Pakistan Blocks Facebook in Response to 'Draw Mohammed Day' Pages
"Death to Facebook!" shouted protesters in Karachi, demonstrating against a group called "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day," designed to further the cause of "free expression." The movement was a backlash against recent threats of violence against, among others, the creators of the popular animated show South Park, which showed Mohammed in a bear mascot suit.
The "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" page has been taken down -- though Facebook categorically denies any attempt at censorship or involvement in its removal -- and Facebook has been "indefinitely" blocked by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority. All in all, it's been a rough couple days for the social network.
"We are very disappointed with the Pakistani Courts' decision to block Facebook without warning, and suspect our users there feel the same way," Facebook said in a statement. But it added that the company is "analyzing the situation and the legal considerations, and will take appropriate action, which may include making this content inaccessible to users in Pakistan."
Though Facebook's policy is to only remove content if it makes serious and credible threats against individuals, the statement noted that it could "restrict certain content from being shown in specific countries" in order to comply with laws in those counties.
A Facebook spokesperson told me in an email that the company "has not taken any action" on the "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" page, which is no longer accessible. A Google cache of the page -- courtesy of Ed Driscoll -- shows that it was still active at 10:40 PM GMT last night.
There has been much speculation on whether Facebook censored the page. But at this point there is no evidence that that is the case. A person with first-hand knowledge of Facebook's investigation told me that nothing had been discovered that would indicate foul play, and that all signs currently point towards the page's administrators removing it voluntarily, though possibly due to threats of violence.
Mimi Sulpovar, who created the page last month, told Fox News that "she and others in the group have received death threats, but she has no plans to stop anytime soon." I was not able to find contact information for Sulpovar.
Such threats are in fact what started the "Draw Mohammed" movement, which sought to designate May 20 an annual day to protest violence censorship by Islam's radical elements.
The backlash to the movement is hardly unexpected, but few could have predicted Facebook being banned by an entire nation for a single page. Pakistan has also blocked YouTube for what it deems offensive content.