Twitter Unblocks “Blasphemous” Content for Pakistani Users

Over a month has passed since the company complied with an order

It was only a few weeks ago that Twitter blocked dozens of accounts for its Pakistani users after the government demanded access to them to be restricted due to “blasphemous” content. Now, the microblogging platform has unblocked all these accounts.

In the past month, the company has taken quite a bit of heat due to the move, which was considered to be against freedom of speech and a surrender to the censorship demands of governments.

Many have claimed that the request made by the Pakistani government has a political motivation. EFF has even said that by agreeing to such things, Twitter demonstrated that it was no longer “the free speech wing of the free speech party,” as it used to claim.

The company has, in fact, caved to the pressure in order to avoid a wider block of the platform since the government in Pakistan hasn’t shied away from banning the service back in 2012, when the company resisted a similar request.

Twitter has also done a similar thing in Turkey, where, following a lengthy block and a favorable decision from the Supreme Court, it agreed to block several accounts or tweets that the local courts deemed inappropriate. These too, are suspected of having a political motivation, especially given the context in which the platform first became blocked in Turkey.

“We always strive to make the best, most informed decisions we can when we're compelled to reactively withhold identified content in specific jurisdictions around the world. On May 18, 2014, we made an initial decision to withhold content in Pakistan based on information provided to us by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority,” the company said.

Twitter has added that, in consistence with its policies, it has provided notice to all the affected account holders and has published the takedown requests it respected on Chilling Effects to maximize transparency regarding the decision. In the meantime, however, the company has reexamined the request and, in absence of additional clarifying information from Pakistani authorities, it has decided to restore the accounts to full access.

This is a good decision for Twitter’s image, but the company has seemed a little more preoccupied than before about which countries block access to the service since the IPO. In fact, it has made concessions that it wouldn’t have made before in order to avoid a full blockade, which is understandable, considering how investors reacted in the past to anything that would have damaged the number of active users on the platform.

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