NEW YORK - Twitter, an American online microblogging service, has restored access to content that was last month blocked in Pakistan at the request of the government, in a review of its decision.
The content, including tweets and accounts, had been blocked last month using a Country Withheld Content tool that Twitter announced in 2012. The tool gives it the ability to withhold content from users in a specific country, while keeping it available in the rest of the world.
“We have reexamined the requests and, in the absence of additional clarifying information from Pakistani authorities, have determined that restoration of the previously withheld content is warranted. The content is now available again in Pakistan,” Twitter said in a statement.
Twitter was asked by Abdul Batin of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to withhold the content as it was considered blasphemous or unethical. Some of the content PTA had objected to referred to Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him).
The social networking company, which is based in San Francisco, made an “initial decision” on May 18 to withhold the content.
Twitter’s Country Withheld Content tool “is worrisome for citizens in countries where no transparent and legal processes exist for access and content on the Internet,” wrote Bolo Bhi, a civil rights group in Pakistan, according to reports in American news media.
Bolo Bhi asked that the process by which requests from governments are entertained by Twitter should be made public, including what is considered a valid complaint, and through what process and policy.
Twitter’s initial decision to give in to government demands sets a trend that could start with requests for blocking blasphemous content and then go on to other content that the government does not like, Shahzad Ahmad, country director of Bytes for All, Pakistan, a human rights organization focused on Internet freedom, was quoted as saying on Wednesday.
“We believe that all Internet platforms with a global presence should develop their policies and principals to have human rights at the core,” he added.
The following is the text of Twitter’s statement: “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. Consistent with our longstanding policies we provided notice to all of the affected account holders and published the actioned takedown requests on Chilling Effects to maximize transparency regarding our decision.
We have reexamined the requests and, in the absence of additional clarifying information from Pakistani authorities, have determined that restoration of the previously withheld content is warranted. The content is now available again in Pakistan.”