Twitter has agreed to use its ‘Country Withheld Tool’ to block “blasphemous tweets” in Pakistan, thus becoming complicit in suppressing free speech, and in aiding Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
Over the past month, Twitter accounts have been suspended and tweets have been blocked in Pakistan; a Twitter user has recently been jailed in Turkey for a “blasphemous” tweet. In Pakistan and other theocracy-based states, blasphemy laws are key tools used by those in power to actively persecute minorities. We urge Twitter and all other international companies and organizations to uphold human rights-based standards of conduct, particularly when it comes to freedom of expression.
We at Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA) are committed to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 19, pertaining to freedom of expression. Alongside AA, AHA, Black Non-Believers, Camp Quest, CFI, SHJ and other secular allies, we are organizing a day of protest on June 10th to highlight the role Twitter is playing in aiding and promoting anti-freedom, anti-human-rights, theocratic policies.
On June 10th, tweet hashtag #TwitterTheocracy and speak up about how Twitter has chosen to side with theocratic regimes instead of those who are trying to resist those regimes.
25-year-old pregnant woman has been stoned to death by her own family members, with her father dubbing the atrocity an “honor killing.”
Farzana Parveen was killed in broad daylight by nearly 20 members of her family before a crowd of onlookers outside the High Court in the eastern city of Lahore, Pakistan.
As she walked up to the court’s main gate with her husband Mohammad Iqbal, relatives waiting for the couple’s arrival fired shots in the air and attempted to snatch her away. When she resisted, the attackers, who included her father, two brothers and her former fiancé, started beating her and her husband, before escalating the attack with bricks obtained from a nearby construction site.
At least five times this month, a Pakistani bureaucrat who works from a colonial-era barracks in Karachi, just down the street from the former home of his country’s secularist founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, asked Twitter to shield his compatriots from exposure to accounts, tweets or searches of the social network that he described as “blasphemous” or “unethical.”
All five of those requests were honored by the company, meaning that Twitter users in Pakistan can no longer see the content that so disturbed the bureaucrat, Abdul Batin of the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority: crude drawings of the Prophet Muhammad, photographs of burning Qurans, and messages from a handful of anti-Islam bloggers and an American porn star who now attends Duke University.
The blocking of these tweets in Pakistan — in line with the country-specific censorship policy Twitter unveiled in 2012 — is the first time the social network has agreed to withhold content there. A number of the accounts seemed to have been blocked in anticipation of the fourth annual “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” on May 20.