Pakistan Telecommunication Authority stated that Wikipedia was approached for blocking/removing the said contents by issuing a notice under applicable law and court order(s). Wikipedia will be blocked in Muslim-majority Pakistan if the platform fails to take down content deemed sacrilegious within 48 hours, the country’s telecoms regulator said.
Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Wednesday said it had “degraded” Wikipedia services on non-compliance with an earlier direction to remove “unlawful” content, according to a statement. While it did not elaborate on measures taken, some suggested the site had been throttled.
If the platform fails to remove the content in question, Wikipedia “will be blocked within Pakistan,” the authority said, without specifying the information it wanted to be removed. “There is slowness and it’ll impact especially those who use Wikipedia for education and information purposes,” Wahaj-us-Siraj, Chief Executive Officer of Internet provider Nayatel, said in a text message.
Blasphemy is a sensitive issue in Pakistan, whose laws condone capital punishment for anyone convicted of affronting Islam. Authorities have in the past taken action against various social media platforms for broadcasting content deemed blasphemous. Wikipedia was in the country for 48 hours for not removing “sacrilegious contents” and warned of entirely blocking the site if the online encyclopedia failed to comply with the directions.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, the nation’s telecom regulator, said Wednesday afternoon that it had approached Wikipedia to block or remove certain “blasphemous” content by issuing court orders, but said the online encyclopedia neither complied nor appeared before the authority. If Wikipedia’s “intentional failure” persists, the regulator will move to block the online encyclopedia within the country, it warned.
“The restoration of the services of Wikipedia will be reconsidered subject to blocking/removal of the reported unlawful contents. PTA is committed to ensuring a safe online experience for all Pakistani citizens according to local laws,” the regulator said. The regulator did not elaborate on what content it had asked Wikipedia to remove.
It’s not the first time that Pakistan has raised concerns over the content it sees on popular platforms and sought to control the flow. The South Asian market briefly blocked TikTok in 2021 over “immoral and objectionable content.” Like its neighbor India, the government in Pakistan has also sought to assume more control over the content of digital services operating in the country in recent years.
While global tech giants, most of which count India as a key overseas market, haven’t made much fuss about New Delhi’s new rules for social media, they banded together in 2020 in Pakistan and threatened to leave the country over regulations proposed by Islamabad. The Telecom Authority said that Wikipedia’s services will only be restored when any reported illegal content has been blocked or removed.