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By Sara Yasin

A Pakistani human rights organisation has called for an investigation into an alleged “secret censorship deal” between the country’s government and Facebook. Sara Yasin reports

According to Bytes for All (B4A), a representative of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority claimed on 4 July that “the government of Pakistan has an existing ‘arrangement’ with Facebook, which allows them to have ‘undesirable content and Facebook pages blocked as per directions from the authority”.

In an open letter to the Global Network Initiative (GNI) — of which Facebook is a member — B4A said that if true, it is “betrayal by the company towards the users of Facebook in Pakistan. The claim is upsetting because if true, it breaches the trust of its users, vehemently opposes what Facebook publicly proclaims in its principles, and is in stark contrast to the social network’s commitment to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association as a member of the Global Network Initiative”.

On 22 May, at this year’s Stockholm Internet Forum, it was announced that Facebook would join the GNI — a multi-stakeholder group dedicated to promoting and defending freedom of expression in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector.

“As the largest social network, both in Pakistan and the global cyberspace, we feel that Facebook following its own principles and the principles of GNI can go a long way in ensuring that citizen’s right to access, privacy, and freedom of expression are preserved even under hostile and difficult environments”, said B4A.

B4A has also been embroiled in a battle to reverse a September 2012 decision to block YouTube. The country decided to block the video sharing site for refusing to take down a clip from controversial anti-Islam film “Innocence of Muslims.”

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