Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Wednesday announced that it had “degraded” the services of Wikipedia, the expansive online encyclopedia, and warned that the site could be blocked on “account of not blocking/removing sacrilegious contents” within 48 hours since the platform had ignored PTA directives to remove “objectionable content”.
The telecommunication authority, in a statement, said that it had approached and urged Wikipedia to block or remove “sacrilegious” contents by issuing a notice under applicable law and court order(s). However, the site failed to comply.
“An opportunity of hearing was also provided,” the statement added, “however, the platform neither complied by removing the blasphemous content nor appeared before the Authority.”
As a result of the “intentional failure” on part of the platform to comply with PTA directions or to appear before it, its services were “degraded” throughout the country for 48 hours.
Moreover, directions to block/remove the reported contents had also been given.
The statement further stated that in the case of non-compliance by Wikipedia to remove the objectionable content, the platform will be blocked within Pakistan for a longer time.
“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 statement asserted.
Taking to Twitter, the PTA wrote: “Press Release: PTA has degraded Wikipedia services in the country on account of not blocking/removing sacrilegious contents.”
It must be noted that this is not the first time that the encyclopedia has been blocked in the country or in other countries.
The PTA had earlier issued notices to tech giant Google and the online encyclopedia Wikipedia for disseminating “sacrilegious content” through the platforms in 2020.
In a press release, the regulator said that it was acting against Google after receiving “complaints regarding misleading search results associated with ‘Present Khalifa of Islam’ and unauthentic version of Holy Quran uploaded on Google Play Store”.
The PTA also said that it had received complaints against Wikipedia for “hosting of caricatures of Holy Prophet (PBUH) and dissemination of misleading, wrong, deceptive and deceitful information through articles portraying Mirza Masroor Ahmad as a Muslim”.
The PTA said that they have served Wikipedia with a notice after “extensive communication” to remove the “sacrilegious content to avoid any legal action”.
Before that, in 2017, Turkey had banned the platform citing a law allowing it to ban access to websites deemed obscene or a threat to national security.
Turkish officials at the time had said that the ban was needed as Wikipedia had failed to remove content accusing its government of assisting terrorist groups. The ban was lifted in 2020.