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Facebook sends Pakistan anti-blasphemy delegation

March 17, 2017

Pakistan's prime minister has decreed a crackdown on social media blasphemers in the Islamic Republic. The country's Washington embassy has now contacted Twitter and Facebook to ask for help in its religious fight.

Pakistani men hold a banner during a protest against the international social networking website Facebook in Karachi Pakistan
Image: picture alliance/dpa/epa/R. Khan

Facebook will send a delegation to Pakistan to help the government fight against online blasphemy, Pakistan's interior ministry said on Friday.

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan had asked Facebook to help identify and remove content deemed blasphemous. Earlier this week it requested information on three pages it accused of spreading blasphemous content, the director general of the Federal Investigation Agency Mazhar Kakakhail told English-language broadsheet "Dawn."

Facebook's reply said it was aware of the government's concerns and that it wanted to resolve the issue via bilateral dialogue and mutual understanding, Pakistan's Ministry of the Interior told media outlets.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said an official in Pakistan's Washington embassy approached Facebook and Twitter to identify Pakistanis, either within the country or abroad, who recently shared material deemed offensive to Islam.

He said Pakistani authorities identified 11 people involved in alleged blasphemy and would seek the extradition of anyone living abroad.

Hunt them down

The requests came after a call from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to crack down on online blasphemy.

"All relevant institutions must unite to hunt those who spread such material and to award them strict punishment under the law," Sharif said.

Facebook told "Associated Press" it reviews all government requests carefully, "with the goal of protecting the privacy and rights of our users."

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"We disclose information about accounts solely in accordance with our terms of service and applicable law."

The Pakistani government said it wants to block blasphemous content in blogs and social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Hundreds of websites that show pornography, suicide instructions, or anti-Islamic content were blocked in the country. It ended a block on Youtube after it agreed to work with authorities to censor content.

Pakistan has draconian blasphemy laws which, among other things, allow for the death penalty. Human Rights Watch found that since the 1980s at least 53 people were killed in violent incidents around accusations of blasphemy. It found the laws were often used to persecute religious minorities.

aw/rt (epd, Reuters, AP)