Pakistan cut off Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Telegram – for just four hours

To stop protests by far-right party that wants France’s ambassador expelled


Pakistan shut down several social networks within its borders on Friday but lifted the ban after around four hours.

The nation’s Telecommunication Authority announced the ban, effective immediately, with the following explanation:

The Register understands the ban covered Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, plus messaging services WhatsApp, and Telegram.

Four hours later, the ban was lifted.

Pakistan bans social media quite regularly, usually for months at a time and often on grounds that social networks are allowing anti-Islam content to circulate.

This brief ban was enacted to stop communication among followers of a political party named Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) that advocates Islamic law for Pakistan and in recent weeks has organised at-times violent protests against French president Emmanuel Macron’s remarks in support of the right to share and discuss cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed. Macron's remarks were made in the context of the murder of French teacher Samuel Paty, who used the cartoons in class during a discussion of free speech and blasphemy. TLP wants France’s ambassador expelled.

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Pakistan’s government has banned TLP and classified it as a terrorist organisation over its incitement of violent protests rather than its ideology. The social media ban was designed to stop the party organising further protests using social media.

Protests went ahead anyway and reportedly saw police officers kidnapped and abused.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority appears to have allowed social media to remain available over the weekend but did Tweet some advice about how to avoid SMS scams. ®

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