Twitter goes Down in Pakistan!
Government surveillance and restrictions on Internet and social networking sites are nothing new in Pakistan, and the current and past governments have made statements and taken action on various occasions.
At 10pm on Sunday, some Twitter users comments that they are having difficulty accessing Twitter.
‘Twitter, why aren’t you well?’
A user Huda Naveed asked if anyone else was having trouble using Twitter and said that she was using PTCL’s internet.
Another user Mariyah said,”What is this behaviour @Twitter why aren’t you well? 😕🥺🥺🥺”
Then there was a flurry of complaints from users who were having trouble using Twitter and soon Pakistanis started trending #Twitterdown and #TwitterdownPakistan on Twitter.
In this regard, researcher and leader of Awami Workers Party Ammar Rashid also tweeted whether Twitter is working in Pakistan now, and what has happened.
In another tweet, he said that some people are accessing Twitter through VPN (ie virtual private network) and this is very strange.
Responding to him, another user, Hala Malik, citing a website that checks websites on the Internet, said that only Pakistani users are facing this problem.
Some users said that they were not only gaining access to Twitter, but also the Zoom, video conferencing app.
Reem Khurshid, a journalist of the Dawn newspaper, wrote that some people were saying that the closure was probably due to a virtual conference of the ‘SAATH Forum’ and if it was true then this move was not helpful because now she know about the conference.
“Twitter, Periscope and Zoom are off,” said NatsecJeff, another user. “And these are the platforms that the members of the left wing conference are using for their conference.”
‘Internet Censorship is unacceptable’
Shortly afterwards, NetBlocks, an organization that reviews problems and restrictions on accessing various websites on the Internet, confirmed in a tweet: It is still on going.
According to the information provided in this tweet, it was seen that various Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Pakistan were not able to access Twitter’s website and app.
After NetBlocks’ tweet, users further questioned whether this was not a proof of internet censorship in Pakistan.
Usama Khilji, who works at the Internet and Digital Rights, told the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the Internet watchdog in Pakistan, and federal ministers Shireen Mazari and Shibli Faraz that it was “very disturbing” and that the PT should promptly confirm what the matter is.
Usama requested the federal cabinet to take notice of the censorship and said that internet censorship was unacceptable.
However, late night, NetBlocks confirmed in a tweet at around 2 pm that “Access to Twitter has become possible again in Pakistan, but during the investigation, it was found that both Twitter and Zoom were not accessible.“
Nighat Dad, a recently elected member of Facebook’s Oversight Board and a digital rights activist, told that looking at data from various ISPs, it was clear that access restriction to the Twitter as well as Zoom in Pakistan happened almost simultaneously, and resumed at the same time.
“Given the incidence of censorship in the past, it would not be wrong to say that this was not a technical glitch but perhaps an example of censorship.“
Nighat Dad added that the PTA and other government officials must explain the closure and show transparency what happened because the complaints were only from users in Pakistan and not the world.
“It wasn’t a one-minute, ten-minute censorship, it lasted for about two hours,” she said.
In this regard, when the ISP ‘Naya Tel’ in Islamabad was contacted, they said that access to Twitter was blocked but the organization did not have any orders to block it.
Sources said that in such a case, a website could be blocked only through the ‘Internet Gateway’, which is Pakistan’s means of communication with the global communications system and is under government supervision.
A PTA spokesman was contacted for comment and sent a few questions, but no response has been received.
Social Networking Sites and Internet Censorship in Past
This is not the first time that access to a website or internet service had been blocked in Pakistan.
A study by NetBlocks last year found that Internet access in Pakistan-administered Kashmir was cut off on several occasions during August and September.
Even before this in 2018, there were similar incidents such as the closure of the website of the political Awami Workers Party.
During the month of November 2017, a partial ban on social media such as Twitter and Facebook was seen in various cities of Pakistan by telecom companies.