AP Reports Facebook, But Not Twitter, Cooperated with Pakistani Officials to Block 'Draw Muhammad Day' Content
We've written before critically about Twitter, including posts about how the micro-blogging site's was slow in removing a "Kill Zimmerman" account that encouraged violence -- in violation of Twitter's terms of service agreement by the way -- against alleged 2nd-degree murderer George Zimmerman. But today, we have to offer a hearty kudos to the folks at Twitter for refusing to cooperate with a censorship effort in Pakistan to silence "Everybody Draw Muhammad" tweets.
By contrast, the Associated Press is reporting that Facebook -- which on Friday became a publicly-traded company -- gladly cooperated with efforts by the Pakistani government to prevent users in Pakistan from accessing pages devoted to Draw Muhammad Day content:
Pakistan blocked the social networking website Twitter for several hours because it refused to remove tweets considered offensive to Islam, said one of the country's top telecommunications officials.
The tweets were promoting a competition on Facebook to post images of Islam's Prophet Muhammad, said Mohammad Yaseen, chairman of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority. Many Muslims regard depictions of the prophet, even favorable ones, as blasphemous.
The government restored access to Twitter before midnight Sunday, about eight hours after it initially blocked access, possibly because of public criticism it received for its censorship.
Facebook confirmed in a written statement that it blocked access to the content in Pakistan. The site noted that it occasionally restricts content when it is illegal or offensive out of respect for local laws and culture.
Even when Twitter was blocked Sunday, many people based in Pakistan continued to use the social-networking service by employing programs that disguise the user's location.
That being said, Twitter does have a policy whereby they will cooperate with different countries on a case-by-case basis, as they explained in a January blog post (emphasis mine):
With this new feature, we are going to be reactive only: that is, we will withhold specific content only when required to do so in response to what we believe to be a valid and applicable legal request.
Even then, Twitter staff noted:
Any content we do withhold in response to such a request is clearly identified to users in that country as being withheld. And we are now able to make that content available to users in the rest of the world.
It's not a perfect policy and I personally wish they refused to play ball with any censorious regime anywhere on the planet. That said, it seems that in this case, Twitter took the moral high ground and refused to be party to Pakistani censorship.