Pakistan’s interior ministry, Facebook has already agreed to send a team to Pakistan to look into the issue. However, Facebook has yet to confirm this.
The country’s interior minister, Nisar Ali Khan, made a statement regarding the matter, claiming that the country would use every power in its means to tackle this problem and to ensure that all blasphemous contents are removed. Khan also stated that he had asked authorities in Pakistan to keep in contact with the FBI in the United States to help identify blasphemous content on social media. Also, Khan was quoted in an official ministry statement, saying that he believed Facebook would co-operate with Pakistani authorities regarding the matter.
“I hope that the management of Facebook will respect the religious sentiments of 200 million Pakistanis and tens of millions of users of Facebook in Pakistan and will cooperate in that regard.
“Facebook and other service providers should share all information about the people behind this blasphemous content with us.”
Facebook has yet to officially respond to the Pakistani government’s requests. The social media giant has been quoted by various media sources as being uninclined towards sharing the requested information with the Pakistani government, BBC News reports. They have claimed that their first and foremost goal is to protect the privacy and the rights of their users. The company has further justified their stance by making the following statement.
“We disclose information about accounts solely in accordance with our terms of service and applicable law. A Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty or other formal request may be required for international requests, and we include these in our Government Requests Report.”
Pakistan’s interior ministry said that they have identified at least 11 individuals who might have been responsible for the blasphemous posts, all of whom are now wanted for questioning. The FIA said that they are also seeking help from the Interpol in this investigation, suggesting that some of the offenders may not be living in Pakistanis.
Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, has also spoken out against this most recent blasphemy controversy. Sharif posted on Twitter regarding the matter last week, calling blasphemy an “unpardonable offense.” Sharif has taken a strong stance against Blasphemy, a move which could appeal to a lot of conservative voters in the country’s election next year. In a statement, Sharif said that he would take effective steps to take these blasphemous posts out of Social media websites.
“Effective steps must be taken immediately to remove and block such content. All relevant institutions must unite to hunt those who spread such material and to award them strict punishment under the law.”
Blasphemy is a serious offense in Pakistan; offenders could face as much as the death penalty. Critics of these blasphemy-related laws have long claimed that the laws are biased against the ethnic minorities in Pakistan. The country has, under numerous occasions, imposed temporary bans on Facebook and Twitter, citing blasphemy. One example was back in 2010 when a court in Pakistan ordered to block Facebook after caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad was published and spread across the social media website.
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