Pakistan's Facebook dilemma

By Jahanzaib Haque

As of August 2014, there are 15.4 million Pakistanis on Facebook, representing approximately 8.5 per cent of the country’s total population; a virtual city set to rival Karachi in terms of sheer numbers.

According to Jakarta Post, Facebook is Pakistan’s largest social network, and — unlike when it was banned over ‘Draw Prophet Muhammad Day’ in 2010 — few would now argue that the site is simply ‘a waste of time’ or only for the ‘elite’ in society.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) proved the political value of Facebook in the May 2013 general elections; many entrepreneurs, businesses, entire industries big and small are dependent on social media for daily work; the audience ranges across all social strata, from urban populations to rural, all communicating, sharing, mobilising, forming relationships, and yes, seeking pure entertainment.

With the help of ultra-cheap smartphones flooding the markets coupled with the launch of 3G, telcos are pouring millions into advertising Facebook and Twitter access — often free access — to customers, and Facebook itself ensured its pre-eminent status in December 2013 by adding Urdu into its officially supported languages for the platform.

Facebook is not without its flaws, and some very serious issues have emerged that raise questions about how the government, and society, need to tackle the misuse of the network.

Violence against women on Facebook in the form of threats, blackmail and harassment through misuse of personal information via hacking — and often otherwise — is becoming more common, resulting in dangerous real-world consequences.

Hate speech is a familiar sight on Facebook, and given that a large amount of such speech is in Urdu script or Roman Urdu, reporting it to Facebook using the mechanisms in place is largely futile.

Blasphemy accusations over material that is shared, liked or just appearing in an individual’s newsfeed have occurred, resulting in arrests, as in the case of Junaid Hafeez, a visiting lecturer at Bahauddin Zakariya University, Multan.

For more Details please check Jakarta Post