One week after a #TwitterTheocracy online campaign drew attention to the social media giant's practices, Twitter unblocked dozens of messages and accounts a Pakistani telecom official deemed "blasphemous."
Twitter, through a spokesman, announced the move via ChillingEffects.org, a website that monitors online censorship. The company statement said, in part, "On May 18, 2014, we made an initial decision to withhold content in Pakistan based on information provided to us by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority. Consistent with our longstanding policies we provided notice to all of the affected account holders and published the actioned takedown requests on Chilling Effects to maximize transparency regarding our decision. We have reexamined the requests and, in the absence of additional clarifying information from Pakistani authorities, have determined that restoration of the previously withheld content is warranted. The content is now available again in Pakistan."
As reported by national.deseretnews.com last week, Twitter blocked @365Muhammad and @MuhammadIsaMusa, among others that were deemed blasphemous by the PTA. In turn, this sparked the #TwitterTheocracy campaign spearheaded by several secular groups, including Ex-Muslims of North America, which said, "In Pakistan and other theocracy-based states, blasphemy laws are key tools used by those in power to actively persecute minorities. We urge Twitter and all other international companies and organizations to uphold human rights-based standards of conduct, particularly when it comes to freedom of expression."
In a statement, the Ex-Muslim group hailed the action: "Twitter’s actions should strengthen the resolve of other international companies and organizations that find themselves in similar situations. Twitter was forged on the principles of open communication; we are glad to see them once again standing up for freedom of expression, and we hope they exercise due diligence in the future should the company receive demands for compliance with oppressive laws again," the group said. The organization led the campaign, which received significant support from a range of atheist and humanist groups.
Pavan Dhaliwal, public affairs head for the British Humanist Association, also greeted the news with approval: "It should not have taken a public campaign for Twitter to see sense and end its bizarre collusion with suppressors of free speech, but we are nevertheless pleased that it has now changed its policy on this matter. However, the battle for free expression is not over."
Email: [email protected], Twitter: @Mark_Kellner