Pakistan urges Facebook, Twitter to help in crackdown against blasphemy online

(Reuters/Dado Ruvic/Files)A logo of Twitter is pictured next to the logo of Facebook in this September 23, 2014 illustration photo in Sarajevo.

The Pakistani government has said that it has asked social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter to remove content deemed insulting to Islam.

The interior ministry has claimed that Facebook has agreed to send a team to Pakistan to address the government's concerns about blasphemous content on the website.

"Such content has been posted on social media websites for years. I am surprised that no other Muslim country raised the issue till now," Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar said at a press conference in Islamabad on Thursday.

"We will take any steps necessary to make sure that our message against such content gets across to those websites as well as the rest of the world," he added.

Earlier that day, the Pakistani National Assembly passed a resolution condemning blasphemy on social media and unanimously approved a proposal to create a committee of parliamentary leaders to monitor blasphemous content, according to Dawn news website.

Nisar's statement came after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed his support for a crackdown against blasphemous content on social media.

"The blasphemous content on social media is a nefarious conspiracy to hurt the religious sentiments of the entire Muslim ummah," Sharif was quoted as saying in a statement posted on his party's official Twitter account.

Nisar stated that he has asked government officials to liaise with the FBI and the social media websites on a daily basis.

"Facebook and other service providers should share all information about the people behind this blasphemous content with us," Nisar said.

Facebook has not issued any public comments about a delegation being sent to Pakistan but said in a statement that it viewed government requests with care keeping in mind "the goal of protecting the privacy and rights" of its users.

Critics have said that the latest move is just a way to crackdown on dissent.

A petition has been filed in the Islamabad high Court against five activists, accusing them of running pages on Facebook that had posted content deemed to be blasphemous.

The men were abducted in early January and were accused of blasphemy in a vast social media campaign during their three-week disappearance. However, no evidence has been shared directly linking the men to the Facebook pages in question.

Ahmed Waqas Goraya, one of the abducted activists, has since spoken publicly about being "tortured" by the military during his disappearance.

Shaukat Siddiqui, the judge hearing the case in Islamabad, recently asked the government to take steps to "eliminate" blasphemous content, even if it involves "blocking entire social media."

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