Pakistan Blocks Wikipedia Over ‘Sacrilegious Content’
The government of Pakistan has blocked access to Wikipedia from within the country over so-called “sacrilegious content,” according to the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that oversees the website and its community-edited content. Pakistan asked Wikipedia to either block or remove “sacrilegious” and “blasphemous” content from the online encyclopedia, though it’s not yet clear what content the government found objectionable.
“As of Friday, February 3, our internal traffic reports indicate that Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects are no longer accessible to users in Pakistan,” the Wikimedia Foundation said in a statement published online late Friday.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) announced on its website on Wednesday that it had “downgraded” Wikipedia, meaning the online encyclopedia was running incredibly slow for anyone trying to access it in Pakistan. The PTA said the downgrading would remain in place for two days, after which time the site would be banned entirely if the “blasphemous content” wasn’t removed. And on Friday it appears the government agency followed through on that threat.
A spokesperson for the PTA, Malahat Obaid, told the BBC on Saturday that Wikipedia didn’t respond to “repeated correspondence” about the issue. But, again, it’s still not clear what content the government specifically finds objectionable.
“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 PTA said in a statement.
As German news site DW points out, Pakistan has a long history of banning social media websites. YouTube was blocked in the country from 2012 until 2016 because the video sharing site carried a film about the Prophet Mohammed which angered and offended many Muslims. Dating apps like Grindr and Tinder have also been banned in the country.
“In Pakistan, English Wikipedia receives more than 50 million pageviews per month, followed by Urdu and Russian Wikipedias,” Wikimedia said in a statement.
“There is also a sizable and engaged community of editors in Pakistan that contribute historical and educational content. A block of Wikipedia in Pakistan denies the fifth most populous nation in the world access to the largest free knowledge repository. If it continues, it will also deprive everyone access to Pakistan’s knowledge, history, and culture,” the statement from Wikimedia continued.