Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Govt Installing National Firewall to Filter ‘Undesireable Content’ on Social Media

The Pakistani government is implementing a national firewall across various internet service providers (ISPs) to exert greater control over social media content. According to information from four different sources, this firewall aims to block undesirable content from reaching a wider audience.

A government official confirmed to The News that the firewall has already been purchased and is currently being installed and commissioned. Pakistan has previously used such technology, including Canada-based Netsweeper, to block websites and social media apps. However, this new firewall will inspect information originating from different internet protocol addresses.

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The official explained that the national firewall will serve two main purposes: to identify sources of “propaganda material” and to block or limit the visibility of those sources. "The national firewall will serve two purposes: identify the locations from where the propaganda material is being originated and the subsequent blockade or diminished coverage of those accounts," the official stated. The primary focus will be on locating the source of such propaganda to address it at its origin.

A keyword filtering system will be implemented to detect content deemed undesirable or a threat to national security, with such content likely being hidden from outside users. This system will be applied to major social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and X (formerly known as Twitter).

Additionally, the government is preparing to prevent the misuse of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), potentially requiring citizens to inform the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) about the VPNs they are using. The government has already blocked the platform X for several months, leading many users to access it through VPNs.

Despite some pushback from the corporate community, the official claimed that the platform’s usage in Pakistan has been cut in half, from 4.5 million to 2.4 million users, and that the platform’s management has become more responsive to government demands, including blocking an account belonging to the Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Society.

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