Over at Global Voices Advocacy, since the beginning of the year a great team of volunteers has been compiling and writing regular editions of The Netizen Report. If you want to follow news about how power is being exercised by governments and companies over people’s digital lives, and how the world’s netizens are pushing back, the Netizen Report is required reading. Last week we published the Resistance Edition. It begins with an update on the situation in Pakistan:
Pakistan’s anti-censorship activists recently proved how coordinated, global and local action can make a real difference.
Last month, Pakistan’s government publicly solicited proposals from companies around the world to create an automatic URL filtering system to block “objectionable” content. The request triggered a wave of protests which began with the local group Bolo Bhi and spread quickly to international groups like Access Now who wrote letters to tech companies’ CEOs urging them not to bid on the project, and launched online petitions which gathered tens of thousands of signatures. The Global Network Initiative (GNI), Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Bytes for All, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, all issued statements urging technology companies to consider the impact of the tender on the human rights of citizens in Pakistan.
Their message was received and absorbed at least by some. Five of the eight companies petitioned, including Websense, Cisco, Verizon, Sandvine and McAfee, have declined join the Pakistan government’s censorship attempt. On the other hand, Huawei, Blue Coat, Netsweeper, and ZTE did not respond to calls from the advocacy groups before the deadline of the proposal on March 16. Now the Express Tribune has reported that as a result of the protests, the Pakistani government may step back from its censorship plans.
More broadly, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has voiced its concern over challenges to freedom of expression and the Pakistani government’s plans to censor the media and the Internet. It “demands the media, civil society and the people in general must be consulted before any changes are considered in the law. The media should do more to counter radicalisation and intolerance. It regrets that the misuse of blasphemy laws and the official apathy and appeasement of extremists have continued.”
Click here to read the rest of the report, rounding up global developments on censorship, surveillance, activism, Internet governance, new technical developments, and more.