Islamabad, 4 February 2023 (TDI): The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) blocked access to Wikipedia in the nation after the website refused to take down allegedly offensive or blasphemous content, on Friday.
Previously, the telecom regulator in the country had reduced the portal’s services. According to Malahat Obaid, Spokesperson for PTA, the action happened because some of the content was still available on Wikipedia after a 48-hour deadline.
Degradation of Wikipedia’s services
PTA announced on Wednesday that it had “degraded” Wikipedia services in the Muslim-majority country for failing to comply with its order to remove “illegal” content.
According to the PTA spokesperson, the authority approached Wikipedia for the removal of the aforementioned content by issuing a notice under applicable law and court order.
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A hearing opportunity was also provided. However, neither the platform complied by removing the blasphemous content nor appeared before the authority.
Services blockage in 2020
This is not the first instance the authorities have taken notice of offensive content on Wikipedia. PTA issued notices to Google and Wikipedia in December 2020 for disseminating sacrilegious content through the platforms.
According to PTA, it has received complaints about misleading search results related to “Present Khalifa of Islam.” An unauthentic version of the Holy Quran on the Google Play Store was also present.
The platform was given notice under the Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content Rules 2020 to remove the blasphemous content to avoid legal action from the Regulator.
After extensive discussion, Wikipedia was finally served with a notice to remove the sacrilegious content to avoid legal action.
PTA said to take further action under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 (PECA) and Rules 2020 in case of non-compliance.
It is pertinent to note that the Islamabad High Court (IHC) sent a notice under Section 37 of PECA to the Parliament for review in May 2022. The notice deals with unlawful online content.
There has been no significant progress in this regard. However, the PTA and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) have attracted criticism for repeatedly taking regressive actions under objectionable laws.