NATIONAL

Pak. move to block `undesirable' websites

ISLAMABAD JAN. 28. `Internet policing' has been introduced in Pakistan in the name of blocking ``pornographic material'' or other ``blasphemous information''.

The move is bound to be flayed by civil and human rights activists as a measure by the Government to control information. As it is, a section of the civic society is agitated over the recent acts of `vandalism' by activists of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) in the name of eradicating obscenity from the society.

Reports from parts of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Baluchistan suggest that some of the cable operators were forced to shut down their operations in the face of threats. Some MMA leaders have been critical of the Internet cafes on the plea that they were being misused.

An official statement said here today that the Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunications, Sardar Awais Ahmad Khan Leghari, has directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) to place "content filters'' at all nodes of Pakistan Internet Exchanges to block access to those sites that carry "pornographic material'' or other "blasphemous information''.

``This step would drastically retard the spread of obscene material through Internet in our society. The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications (IT&T) has taken this bold step to block such undesirable contents at the junction points where PTCL routes Internet traffic into Pakistan which are called Internet Exchanges."

The Ministry said that to cater to the user accessing Internet through Internet Service Providers (ISPs) using "Private Leased Lines'', the Ministry has asked the Cabinet division to direct the Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA) to issue similar directions to those ISPs.

According to this directive, all such ISPs would be required to place "content filters'' at the point where they access the Internet and continuously update the filters to block new sites that may appear.

``Since the proliferation of Internet, the Ministry of IT & Telecom have been receiving complaints from several quarters that Internet is being misused for the spread of obscene and other undesirable material. Therefore, this step would also largely redress these complaints," the Ministry said.

The statement did concede that as the basic design of Internet is such that everyone gets access to the millions of servers all over the world. Hence it is very difficult to completely control the flow of information.

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